As the end of another fruitful writing day approaches, it’s time for me to climb off my theoretical high horse for a moment and make a slice-of-life post, so here goes.
Just as much as some people are packrats, I’m a purger. Every couple of years, I go on a purging binge and sell, donate or throw out old possessions. Most often these are things I haven’t thought about in years, despite some of them having been on my bookshelf in plain sight for all that time, or clothes that have hung in my closet, unworn, since I last needed them for the office in 2006. It feels good to get rid of past clutter, and it has sometimes made me feel like I’m starting fresh when I’ve been desperate to have that feeling for the sake of keeping my sanity.
The same applies to music. Back when vinyl and cassettes were the only ways to buy music, I had both. I gave my vinyl away in 1993 and got rid of the last of my cassettes when I got my first CD player (which I could afford to buy back then thanks to working). But on several occasions I have also sold my entire CD collection to someone who answered a classified ad saying they’d buy them. The last time I did that was about four years ago. I thought I’d never be able to buy a CD again, but, luckily, there is a used CD store not far from here where the kind of music I like to listen to costs about $5 to $7 per CD. I’ve gradually managed to build up a new collection of about a dozen CDs, some of it the rock I grew up with and some of it stuff I started favoring about two years ago, which is light jazz.
Since I don’t have music playing equipment other than my computer, and I don’t want to wear out my computer’s optical drive by playing CDs on it, I use a Linux program called Audacity to rip CDs to .flac files. I use the highest quality settings and the files tend to be quite large, but they sound good. I don’t rip an entire CD, just the cuts from it that I’m sure I’ll want to listen to frequently. So I ended up with a selection of 49 .flac files that I used to play on shuffle using either Banshee in Linux or Foobar in Windows.
Last year, I discovered LastFM, which back then had its own musical database and a downloadable music player that drew on the database in order to play randomly selected tunes based on a keyword, the way more familiar services such as Pandora do (although Pandora is not available here in Canada thanks to cultural protectionism). In the US, LastFM is free of charge, but in Canada you get a small number of free songs and then have to pay $2.99 a month for unlimited listening. I’ve paid that happily for a period of time, missing the three bucks a bit but getting great benefit from hearing new songs I would never have known to seek out.
Recently, LastFM dropped its own music database and began relying on a YouTube video feed using a new web-based player that’s still in beta. Its random selection isn’t as good as the old database selection used to be, but it’s still good enough. I enjoy occasionally stumbling into an unexpected gem that I enjoy listening to but was completely unaware of.
And there is a way to buy those songs affordably, even for me! The new LastFM web player has a dropdown menu of online music stores. The one I chose is 7digital. Now, 7digital has kind of a crappy selection of only recently-released and timeless music, so that I am sometimes unable to find what I’m looking for. I have yet to find them selling the cuts I want by the superlative Rocco Ventrella, the most underrated musician in all of jazz. Also, 7digital seems actively to avoid offering customer service aside from a dismissive, almost rude FAQ that essentially tells you that, if you don’t like how they do things, you can go somewhere else. But the cuts that they do have available generally cost only 99 cents in .mp3 format. My bank was kind enough to issue me a prepaid credit card that works just fine for such purchases. Since I started buying cuts on 7digital, I’ve bought 19 of them costing me a total of about $20. I keep them in my music folder and just play them in sequential order when I feel like listening to music.
I’ve already told you that I reinstall my operating system frequently, and for that reason I keep data backed up on a flash drive. But somehow disaster struck, and I managed to erase all of the music my flash drive contained. I was able to redownload my previous 7digital purchases, because they offer redownload indefinitely, but, in order to get the .flacs, I’d have to rip the CDs all over again, and that’s a time-consuming process I can’t be arsed to go through right now. Audacity is intended for audiophiles, so it’s highly manual, and it takes a world of mouseclicks to rip even one song from a CD. I’ll get around to that at some point. In the meantime, my music consists of my 19 purchased .mp3s and whatever comes up on the LastFM beta player.
I can hear the young people among you laughing and asking why I don’t just go to Piratebay to get my music for free. Simple: I am a creative person, and I’d feel terrible if someone ripped off my work, and don’t want the musicians who sweated blood over those recordings to feel just as ripped off because of me. I don’t care if you steal music, but don’t expect me to do it. I just refuse.
I’ve put a moratorium on buying more .mp3s off 7digital until I can save up a few more bucks, which should occur around the middle of September. Then I’ll likely buy a cut once in a while, if I like it enough and think I’d enjoy playing it often enough.
So that’s the story of my listenership. What’s the story of YOUR relationship with music? Don’t be afraid to talk about playing instruments and/or singing as well as listening.