Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Best of the Web: Music

A few months ago, I wrote Blogging About Blogs #1, in which I discussed my three favorite beer-related blogs at the time. My intention was to eventually do equivalent posts about baseball and music. But, I don't really have any favorite music blogs, because they're pretty much about reviews, and too much of that tends to bore me.

Instead, I thought I would write about my favorite music web sites. More specifically, I'm going to share with you my current system for keeping current and discovering new music. Considering the constantly changing nature of the world wide web, this is an ever-evolving strategy, but I'd say it's as tried-and-true a formula as I've ever had.

I would have to say it starts with Metacritic, specifically their upcoming release calendar, but also the site's general coverage of new releases. Metacritic aggregates reviews of all forms of entertainment, but I use it strictly for music. Although I said previously that reading a lot of reviews kind of wears on me, I do like the fact that they pull together all of the major reviews onto one page for each album, with brief excerpts of each and links to online versions, if they exist.

I also stay up-to-date with weekly new release emails from allmusic, a site which is also about as close it gets to an internet music encyclopedia, and Newbury Comics, a regional chain of stores that has managed to remain vital despite the failure of so many others in the retail music industry. Of course, I use allmusic for much more than keeping current with new releases, but I don't use Newbury Comics' web site for much at all. I do, however, occasionally take advantage of their low prices on new releases, although these sales frequently only last for one week following an album's release date.

So, every Tuesday—the music industry's new release day—I’m quick to check out the albums I've been anticipating on Lala. As I've already written, Lala is my favorite site for previewing recent releases. But, once I've used up my one free listen for each album, I'll sometimes head over to AOL/Spinner, where typically about a dozen new releases are streaming. They turn these over weekly, so you have to be on top of things, but this week's rotation includes Spoon's Transference and Eels' End Times, both of which just hit the stores today. MySpace is also a really good site for listening to streaming audio, with bands frequently offering a few tracks for preview prior to an album's release.

Last, but certainly not least, is eMusic. My subscription allows me to download 37 DRM-free MP3s per month for $15, about $0.40 per song. Yes folks, that's less than half of what iTunes typically charges. Essentially, it gets me three albums a month for $5 each. My current plan is no longer available, but new subscribers can expect to pay anywhere from $0.40 to $0.54 per download. eMusic's artist roster includes mostly those from independent labels, but they've recently added considerable back catalog material from some of the majors.

That about covers it. This system allows me to listen to a couple hundred new releases per year without spending money on albums until I'm certain that they're worth it. Even then, I'll rarely pay even $10 per, and will only go that high when purchasing the physical CD.


  1. Useful post. Thanks.

    Did you hear the album "Fantasies" by Metric in '09? Just getting in to it now. I recall you really like Mates of State. This should be up your alley. Delicious pop.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Joey. I just added it to my Lala queue. For some reason, I was disappointed when I first checked them out and never returned. I think it was Live it Out in 2005. The Mates of State comparison makes me realize I should give them a second chance.

  3. A big "hell yeah!" to Metric and Lala, the latter quickly becoming my favorite thing ever! Do you have any public playlists on there I can snag?

  4. I don't, Patty. You may know more about the site than I do. How do public playlists work? If I purchase the songs, can my friends then listen to them?