Saturday, June 20, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about that quote in Veronica Fever's last post from a modern-day music consumer, "...we're in a day when nobody buys music unless they hear it first. Because we don't trust anyone, really." Now context is everything when it comes to quotes, and since this is from the book Ripped, which examines how the record industry killed itself, there's no question that trust remains a big factor in that entire story (although, really, it is largely going in the other direction: the industry's lack of trust in its own customers).

But in the context of music discovery in the modern age, I have to respectfully disagree. The reason why most of us don't buy music anymore unless we've heard it first is, well, because we can. Before the internet, most of us were willing to take the $ leap directly from recommendation (or intuition) to buying an album. If you were lucky, you were actually able to hear something first. But it just wasn't very easy to hear things before buying. Believe me, many of us have large collections of mostly unplayed CDs because of this!

Now virtually every musical artist in the world has a MySpace page with streaming audio, so sampling anyone's music recommendation is just an internet connection away (which most of us now have in our homes and at our workplaces- in other words, what, 90% of the time?). So, these days, why would you NOT listen to music before you buy it?

Further, it's a bit ironic that this idea was presented in a music blog. I feel that music blogs are one of the most important new ways that folks seek out "gatekeepers" that they actually trust to lead them to new music discovery. I trust the folks at NPR Music, but that does not mean I'm going to love (or buy) everything they recommend. But I visit their blogs and download their podcasts because they've earned a level of credibility that can accurately be described as having built my trust.

Really, when you think about it, the only sensible way to discover music is through listening. So, you could say that we just have more appropriate tools now as music consumers than we used to, and trust has nothing to do with it.

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Last night we were fortunate to celebrate World Refugee Day (which is today, June 20), with a great dance concert by Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars. Their story is extraordinary, if you are not familiar with it check out the DVD of a documentary film about them. Here's the trailer:

So it's a good time to remember that so many of us are here in the U.S. because of a former refugee plight of parents, grandparents, or great grandparents. My own four grandparents fled from Russia around the turn of the last century. Last night's show was sponsored by The American Refugee Committee. They do great work, and if you'd like to know more about how you can help with the many worldwide refugee crises currently in need, this is a good place to start.

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