Friday, November 21, 2008

Squeeze the Lemon (and make lemonade!)

It's not easy being a music fan these days. AM, FM and satellite radio have all faded away as sources of new and interesting tunes. Another multimedia device has replaced both television and radio. It's called a laptop computer and my headphones are now permanently plugged into it. Within it is a remarkable and nearly endless world of music to discover!

There must be a zillion music and webcast sites awaiting you. Lots of them pour mainstream rock into your ears often with self-indulgent messages provided by the program producer. Slacker, Live 365 and Rhapsody immediately come to mind. Unfortunately, these sites long for the same two things traditional radio needs: deep playlists and informed programmers. How much AC/DC, Springsteen and Jimmy Buffett can you really handle?

Moving away from the mainstream, two sites are truly remarkable in their approach. Pandora Radio, (,) produced by a group known as The Music Genome Project, allows you to create 'radio stations' based upon artists you already know and love. It's the musical equivalent of Alice falling into Wonderland. There are an awful lot of performers out there looking for attention and fans. Pandora really lets you discover them en masse. Don't worry. You can plug in the names of big acts, too! Go ahead! Start with the name of a relatively obscure singer and Pandora will find dozens of similar artists to audition for you. Not only are the singers beautifully combined by personality and style, the mixes flow gracefully from key to key. Pandora is another word for musical nirvana!

Adding to the pleasure, Pandora asks you to rate the songs that you find memorable with a 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' to build their knowledge base. Of course, they also provide hooks to allow you to buy the tunes if you really like them. Biographies are available for every performer and you can read other listeners' reviews and preferences. You can bookmark artist's names or particular songs allowing you to research more about them and discover what they are all about. It's a lot of fun and (warning!) you could spend a lot of time here!

For a more commercial approach to the indie music scene, take a ride over to Amie Street. ( Here you will find the on-line equivalent of that great record store that used to exist ten years ago but went out of business. The price of downloading tunes is directly in proportion of their popularity. Tunes from unknowns can be downloaded for as little as a few cents. The most popular acts sell their songs for 98 cents each. It beats iTunes no matter how you look at it!

There is one catch to visiting Amie Street. All you will find here are independent artists. If you are charting on Billboard's Hot 100 every week, chances are Amie Street won't be listing your CDs any time soon. On the other hand, if you are dreaming about performing for the first time, strumming your guitar on your bed in Slow Snake, Wyoming, this is the site for you!

Listen sweetheart...I can get you on stage! Amie Street also allows you to post all the new music you can gather and begin selling it on line. You can instantly become your own record promoter, producer and music company with just a few mouse clicks. Record your tracks, begin a listing for your act, upload your tunes and sit back and wait for fame! When you are done, earn credit towards music purchases of your own by recommending tunes you like to other Amie Street users.

Don't forget two other sites to augment your discoveries: My Space Music and You Tube. Both sites have become the village square open mic soapbox for the world's new and upcoming artists. Who knows? Maybe you'll find the next Rachel Correll there! (She actually is a big deal if you happen to be from her corner of North Carolina. You see, it's all about her Fender acoustic and her dalmatian Arabella...) Write your own declaration of independence from repetitive mainstream rock 'n' pop. It's all waiting for you inside your computer. Isn't it time you tuned in to something new?