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08/20/13

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Music is best heard when shared not bought.
The lawsuit years ago between Metallica and Napster told us sharing music was "bad." Fast-forward to this year and the exact opposite holds true: sharing music is no longer frowned upon but is rather deemed the norm.
No one buys CDs -- in fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone that still uses (not owns) a CD player as the main source of musical output.
Walk into a Best Buy or any other somewhat archaic music store and you'll see walls upon walls of CDs lined up nicely but sadly hardly picked over. Sure, there's still a diehard market out there that must have the tangible, hard-copy CD in hand the day it is released.
But that demographic is dwindling. Except for the few, sporadic acts -- Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber - that defy a musical community that is fickle and on the cusp of technology, music is mostly enjoying through various "sharing" mechanism, much to the chagrin of Metallica and their verbose attack on Napster way, back when.

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Two sharing sites and applications immediately come to mind: Dropbox and Spotify. The former is a free application that allows friends to share music between computers and smart phones. My friend just bought the new Van Halen album and wants me to hear it; he simply sends me a request that reads something like this "Mike wants me to check out Van Halen's A Different Kind of Truth." So you click on the link and suddenly the aforementioned album appears and you begin downloading as much as you want.
Gone are the days of friends burning CDs and especially buying the same physical copy of an album that your friend has. Dropbox gives you access to any iTunes music library that your friends choose to share with you.
Spotify resides on the opposite end of the spectrum as Dropbox. The lower-end version of Spotify allows you to stream music for free but for only about $10 per month, you can download any album you want and sync it to your Spotify program on your PC, which incidentally (or on purpose) looks identical to iTunes.
That same album can be send to your smart phone as long as both your computer and phone are connected to a Wi-Fi signal. Now, you have favorite albums saved on both devices and you can download as many as you want for one, flat rate.
If the average CD costs $9.99 and you download one CD per month with Spotify, you've already paid for the service with just one purchase. The best part perhaps is that the album you download on Spotify is stored on a server and not cluttering up space on your phone or PC -- sort of the same mentality behind the iCloud.
Naturally, some bands don't participate in Spotify, but they also choose not to take part in iTunes as well. Those are the diehards, the rebels, the bands who refuse to accept music sharing.
One band noticeable missing from that list: Metallica. The creators of the famed "Black Album" have finally waived the white flag for music sharing.

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