About a year ago, Jay-Z quipped on his single “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) that “I know we facin a recession /But the music yall makin gonna make it the great depression”. A week earlier, Lil Wayne capped off his own Auto-Tune drenched verse in Jay Sean’s “Down” with “And honestly I’m down like the economy.”
“No, you’re not.” Grumbled thousands of embittered college grads, hard-luck blue collar workers, and business professionals as they took another sip of instant coffee while skimming the classified ads for something other than “Wal-Mart greeter” or “BK chef”. 2009 was a heard year; wallets got tighter and lighter as people wondered if that Big New Thing they bought last year was going to break the bank.
Makes buying new music tough, don’t it? Good news: It doesn’t have to! Below are some methods to still get tunes without getting too in the hole.
Physical Releases: Buy Smart
These methods work if you still want to physically hold onto something (at least for a time) while getting new music.
–Sales: Self-explanatory. A lot of the big stores knock a few bucks off for new releases, so striking while the iron’s hot can always help.
–Stores: Know which stores offer the lowest prices. A story: Last month, I bought “Is This It” for $13.99 at FYE. Later that day, I saw it at Best Buy for $7.99. That’s a generous cut.
-Get Used: The “used bin” at most record stores, both big chain and indie shops, has been getting more and more attention through the past few years. There’s never a guarantee that they’ll have what you want, but most everything falls in the $5-$10 range.
-HPB: Half-Price Books also sells music and movies on the cheap. The selection is bigger than most used sections in stores, but again it’s something of a crap shoot. On the plus side though, it’s big enough to keep you and some friends sufficiently entertained for awhile, and the low prices mean that taking risks is easier. For example, I’ve never been an R.E.M. fan, but I saw Automatic For the People for $2, so I bought it anyway. Much safer than paying $16 or $18 for it somewhere else. An added perk is that you can give HPB something that you don’t want, and they’ll give you cash for it. It’s best to do that in bulk though, since the payout isn’t that great.
-The Power of Friendship: The time honored borrow or burn from a friend is still a great way to share music. And with the advent of GB sized flash drives, sharing multiple albums has gotten much easier.
The Internet: If you just want the bloody music and you have a good internet connection, these are for you.
Free and Legal Online
–Artist’s Handouts: Not every band has NIN or Radiohead’s ability to drop an album for free. But a lot more bands have taken up the practice of putting a song or two on their page for free download. Usually this requires your email address, but all the band does with that is send out updates like “Hey, the album’s out tomorrow!” or “Tour dates are posted!”; stuff that they’d bug you with on Facebook anyway. If it’s for a band you like, then hey it works.
–Streaming: Not a way to get the music, but more and more artists are putting up albums a week or two before their release so you can listen to them for free online. Gorillaz and Slash have already done this earlier in the year, and Hole just put their album up a day or two on Facebook (consensus: meh). You don’t get to keep it, but streaming is a good way to add or remove something from your radar.
–Trial Runs: Places like E-Music have paid subscription services (to be covered further down), but most of these come with a free trial of x amount of songs. Download the freebies and drop the service.
–Single of the Week: iTunes has this practice of single or song of the week that they offer as a free download. You can pick up the cards at Starbucks for a given week, go online, and it’s all yours. A door opener, but not always that reliable.
–Indie Sites: Sites like IfYouMakeIt.com have a rec’d/free music area. Really hit or miss, and nothing anyone has heard of before, but shit, why not?
–Internet Radio: Pandora’s the clear standout, but there are others. When you want to listen, go for it.
Legal Music Online (paying)
–Subscriptions: A few places (E-Music) charge a flat rate to a credit card for x amount of downloads a month. The math is on you, but if it fits your needs, it’s a good high quality, non-DRM, mp3 alternative to iTunes.
–Buy it online: Two-fer: paid mp3s or order a physical copy. This is a blanket for online stores like Amazon, Ebay, Craigslist, Half.com, or the websites for big chain stores. Or, go to band websites if you want the best deal.
Free and Illegal Online
–Pirating: If you’re too damn lazy to do anything else on this list…
So yes, even in tough times, there’s still plenty of ways to get new music. Most of them legal, each with it’s own pros and cons, but however you get there, there you are.