It’s no secret that ‘record’ sales have dropped dramatically over the past ten years. For a while it looked like iTunes was going to save the day and we’d all be paying 99 cents a song and stop buying albums chock full of filler just to get the single. NOW even the downloads are hurting because of the increase of streaming services. I know I’m ‘old’ but I just don’t get it anymore. I like having ownership of my music. I like to sort and group my music by genre or artist. I like to keep all my box sets in one place. And I love to stand back and take it all in. I’m like Rob from Nick Hornby’s wonderful book High Fidelity who said, ‘is it so wrong to want to stay home with your record collection?’
Now we had streaming when I was a kid, it was called radio. You had all kinds of radio: Pop, Rock, Oldies, Country, Classical and College where on any given night you could find any number of different genre shows. I stayed up late many a Friday night listening to the local college radio’s Metal Show. Not only did I listen, but I taped each show and took detailed notes of the play list. My girlfriend at the time (yeah I had one…as far as you know) knew this as ‘shhh be quiet night’ because when the DJ started to say what he’d played I had to scramble to write it all down and didn’t need the distraction. I’d jot down band name, song name, album name…in case I wanted to go looking for it at the record store.
If I heard something REALLY good I’d get up on Saturday and head to a friend’s house as fast as I could on my bike with the tape in my pocket and force him to listen to it. I still listen to a lot of the bands I discovered this way today. I also still go through similar motions when I find something that I like. No bike involved, but there’s that same excitement and urge to share.
These days I don’t much listen to the radio, not even college. I know there are some good ones around I’m just not interested in waiting to hear what someone else plays. I can go online and sample thousands of artists that I’d never hear on ANY radio station. Due to the nature of the internet I can also latch onto one band and exhaust all of their possibilities or I can go off on a tangent and discover a whole string of new music. Instead of getting on my bike I can write about it here or send a link to the band’s site or a You Tube link with a sample of the music. No store in your town? No problem…click click click and you can have a CD sent to your house or even buy digital files (usually a lot cheaper) right away. Instant Musical Gratification.
Again, we did this as kids but we had to scour cassettes to see what bands our favorite bands thanked in the liner notes. It was so logical…I like band A and band A likes band B and C so I will also like bands B and C. I can’t tell you how many times I bought albums I’d never heard simply on faith. I also bought a lot of records based on reviews in magazines. I had to rely on my past knowledge of music to know that a band that sounded like a cross between Black Sabbath, Van Halen and the Beatles would be right up my alley. That band happened to be King’s X and I fell in love with their music right away.
I still firmly believe that word of mouth is still the best way to introduce people to new music. It’s just that the mouth can speak to a lot more people than it used to. Social Networking provides you with a large group of like-minded people to reach out to whenever you want. I use it the same way I used liner notes but I’ll listen to friends as well as bands. I see he ‘liked’ Isis and I know that his taste is similar to mine so I’d better check them out too. I’ve had random people over the years send me friend requests simply based on the list of music in my profile.
Not long ago I was reading a blog (for the curious http://jazzsick.wordpress.com/ )and it seemed that the writer liked a lot of the same strangely beautiful music that I liked. I popped his name into Facebook, sent a friend request and now we share new discoveries all the time.
There’s great music out there…LOTS of it. Look, discover, buy, share. I find it incredibly gratifying to fork over some cash directly to a band in order to buy their music. I still prefer to buy CDs, but have been known to download as well. have I downloaded things for free? Yes I have. Have I written about, promoted or cajoled several other people into buying the music for themselves? Yes I have and I will continue to do so.
How do YOU discover new music and what do you do once you’ve fallen in love with something? Let me know, Hell tell ME what you’ve found so that I can check it out.