Music and the Internet
I've been regularly using the internet since about 1998, but been listening to music since 1983 (year of my birth!) – cut to present day and I'm sure most will agree that these two things are at the pinnacle of modern culture. You can discover music easily without the internet, and likewise you can explore the internet without any reference to music, but… integrated together, you are given a whole new avenue to explore, this blog itself is testament to that fact. So, how can you use the internet to access and discover music and what are the best ways to go about it? I'll detail the methods and knowledge I have on the subject, and then it would be great if people could fill in some blanks (if present) via the submission of comments on this entry.
Perhaps it would be wise to start with a quick history lesson! So, one of the first instances of music on the internet would have been the ability to purchase music from online stores. This is still a huge practice, and as like other forms of internet shopping, purchasing music online can save you quite a bit of money. Then came along the p2p applications, namely Napster. Napster gave a user the ability to search for a song by song name and then download it (for free) via their p2p software. Essentially you would have been downloading direct from someone else's computer, somewhere else in the world. Sounds great, but it was (is) illegal. It is essentially theft. Other complaints about the idea of a p2p system include; corrupt audio files, poor quality audio files, incomplete files etc… Napster was eventually shut down (due to the legality issues), but others argued that it gave music fans the chance to test music before purchasing it – some statistics even proved (apparently) that p2p programmes like Napster actually helped to increase record sales, presumably due to this try before you buy attitude. Other p2p programmes came on the scene after Napster, but some would eventually be shut down, although others would quickly pop up in their place – internet piracy is just too difficult to police. Currently the only people really being prosecuted for their participation are the ones found to be uploading obscene amounts of music. Different methods of obtaining music for free on the net after p2p came to light, like Bittorrent, a newer technology to share files. However, services like Napster made a revival years later, but under the guise of a "pay to download" system, a big earner from this new method of online music sales is Apple's iTunes store. Although it is worth noting that in an attempt to catch up with iTunes, Napster have changed their pay system so that revenue is gained more through advertising than public sales.
But aside from stealing or buying music, the internet is actually a fantastic tool for music discovery. Websites such as MySpace, last.fm and Pandora are great ways to discover new music. MySpace started out as a community for people to make new friends, but has now evolved into much more than that. They offer a service to artists and groups known as MySpace Music. This gives the artist/s an opportunity to share a few tracks with fans and prospective fans and also give details on upcoming gigs and music releases. Naturally this is a fantastic way for unknown/unsigned artists and groups to spread the word of their work, but literally tonnes of established artists are on there too. It seems if you aren't on MySpace Music then you must be stuck in the 90s or something!
last.fm is a website that compiles charts and statistics based on your listening habits. Firstly you need to register at last.fm and then download a small plug-in for whatever programme you listen to music with on your PC. Then as soon as you listen to at least half a track on your PC the info will be recorded on to your last.fm user-page. Each week a chart is created for you on your page, detailing which artists and tracks you listened to most in the last week. Also an all time ever chart is regularly updated for you. So to look at it from that perspective I guess it just seems interesting to see what your listening habits are – but… it goes further than that… Based on your listening habits, last.fm will find you people that have similar tastes to yourself (neighbours) and will also suggest to you music that you should like, that you haven't heard before, based on what you already have listened to (recommendations). Absolutely priceless.
Lastly; Pandora. Simply type in the name of an artist you like and Pandora will play you similar music that you may not have heard before. This site is just another good way to find new music based on your existing tastes. Their database is growing and becoming more accurate all the time, definitely worth checking out. It's one of those handy sites that instantly gives you the answers you need. All three of the aforementioned websites are an absolute must for discovering new music on the internet. The internet has enabled me to discover so much new music in such a short space of time, and also meet new people that have been able to help educate me in ways that otherwise would never have been possible. Some artists and organisations are quick to dismiss the internet as a pirates haven and general waste of time, but the sooner these people realise what a valuable tool the internet is, the better. I know some already have; sending out newsletters containing links to samples from new albums etc… Essentially it is just modern marketing, and used the right way will only help artists to prosper, not suffer.
I'm sure none of this will be new to a lot of you, but I'd still very much like to hear your comments on the subjects I raised. If any of this was new to you, then great, glad I could show you something new.