Just over a week ago I decided I’d start paying for media, since someday I want people to pay me for what I produce. What goes around comes around! Also, paying for things I enjoy is like saying “please make more awesome stuff like this”!
It’s been an interesting experience learning to navigate the paid realm. Whereas before I would just search on Grooveshark or find a torrent and everything I could ever want would be there, now I have to… what? Go to a music store? iTunes? Amazon mp3? The band’s website? Bandcamp? Internet radio? Make sure to check out the free/cheap music section at the bottom of this post!
What do I really care about in terms of my listening experience? Do I want mp3s, physical CDs, do I want to be able play specific songs, and if so, which? And how much music do I foresee myself wanting to listen to versus how much I’m willing to spend?
This is what I’ve settled on so far for my music consumption. I’ve spent a total of $10.50 so far. Go me!! ($3.50 was a donation to a remix artist.)
For pretty much all mainstream available-in-north-america music: rdio.com – $5/month.
It’s like Grooveshark in that you can stream anything instantly except it’s all licensed music, and it also has a radio feature (“play songs like this one”).
I did a 1 week free trial and found that not only did my two favourite bands (Coheed and Cambria! Deerhoof!) have all of their albums on there, it also has pretty much everything else I would want to listen to. Gorillaz, Lullatone, Steriogram, Relient K, Arcade Fire, Dresden Dolls, and even a bunch of stuff I would like to listen to but wouldn’t want to bother downloading like 100 albums from Vitamin String Quartet (droool). I don’t know what you listen to, but like I said, they have almost everything I search for.
And I mostly listen while on my desktop computer, and not on an iPod or phone or anything, so, great. There’s a way to extend your subscription to your smartphone if you have one, but I do not.
I don’t have to worry about music taking up space on my computer, or organizing it, or agonizing over whether to buy every track I want to listen to. I think it’s a good buy, since $60/year could get me either 6 albums on iTunes or 60 songs, and I have a feeling I would like to listen to more than 60 new tracks in a year.
So, great, except there ARE some things I want to listen to that rdio doesn’t have much of. Namely: indie artists, mash-ups/remixes, and jpop/anime/game music. To its credit, Rdio DOES have some asian music, they have DJ Okawari, even some Hatsune Miku. They have Chatmonchy (!!) but they’re only licensed for the USA and not Canada. Maybe they have more, but mostly not the artists I was looking for. They have only the stuff that’s popular enough that it could be sold to a North American audience – a Girls’ Generation Greatest Hits album (kpop), Jay Chou (chinese artist), BoA, some music from Miyazaki films, and remakes of themes from animes like InuYasha and Naruto. I was surprised to see themes from K-ON and Haruhi, but they were poor covers and not the original recordings. Blah!
As much as I’d like to have EVERYTHING in one place I’m also using:
For indie artists, mash-ups/remixes, and jpop/anime/game music: iTunes as organizer and store. Songs are usually 99 cents, albums $9.99. But you can import any files you get from anywhere.
I used to use iTunes as an organizer before I got into web-based streaming, so I’m firing it up again, in order to put together music files I can collect from many different sources.
I deleted all of my music that I pirated over the years and it’s now filled only with music that is either free or paid for (mostly free so far). The added benefit to this is that if my Internet dies or I want to use an mp3 player, I’ll actually be able to use this stuff since it’s stored on my local machine!
Did you know that the music from the iTunes store is now DRM free? So far I’ve bought two tracks to satiate my craving for japanese vocals – Sugarless Girl by capsule, and Just be Friends by Dixie Flatline (feat. Megurine Luka), both are songs that I really like and have already listened to numerous times. I’m building up a wishlist! So now I can actually tell people to buy me iTunes gift cards for gifts instead of physical items, haha.
(For some reason Arcade Fire’s newest album is not licensed in Canada on rdio. Not sure why.)
Things that still elude me:
Even with the combination of rdio and iTunes, there are still several artists I want to get but just cannot figure out how to pay for, either because they’re not selling to North America at all or they’re not licensed in Canada.
