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?