My friend Jesse Jacobsen, over at The Plucked Chicken, has brought to my attention a new music downloading service, MAGNATUNE, which has some important new developments in the field. I wandered over there yesterday to spend a couple of hours sampling the music available. Two of the very important distinctions Magnatune is offering are: You can listen to full albums online before buying; and WHEN buying, you get to choose--within reason--how much you are willing to spend, with $5 being the lowest price for an album of music. Now, you could look at this as a merchant appealing to your conscience, which certainly may be true. I would prefer to look at it as a consumer being given the flexibility to "vote with one's wallet" with regard to music selection. If sales of a particular album are averaging $5, then that may be telling the artist and merchant something. If, on the other hand, an album's sale price is averaging $14, but it isn't selling very well...not sure what that means. A cult following, no doubt.
What I found fascinating, at my advanced age, was a quick survey of the emerging new species of rock music now available. The Indie movement across the globe is now bringing us a vast array of new musical styles, much of it superior to the Back In The Day rock music of your's truly. I now give you: cinematic folk, downtempo rock, introspective avant-garde, heavy acoustic (Heavy acoustic???), electro-garage, Hollywood shock rock, stylish Indie electronic, Horror-Punk Rock (Yeah, I'll pass). I found an album described as "punk-n-roll". I listen for awhile, and think, "I may not know rock, but I know what I like!" And what I don't like. Electro-Balkan? Gimme a break.
Still, the movement afoot is toward decentralization and more rewards for the hard work of the artist. At Magnatune, the artist gets a full 50% of the purchase price. As for decentralization, recording technology is now available for anyone who can afford a computer (My iMac has a program called GarageBand that made even MY guitar playing sound...sound...well...sound like guitar playing). Sufjan Steven's string section recorded their portion of his Illinoise album in the violinist's apartment.
It is a brave new world out there, boys and girls. Or I should say: old men and old ladies. For the young, it is just What's Next. My son Jeremy is spending the weekend in Chicago at an indie music festival. After last year's festival, he brought home all sorts of wonderful music, carefully and lovingly selected and edited for his Old Man's listening pleasure. One needs an interpreter when venturing into these foreign lands. Jeremy knows what I will and will not subject myself to. I can't wait to see what he comes up with THIS year!
You can navigate to MAGNATUNE here.