Mostly japanese artists: Chatmonchy (I got so excited when I saw them in the Amazon mp3 download store but it turns out Amazon doesn’t sell mp3s to Canada at all), Kahimi Karie, supercell, ClariS, Perfume, some vocaloid songs I haven’t been able to find, K-ON songs…
There are probably around 20 tracks I really want, and I would gladly buy them as singles from iTunes for $20 if they were there. But they’re not. It’s like, PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY. ;_; Why wouldn’t you license your music worldwide?
So I have a few options here: I could pay exorbitant amounts (like $50) to have a physical CD imported and shipped to me. Or I could make an exception for these tracks and download them illegally. Or I could go without.
Sorry, but it’s not worth it to me to pay $40 just for packaging and shipping, especially when I’ll probably only want maybe 3 tracks on an album.
As for making an exception and downloading it, well, yes, I wouldn’t be hurting anyone if I wouldn’t have bought it anyway. But it just seems contradictory to me to both a) want a specific song so much and b) not be willing to take a few dollars away from other things to buy it. It doesn’t make sense. Either it’s worth that much money to me or it’s not. If I truly wanted to buy a $50 CD, and I really thought that the happiness I would gain from it would be worth $50, I could take money away from something else. And if not, I can always just enjoy what is already available to me and forget about what I’m missing out on.
Again, it almost feels weird to be thinking in this way since I’ve been in the “why buy when you can steal” crowd for pretty much my whole life. It’s just that once I looked into my options and what it actually takes to go legal, it’s like… wow. So not a big deal. Why did I feel so much resistance to this?
If I’ve learned something over these past few years, it’s that going without something isn’t nearly as bad my first knee-jerk reaction assumes it’s going to be. I find other things I like, adapt, and my quality of life and happiness level remains relatively unaffected – whether what I’m giving up is cheese, recreational shopping, or a specific song. When I have a thousand times more music at my fingertips than I could listen to in a lifetime, suddenly these 20 specific tracks don’t seem like a big deal. But for some reason people get their identities wrapped up in what they eat, buy, and listen to, which is what makes it seem scary to let go of things. Who would I be if I didn’t listen to Kahimi Karie?
We’re pretty spoiled now. Back in the day the only way you could hear music was if you played it yourself OR if you were lucky enough to have a traveling minstrel stop by in your village. Now we can instantly listen to any song, any where, any time (for free, if you’re not opposed to piracy). This wasn’t even possible 20 years ago. We’re so used to it now that we forget that it’s a luxury and that it’s still possible to live a full and enjoyable life without it.
Free & Cheap Music
If at some point I were flat broke and had absolutely no money to spare for music (not even $5 a month), there would still be ways to enjoy listening. I could listen to the radio (yes, I’m talking about actual airwaves), or, assuming I still had my computer, there is plenty of legally-free music out there.
Creative Commons/Netlabel music - I’m just starting to explore this, but it seems like there is plenty of great free music out there if you know where to look. So far, I’m liking this album Grey-Purple by Fiji, as well as Slow Movement by Julian Winter. Music site thesixtyone has a creative commons section filled with loveliness! The artists in many cases accept donations but it’s not required.
Promotional Free Downloads - Every week iTunes lets you download 1 free song. Last.fm has a free section for bands that post free tracks in hopes of getting heard. Three bands I like with free songs are Paisley, Post Human Era and King Tut. Amazon has a rotating free section (only works if you’re in the US). Sometimes publishers/artists release free stuff on their own sites – there is a free EP for Machinarium!
Mashups/Remix artists – If an artist samples copyrighted works without licensing them, they technically can’t charge for their derivative works. They do accept donations, however. Some artists I like are Pogo, DJ Earworm and Girl Talk.
Used CDs – Thrift stores. Library sales. $1 per album. Hooray! I saw a $1 Green Day album at Value Village that I remember listening to a lot in high school. I would have bought it, but I already have access to it on rdio. If I get more into listening on an mp3 player I might buy more used CDs in the future. Yeah the money isn’t going to the artists, but I think I’m okay with it going to my local library.
Are you going to check out some of the free music links above? Have you ever actually paid for music before? (I’m a first-timer!) Recommendations?