Kids these days, with their lo-fi iTunes and iPods and ringtones (that they pay money for!!) and mp3 collections. Why, I remember the early days of the Diamond Rio, one of the first portable digital music players, and even then I stuck my nose in the air and scoffed. If I want to listen to horrid low-quality low-fidelity tunes, I said to myself, I’ll go fire up the 8-track in my antique Datsun. Lossy formats and crappy little tiny speakers, bah.
I’m still not into lo-fi music players, or trying to make my poor little PC do everything in the world. I have all these nice electronics in my living room for playing music and movies with good-quality sound and video. But there is one newfangled method of delivering music that I have come to like a lot- Internet radio. (I know it’s not radio, but since we still dial our touch-tone phones, I am comfortable with saying “Internet radio.”)
Broadcast radio long ago ceased to be interesting or relevant. Or, to put it in terms suitable for us cranky old audiophiles, it became a poo-ridden wasteland. I swear if I hear “Stairway to Heaven” one more time I’m going to go nukular. Nothing ruins a good song like playing it to death, then flogging its poor little corpse to the end of time.
If I wanted to hear good new music, I had to go to clubs, haunt speciality music stores, swap disks with friends (ooo, a confession! Music swapping! Come and get me, MAFIAA! Shame on me for wanting to find good music to purchase! I am evil, evil, evil, and BAD!!), or exchange home-made compilation tapes (more evil!! ZOMG the collapse of civilization is imminent!!)
While I’m confessing my felonies, I might as well include making copies all of my vinyl LPs to cassette tape as soon as I got them home. Because commercially-recorded cassettes suck rocks, and I wanted to preserve my LPs, and have car music. Very happy I was when the compact disk came along. No more worries about scratches and warping, and I could play the same disk in the car. Though I confess the care and feeding of vinyl LPs was fun- obsessing over turntable speed, finicking over tonearm balance, and arguing over the correct Discwasher techniques. What I miss most is the cover art. Tiny little CD cases just aren’t the same.
Then I discovered Internet radio. In the beginning it was a quite a struggle. Differing streaming formats, bandwidth hassles, and the MAFIAA doing its best to kill it off entirely. But somehow it survived, and I’ve been able to discover all kinds of great new artists and songs.
The two main sites I listen to now are Pandora.com and Magnatune.com. Pandora uses Flash, so it works with any Web browser. (Wow, what a radical concept, cross-platform, woo, who’d a thunk it.) (Now if there were only a FOSS replacement for Flash.) Pandora answers the question “Can you help me discover more music that I’ll like?” Just set up a station by artist or genre, and Pandora will finds all kinds of great music for you.
Magnatune delivers downloadable music in a variety of formats, from lo-fi to very hi-fi. No DRM, no copy restrictions. You can try before you buy, and even order CDs. You won’t hear any RIAA artists, so you won’t get the latest Britney or Metallica. (As if anyone in their right mind would want them.) You will discover a lot of talented independent artists.
These are very strange times we live in, where the big entertainment companies treat us like enemies for wanting to be their customers, and god forbid they should deliver something we actually want. Hurrah for the Internet, the great leveler. Buhbye big globalcorps, you’re on the path to becoming big globalcorpses, and I am not sorry.