by J.D. Rhoades
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m one of those people who likes to have some music on when I write. For one thing, having the headphones on is good for drowning out the other noises in the house. There’s also something about music that tickles the creative lobes of my brain and stimulates better writing.
One of the things that’s really delighted me about the Internet in recent years is the way it’s expanded access to music. I’ve discovered dozens of new artists through friends posting their favorite music on Facebook or their blogs. Sites like Amazon.com, Rhapsody and iTumes have made it easy–perhjaps too easy– to buy music and download it to your Mp3 player or computer with one click of a button.
But even beyond that, I’ve discovered a number of ways to find and enjoy tunes on the Web. Some do charge a subscription fee, but the majority are free. So, for those of you who may not be familiar, I’d like to share with you some of the stuff I play through the computer while I write and/or goof off.
I’m not trying to start one of those endless and tedious debates over Apple’s hegemony, but I honestly don’t understand why anyone bothers with iTunes when there’s Rhapsody. You can buy and download music at both places, but Rhapsody, for a modest monthly fee (10-15 bucks a month, depending on your plan), allows you to “stream” literally millions of songs–everything from classics to recent major releases– to your computer, as many times as you like. One plan allows you to download and play music on a variety of Rhapsody-compatible portable players for no extra charge. All you have to do is plug the player once every 30 days to renew the subscriptions. If you want to burn tracks to a CD, you do have to purchase them, but it’s only 99 cents for most tracks. The Rhapsody software also plays your already existing MP3 library.
If you want to hear a mix in a specific genre or style, check out Pandora.com. You sign up for a free account, and then create “stations” based on your preferences. Plug in a specific artist or song and something called the “Music Genome Project” will find it, play it, then find songs with similar attributes and play those. As I write this, I’m listening to my “Neville Brothers” station, which treats me to (of course) the Nevilles, along with artists like Little Feat, Jimmie Vaughn, The Subdudes, etc. I also have a “Deathcore Metal” Station, a Chicago Blues station, and many more. You can spend some money and upgrade the service, but I find the free one suits me just fine. It’s also available for streaming through a variety of Wi-fi enabled BluRay players.
If you want to be the DJ, there’s always blip.fm. Sign in, search for a song you want to “blip”, and use it to start your own playlist. As you get more familiar with it, you can meet and subscribe to other DJs whose music you like, gather your own listeners, and save songs you hear to your own favorites. There’s even video if you want it. .
If you really want to stretch out and be adventurous, let me recommend shoutcast.com, It’s another free service that provides you with access to online radio stations across the world. Some of the feeds are live from broadcast stations with a ‘net presence, some are homegrown stations created by hobbyists. You can get Top 40, Country, whatever you’re into, but the worldwide natrue of the stations lets you search for and easily find some interesting stuff. For instance, I’ve lately found myself listening a lot to Serbian pop music from Radio Desetka in Belgrade. Wonderfully cheesy.
One of my favorite memories of my college days was hanging around and doing the occasional fill-in shift at the college radio station, WXYC-FM. College radio at the time was a blast. Volunteer student DJ’s, freed from the tyranny of commercial playlists, would play damn near anything. True, the results could be a little hit or miss, but that was part of the fun. One of my favorite jocks from those days, a guy named Keith Weston, has preserved some of the spirit of those days with his website, Deeper Into Music. The website’s banner promises “obscure songs mixed with familiar chestnuts,” which about sums it up. It’s a great mix of some of my favorite bands from back in the day mixed with some very tasty modern indie rock. Check it out.
So tell us, dear ‘Rati: where, if at all, do you go to find music on the ‘net? Any goodies you’d like to share?
The book I'm revising has flashbacks to the early 80s, so I was listening to
Sirius satellite radio's Firstwave station. You can get an internet subscription
Added to your account for $3 a month, and also get an app for your phone.
I wish I could still isten to music while I write, I miss that! And I also wish my college had had a radio station, I would've loved to DJ.
I'm curious, Cornelia: why can't you, if you miss it so badly?
The internet is incredible for finding music. I love Pandora. So many different stations – one for each mood I'm in or each scene I'm writing. If I'm feeling in a traditional radio mood, I can listen to streaming broadcasts from radio stations I love – but can't get here because I live in the boonies – like Jack FM. Or the old stations I used to love when I lived in SE Michigan. Even thought they've changed a little, I can still lose myself in Planet 96.3 or 89X. =o)
I love writing to music! Soundtracks especially. I sometimes read to music as well.
grooveshark.com is another great site, although I sometimes wonder if the RIAA will shut it down. You can find everything on it.
I create playlists of music for writing from stuff that I like, but am familiar with that it fades into the background while drowning everything else out at the same time. Typically I write to some good blues like Etta James, Nina Simone, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and the like. I also mix in some good new stuff like Clutch, Otis Taylor, and Citizen Cope. And yeah, I get it through iTunes. Hey, it works for me, what can I say?
When I'm editing, that's when the AC/DC and Metallica come out, so maybe I'll be in a more violent mood and won't feel so sentimental about cutting shit out.
