Tuesday, September 06, 2011

FM to Spotify- the search for dance music

This has got be the golden age of the musical search. There are so many ways to find new music from small groups or distant cultures.

Over the last 15+ years of DJing for first zydeco/swing dances and then for waltz eclectic, the search for music has been one of my most enjoyable past times. Its something like the stamp collecting I did as a kid, finding the rare piece of music from some exotic culture to which you can actually dance. But when going back and pondering the changes that have occurred in my way of searching for music I am just amazed. No longer does one have to buy numerous CD’s or stick to the tried and true repertoire.

Here’s a timeline of how finding music and DJing as changed over the period.

1996 to 2000:  I would hear a song at dance and find the name of the song and “try” to remember it. Record stores like “Hear music” had booths where you could listen to music with headphones which make even mediocre music dance in your head.  So many CDs were bought this way and then rarely listened to again. Then there were FM radio stations, Rolling Stone’s and other magazines’ music reviews. However, while there were more sources for finding music , it was hit and miss with the music coming through cultural and commercial filters.

2000 to 2004: Then there was Google. The Internet opened up the world of music. Typing a few words in a box allowed one to find music from little known artists, to see what DJs from the East coast or Europe where playing and maybe even hear a 20 second snippet of a song. This explosion of accessibility to different music is what allows me to really be “eclectic” in my playlists.

2005 to 2010: Along came iTunes and YouTube.  Typing words in a box was easy but one still needed to find the words. With iTunes finding music became a purely surfing activity allowing me to ride a rhythm of clicks from one artist to the next, listening to samples of music and discovering artists I had never heard of. With YouTube, one could search for dancers and actually hear what they were dancing to. The music discovered through these venues was available to buy with additional advantage of being able to buy just the songs off a CD that were of interest.

The present:  Music from all around the world is now available to everyone and the unique character of that music has not yet fused into a world blend like a MacDonald’s restaurant but still represents the indigenous values and visions of local cultures.  In addition, Itunes and YouTube have been improved and they have a lot of competition. You can now listen to a whole or at least most of a song before you buy it instead of just a sample.

At present my preferred sources for music are:
1. First and foremost, suggestions from dancers in our community. Keep them coming.
2. I still use Google to search forums, artists and other DJ playlists.
3. Online music distributors. I use iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, Calabash (for world music) and Spotify.

My current favorite is Spotify. It’s a music streaming service that was developed in Europe and therefore has a strong representation of European and world music. It allows for the creation of playlists that can be streamed through your computer consisting of any music that is on their service. This means I can listen to whole songs numerous times before I decide to buy that song (elsewhere) and play it at a dance. Playlists can also be published that other subscribers can listen to. If anyone would like to subscribe to my playlists and hear music I am evaluating for possible play at a coming dance. I would like to get your feedback. Subscriptions range from free (you need to be invited) to $5 or $10/mo for paid subscriptions. If you would like an invitation, email me.  I only have a few left, so first emails get them.

Lastly I would like to thank the community of dancers who come to our events for allowing me to turn an activity that could easily be seen as a collector’s addiction, into a craft where the end product is the vision of dancers participating in the joy of music.


Sharon said...

Bravo for getting the blog going again! Interesting history of your musical search process.

Thanks for sharing your tips!

Shelberita said...

I agree. Interesting to hear you talk about the music you play and I am enjoying checking out your music lists on Spotify.

Chris Hall said...

I always listen to Last Fm it almost on 24/7 in our office and then i listen to it all night long aswell. I have found so many song and artists from last fm I really dont know what music i would be listening to with out it.


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