liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
I feel like I'm turning into a terrible old fogey when it comes to music. I mean, not that I was ever at the cutting edge of fashion, but I used to at least recognize some current stuff. Now I hear odd things that happen to be played in shops or the gym, but I basically hate background music in public places, so I mostly tune it out. When I do pay attention to it it seems to be the same three songs over and over; in these days of digital music I don't understand why shops are so restricted in their muzak. And if something does catch my attention it's hard to go and find out what song was playing.

I could of course listen to chart radio, and I sometimes do this. That was how I kept up (to the extent I ever did) in the 90s. The thing is that I'm increasingly finding that I am happier if I avoid broadcast media as far as possible. TV is certainly worse than radio, but radio still has a lot of the same sexism and consumerism and political depressingness. The truth is that I don't like DJs very much. In principle I like the idea of an expert whose job it is to introduce me to interesting music, but it seems to me like most DJs don't actually talk about the music much, they just make inane (and usually sexist) comments about current affairs, sport, and so-called banter.

I think most people in 2015 don't discover new music by listening to Radio 1, anyway. It's all online, it's via sharing and social media. And this seems like a really good thing because there's a lot more room for stuff to become popular while bypassing what the big labels feel like promoting. I just don't get how it works.

I am still rather fond of last.fm. And a couple of my friends are on there and just getting a random selection from their libraries does fulfil some of what I'm looking for. So if anyone else is on last.fm and would like to friend me, [last.fm profile] livredor, please do go ahead.

But I feel like I'm missing out, somehow. Partly because my friends on last.fm are mostly people of my generation and they play music that they have on their hard drives, same as I do, so this way I get to explore more of the same kind of stuff that I'm already familiar with, ie mostly 20 years old or more. And that's a good thing, but it's not quite addressing my problem of wanting to keep up with more recent developments in music.

There's also a kind of filter bubble thing. The people I meet are mostly people like me, with similar music backgrounds. And even if I input music I already like into algorithmic systems, they recommend me similar stuff, that's the whole point. I'm conscious that my musical tastes tend pretty heavily white, for one thing. But it's not just the race bias, it's that there are entire new genres that have basically come into existence since I was a teenager and I don't really have any access to them. R&B, notably. And I want to find properly independent stuff, not just the genre marketed as "indie", but really take advantage of long tail marketing and the more direct interactions between musicians and fans that the internet makes possible.

I think what I want is something curated, but I don't want to have listen to radio type DJs' lowest-common-denominator, advertising friendly patter. I am... ambivalent about reading pretentious written word music journalism, but at least it's reading so I can skim through quickly, and pretentious is less annoying to me than inane. Does anybody have any recommendations for good music journalism / blogging, something that's going to help me find new music I wouldn't come across otherwise?

And I love sharing playlists with friends, but I'm not at all sure which tools people are using for that these days. Maybe it's just not a thing people do any more. I tried This is my jam for a bit but couldn't quite make it work for me, I think possibly because I just didn't know enough people using the site. There's my little community [community profile] mix_tape, and I have in fact discovered a bunch of good music there, but it's very low activity, and I feel guilty about constantly spamming the community asking for recs.

The thing I really feel ought to work is Spotify. They have a special offer at the moment and I've signed up for a three month paid account for 99p. I'm going to give it one last try to see if I can use it as a way to find new music, both via friends and via experts. I read some articles about Spotify and it said that the site was good for people who know exactly what they want to listen to, what it calls "lean forward" listeners, but struggled with people who just want to put something on in the background, "sit back" listeners, and I'm definitely in that category. I don't want a jukebox that allows me to listen to any song I choose, cos then I interrupt the flow of what I'm doing every five minutes to choose a new song, and also I am only going to be able to choose things I already know about. I want something I can pre-load with someone else's playlist and listen to that and see what catches my attention.

So, regarding Spotify specifically, does anyone have any recommendations of accounts that are worth following to find good curated playlists? Or just tell me about how you use Spotify, if you do, or what else you use instead if not.

The other question I have is, how should I go about buying this music when I do identify something new that I like? Perhaps even asking that question makes me an old fogey, perhaps everybody these days just streams music. But I want to be able to listen when I don't have a reliable internet connection, such as when I'm running or travelling. I want to be able to put my music collection on shuffle, not have to keep searching for the next thing I want to listen to. And I want to be able to own music on my own computer where I can back it up, so that I'll still be able to listen to it 20 years' time when it's too old-fashioned for streaming services to be bothered with, yet still well within copyright. And perhaps most importantly I want to give money to artists I like; I don't think musicians are getting much income from streaming services, whether that's Spotify or just searching for random things on YouTube.

So I want music in .mp3 format, I'm prepared to go with .ogg because the minor hassle is worth it for the sake of supporting open formats. But I want music I can load onto my phone or a portable player, without having to deal with the bandwidth and storage of videos or go to a lot of faff stripping just the soundtrack out of videos. I am at this point completely unprepared to pay money for stuff with DRM, because that the defeats the whole point of having my music available permanently and without an internet connection. I'm still paying for an account with emusic, but at this point it's so much worse than it was, both in terms of value for money and available selection, that I'm ready to cancel that and move to pretty much anything else that's better. Is it basically iTunes or Amazon (and can you even get non-DRM music in plain .mp3 format in those places)? How much malware do you have to put on your computer to be able to buy from there? In the past I've been put off both because they insisted you had to have a specific piece of software to buy from them, and I wasn't keen on that. Or is there any website that sells music, shares revenue with the artists, and is somewhat less of an awful megacorp? I know about things like Bandcamp, and they're lovely, but part of what I want to do is buy mainstream commercial music, not just undiscovered amateur artists.

Recommendations of actual music always welcome, of course. I really appreciate people who do share music on their journals, like [personal profile] oursin and [personal profile] seekingferret and [personal profile] ceb. But what I'm really looking for is recommendations of how to music in 2015. How to discover new music, how to do music in a modern social media context, recommendations of places to go to look for recommendations. And how to buy music once I've discovered it. Any suggestions appreciated!
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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