I listen to a lot of music. Still. Even though I haven’t recorded a Tracks Up The Tree in years, I curate and collect music as if another show is just around the corner. (In reality, Josiah and I haven’t really ended the show. It still goes on, it just hasn’t been recorded for a while.)
In my searches for music, I inadvertently ran into the music of Otto A. Totland one lone and wintry night. His music is like listening to a pianist explore the keys while he thinks no one is listening. It is as if the music is too precious to share, the recordings keep all the artifacts of the playing – with footsteps, the rustling of clothing, and the depression of piano keys. His music, late on that wintry February night, was a revelation for me and I ran through my trusted music-selling services to find where I could get a high-quality FLAC copy of the album.
FLAC you might ask? But Ben, who uses Flac files? And why use them? Can’t we just use the Apple iTunes Music Store and get to bed?
Well Shirley, (I am assuming your name is Shirley – if it isn’t – I’m really not in touch with my audience anymore.) you see I have encoded my entire iTunes collection 3 times in my life (MP3, 128kbps AAC, & 256kbps VBR AAC) and at this point, I am paranoid about my music collection. Every CD I buy gets ripped to FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Compression) or ALAC (That is Apple Lossless Audio Compression Shirley) and then I make an AAC (Advanced Audio Codec like the iTunes Store) which I put on my iPhone (this is like a music player that also receives phone calls). The time-consuming process is really the ripping of the audio, once I have that on my computer as FLAC, I can transcode it to any audio format and the audio quality my heart desires. When I have created my iPhone-compatible AAC file, I archive the FLAC files onto Blu-ray discs. (Fancy right Shirley?!) If I can get a FLAC file off-the-bat it saves me the process of buying and ripping CDs to get my music fix.
In searching for the FLAC audio or CD of Pinô, I came across a recommendation on Amazon.com mentioning Drip.fm a music service for independent record labels. After heading to the site I was greeted with a huge page of independent record labels to which I could subscribe to. Each monthly subscription, varying in price from $10-$15, secures you a spot to receive everything the record label releases during that month. It is very “of the moment” and there is no back catalog for you to download. When you subscribe is when your music starts rolling in and you only get what has been released that month or any back catalog the label decides to release.
So hoping I would get Otto A. Totland’s masterpiece Pinô – I subscribed to the M+6 drip pool. The M+6 pool is a conglomeration of 6 independent record labels; Morr Music, Altin Vilage & Mine, Miasmah, Shelter Press, Immune, Sonic Pieces, and Roots Strata. While I had only really heard about Morr Music, who represent Múm, Lali Puna, and Ms. John Soda among others, there is tons of music and artists I had never heard about from the other labels.
After about a month, I can say the experience has been great! The M+6 pool is always interesting. I’m not into all the music that is released. Some of it sounds more like an audio sketch than a cohesive piece of music, but everything has been fun to listen to for the most part. The awesome music far exceeds the music I am lukewarm on. I also promptly subscribed to Ghostly International drip as I was curious to get ahold of the new Com Truise album and the new Tycho album releasing mid-March.
So now I am a patron of the arts, blindly supporting record labels who make music the masses may not care to explore and it feels great. It is like the Columbia House Music Club for hipsters who want to be closer to the cutting edge rather than the mass market. I totally recommend it to any of you who love music and want to listen to interesting things they might not have the time to discover on your own. For me, it is $10-$15 well spent.
A quick aside. When I was writing this, listening to Pinô by Otto A. Totland, Funtime Julia actually came into my office and asked
“What are you playing? This is the most beautiful music I have ever heard. I realized I am relaxed instead of anxious about going to work today.”
Update: Drip.fm is no more. Sadly the market for owning music just doesn’t quite exist anymore with the prevalence of streaming services. Now I check on my subscriptions through Qobuz and listen there.