I love emusic.com – it's a subscription based service and concentrates a lot on indies and older stuff. I found tons of my favorite folk music and classical there. Also, they have audiobooks!
Spencer, thanks for grooveshark. And your reference ot the RIAA reminds me of a another question: how do these free sires like Pandora or Shoutcast or blip.fm make any money? I know they're not providing all that bandwidth out of the goodness of their hearts.
Deathcore Metal? Really, Dusty?
While the possibilities seem endless, an infinite Disneyland of music, a Nirvana for the musically inclined, it would become Procrastination City for me. I'd never get any writing done. I'd disappear into the headphones. I'm one of those who cannot write and listen to music at the same time. Each requires my full attention.
At work I need to have the radio on to drowned out the soap operas and daytime talk shows that my coworker across the hall insists on listening to all day, every day. Ugh. As I now have an AppleTV in my office, I end up using its internet radio feature most often. I generally end up on a local station like KROQ or KCRW, but I love that I can wander through everything from the college radio stations I grew up on back in Wisconsin to stations from France and all of Europe. I've tried Pandora, but my stations always turn out to be a bit too repetitive, and frankly, I just like real radio stations, always have, no idea why.
We get our weird music selection from downloading hundreds of CDs onto the iPod and then leaving it on Shuffle. How else can you segue from Frank Sinatra to Slipknot, Rammstein to Kate Rushby?
And if a particular song has its hooks in an won't let go (as with Linkin Park's 'New Divide' – I just CANNOT get that song out of my head at the moment) there's always Repeat, Repeat, Repeat …
I'd love to listen and write, and maybe one day…. Right now I have kids. Trust me, you don't want to tune them out…last time I did that, they did art work with Welch's grape juice! I love my kids, I love my kids….
I've been a Pandora user since High School. Besides that, there's Youtube. It's not much use if you want to listen to things away from an internet connection, but if you hear something, it's good for finding the lyrics, hearing other songs by that artist, and find people who also like that artist and what else they listen to. (Though recently there have been some changes to the site that bug me.)
Stephen: yes, really. You up for a little Black Dahlia Murder?
KimC: I'm thinking of getting one of those desktop Internet radio thingies for my bedside table, so I can listen to cool stations across the globe. I'm just not sure how they work as far as finding stuff, though,
Zoe, Eika: when someone mentions a song I haven't heard yet, I generally go straight to YouTube. So now I have that Linkin Park song in my head, too. Thanks. Could have done without the Transformers video, but the song's pretty hot.
Debbie: it helps that it's usually nighttime when I'm writing. Of course now the kids are older and less inclined to paint with food, and if they do, it's for some artistic reason.
I LOVE Pandora. I'd rather set a target for the kind of music I like and be surprised by what comes up; I still love the randomness of radio, but with Pandora you can axe any song you don't like and they'll never play it again, so your playlist becomes more and more specific to your actual tastes.
But I'm with Stephen – most music is too distracting to me to write to – I'm either singing or dancing and not writing.
I often listen to Gregorian chants when I'm writing, though.
OMG Zoë, thanks for the introduction to that awesome ear worm. 3x already! Is it just me or can you not overlap Mad, Mad World? Same chord progressions with the introduction of the 2nd guitar (only the verse). Reminds me of something else too, but the subconscious hasn't supplied that one yet!
Thanks for Deeper Into Music, Dusty. !!! Listening to it now. Very cool.
Stephen. No music while writing? But you can write to the distractions and background noise of cafés. I think THAT would be hard.
Spencer. I would think that for a musician, as yourself, it would be very hard to write while listening to music. Music with lyrics? Your own music? Thanks for grooveshark!
Alex. Gregorian chants. Of course (You kill me)
I use iTunes to buy and Pandora to stream. I also have Sirius and can listen on my iPad or iPhone with an app. I also have a blip.fm account under JessHatcher (a character of mine) if anyone else wants to follow each other there. I felt super old the other day when I had a hankering to listen to something I was certain I owned, then remembered it was on a cassette tape.
Dusty – ain't seen the video – our internet connection is toooo sloooooow to watch much.
Debbie – now you come to mention it … hmm, I have Mad World as well – at least two versions. Brilliant song.
Alex – I'm with you on the Gregorian chants, too! Have you listened to the Philip Glass album, Koyaanisqatsi. Weird stuff.
Love, love, love Rhapsody. I've been using it for years, now. I don't listen while I write—how the hell do you do that?—but I do like having Rhapsody available for my time off. I was grandfathered in via Yahoo Music years ago, so my fee is only six or eight bucks a month.
WELL WORTH IT.
Give ckua.org a listen. It's a publicly-funded radio station in Alberta, and the weekday music is eclectic and amazing. There's a playlist on the home page so you can see what's on, and check the program guide for shows featuring blues, bluegrass, Celtic, vocal jazz, you name it.
You've broadened my world, you dangerous man.
I love Pandora, the pay version with no interruptions and having better control of the songs you keep and exclude– also unlimited listening time and no commercials (unlike the free version). Also like sharing my stations with my girlfriend.
Can't listen and write either, though.
Of course I can not leave with out music… Its my passion and I totally devoted for music…