by James Cassar
College has taught me two important things: (1) not all of your roommates shower at acceptable hours in your botched sleep cycles and (2) there are umpteen other ways to get your music fix separate from Czechoslovakian torrent sites and Mediafire. Just like my suitemates’ soap-sudded spray schedule, some of these methods prove more convenient than others. Yet, each deliver a different experience that almost lets you forgive their shortcomings and pitfalls. Any way you take in music, you’re going to get soaked in sound.
Vinyl: The Emperor’s Not-So-New Groove
Believe it or not, besides having a stacked resume (record label co-owner, PR slinger, ladykiller), I also squawk about spinning wax circles on the Modern Vinyl podcast and serve as the site’s Managing Editor and resident young buck (this last distinction stems from the fact I’ve been paid one dollar for my two years of diligent service). I started collecting records in my first year of college. While my purchasing habits have slimmed significantly – I unfortunately have other things to buy, like Subway sandwiches and better pants to impress girls – my appreciation for the “dead” format has never dwindled. There’s a culture that isn’t readily accessible with say, other circular media like CDs and Laserdiscs (well, the latter doesn’t really count). This passion has followed me into my parents’ wine cellar basement storage space, a short-lived career as a record store clerk and in countless brick-and-mortar shops across the country. I’m currently listening to my 4-LP reissue of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. They say that some records are written specifically for vinyl. Here’s a great, unforgettable example. Just don’t listen on a rinky-dink Crosley Cruiser and move out of your freshman dorm room before you get serious.
I once had an iTunes library which burst open after housing about 25,000 MP3 files. Streaming just seemed weird to me. Why remain tethered to your Internet like a five-year old strapped to his mom with a leash on the bunny ski hill when you can pretend to have ownership over terribly-encoded bits and bytes? Then, Spotify Student slashed its membership fee down to five bucks a month. That’s one Subway Cold Cut Combo I’d forego every thirty days. The math doesn’t seem that monumental when you consider the benefits of Spotify’s no-bologna business model: offline streaming, an impressive Radio client (eat it, Pandora!), and the ability to laugh at your Facebook friends’ terrible taste. Only downside? Spotify’s hackneyed Year in Review feature, which for the past two years has revealed I have an unabashed interest in “emo punk.” I don’t even know what that is.
Songza: The Study Buddy That Won’t Text You Back 🙁
Songza is to Pandora and fruit-of-the-month clubs are to Internet radio. Basically, these playlists are curated not necessarily by month, but by mood. Spotify also has this feature, but to a lesser degree, and Songza uses your computer’s clock to match real-time with rendered playlists. Need a killer studying/reading playlist that neither reeks of Debussy or distraction? Songza has you covered – Aphex Twin never matched Jonathan Franzen so well. Need a mix for making out? You lucky bastard. There are at least ten of those. It’s free like Pandora, but like Pandora, there’s a limited number of skips you can click through per station per hour.
Bandcamp: Free Music Flea Market
Bandcamp is ubiquitous with this scene, and it’s actually gotten to the point where an a capella group at my university posted their record on the site. If you’re not familiar, basically artists can upload digital masters of their music for free and charge a “name-your-price” or set fee for their tunes. Bandcamp also allows for an integrated merch store, contact and social links, and a loose community of music lovers which bubble up in thumbnails under a purchased release’s album art. This is where my label found The Obsessives, where I uploaded a four-song cover EP I recorded for a Christmas present, and where searching by genre and location tags (i.e. “strongman buttrock” “Krypton”) can be a time-eating adventure. Get into it.