Keeping Music free (in every sense of the word)

I’ve been following the shift from the traditional form of music retail to something a little more random access with great interest over the last couple of years. I’m an enthusiast of anything that’s not the HMV style music shed, where a depressingly small range of new release and back cat stock is kept at the front of the store at loss leader prices, while the interesting stuff is racked at the back, extortionatly priced.

With the disappearance of my favourite music chain Fopp last year (although I’m glad to see the brand’s reemerged in a form truer to it’s independent roots, with 7 shops in key locations. Not Reading though, darnit) I’ve found that my shopping for music is all online these days. I will frequently impulse buy using my iPhone, and snag interesting stuff from links and recommendations using my RSS feeds through favourite sites like WFMU’s Beware Of The Blog, Boing Boing and The Word (all on the blogroll to your right, Readership. Have a nose). Making the decision to dump all our CDs onto hard drive has had an impact on the way I purchase and listen to music too. I’m much more likely to listen to random, off-the-wall things (take for example, my 2008 song of the year, a sweet slice of poppy Georgian jazz) and am much happier listening to my library on shuffle than to discrete albums. I grab and listen as and when the mood takes me.

The exception to this rule is, of course, vinyl, which remains a pleasure bordering on the ritualistic and fetishistic, and the one truly joyful way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. Rekkids and booze. Ohhhh yeeeah. That little habit is neither cheap nor easy, but I will happily contradict my earlier argument in this case.

I should offer a couple of links to recent discoveries. First up, The Damnwells are offering up their new album One Last Century for free. It’s fine and classy pop and well worth a listen. The main man of the band, Alex Dezen also gives a great argument for why he’s chosen to share his music.

I have never worked so hard or put so much of myself into a collection of recorded songs. It is for just this reason that I want to give it away. To me it makes perfect sense. I just want people to hear this music, and I don’t want them to have to enter into some kind of contractual agreement with a third party to do so. Download the record, copy it and give it to your friends, lovers, and enemies. Whatever. It’s so hard these days just to get the actual music into people’s houses and cars, let alone their ears. Besides, I know everyone’s broke, maybe I can supply the soundtrack. So, I just want to give this music away because I want people to hear it.

You can’t say fairer than that, can you?

The other model to nod at is “Pay What You Like”, which I like for the way it instantly gives the music a sense of perceived value. It’s an experiment that can work very well, as people will frequently pay more for product than you’d think if you give them the choice. Look what that method did for Radiohead, to take the high-profile example. Or, to expand the argument, what it’s starting to do for innovative restauranteurs.

With that in mind, I present Sophie Madeleine’s album Love. Life. Ukulele. One of the sweetest things I’ve heard all year, with solid tunesmithery and a sharp sense of humour. Yours for a minimum donation of three and a half quid. At the very least, check out the single, The Stars.

Finally, for those of you enjoying the pure random thrills of Spotify (and if not, why not?) here’s my first playlist. Arty Gallic electronikie. I’ve made it collaborative, so feel free to add anything you think would suit.
Merci, mon Lectorat, et appréciez la musique!

(Postscript, as it’s not out of closed beta yet, but I should point out that WFMU’s Free Music Archive is going to be positively head-expanding when it finally breaks. It won’t be for everyone, but if you have an eclectic ear, there’s enough here to keep you up for DAYS. More news on this later, and if I get any invites you’ll be the first to know. Meanwhile, the site has a couple of taster compos for your downloading pleasure, to give you an idea of whet to expect.)

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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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