You might remember back in the late 90s there was a bit of a kerfuffle between the major record labels (Recording Industry Association of America) and a group of upstart software companies that allowed users of their wares to share music files in a peer to peer manner. This situation got nasty when the industries legal options against the companies releasing the software didn't stem the tide of change and they decided to sue the actual users of these services which resulted in situations where housewives and their kids were being sued for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To me at the time, the whole thing seemed pretty stupid. Even though I was still in my hyper-leftist socialist sympathizer phase, what annoyed me was that there was a clear market opportunity that the record companies were missing out on. The fact was that file sharing networks were terrible places for people who bought a lot of music to get the product. First off, it was biased toward really popular music so if you weren't listening to top 40 stuff, you'd have to wait for somebody with more nuanced taste to log in - which was frequently not when you were logged in. Next, it was very singles oriented as you were much more likely to find a particular song than an entire album. Finally, there was a huge variance in the quality of the files with most people ripping music at relatively low fidelity bit rates.
These were all problems that the record companies could have addressed by launching their own service and making their entire catalogs available. Instead, they chose to sue. I understand why they did it, the fact that the entertainment industry is notoriously bad at adapting to disruptive change - look no further than Jack Valenti's notorious comment before Congress in 1981 about the VCR:
Now, the question comes, well, all right, what is wrong with the VCR. One of the Japanese lobbyists, Mr. Ferris, has said that the VCR... is the greatest friend that the American film producer ever had.
I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.
Even still, the bigger problem was that customer demand was changing too fast and instead of responding to the change, they alienated customers who were simply telling them what they wanted. This was too much for me and I, the kid who as a high schooler spent his entire allowance on music for years, decided to boycott the RIAA. Not only would I not buy anything from them, I wouldn't even illegally download it. This boycott lasted from roughly 2000 to 2011. What happened in 2011 to cause me to lift my embargo?
The Zune Pass.
When I got my Windows Phone, it came with a service that I found interesting. For 15 bucks a month, you could download or stream all of the music you wanted to be played on your phone or PC for as long as you had an active subscription. In addition to that, you could also download 10 high quality MP3s per month to keep forever. The math to me was pretty simple, if I assumed a song cost 1 dollar, then I was paying 5 bucks per month to listen to all the music I wanted and only buy what I liked. I thought it was a great deal and represented exactly what the industry should have done when the likes of Napster and Kazaa and GNUtella were popping up.
I signed up and haven't looked back.
Today the service has been modified (it is now known as the XBOX Music Pass) and what really differentiated it from a Pandora or Spotify - the 10 downloads - is no longer included, but the idea is that there are now lots of different services that allow you to legally consume tons of music on demand. That is progress. And not only that, every Tuesday I can listen to every new album released as much as I want without paying an additional dime so the costs of my music addiction are predictable. My iPod touch is passe compared to my Lumia 920.
Here are some albums I have enjoyed this year:
Devendra Banhart - Mala: Very quirky lighthearted and enjoyable. You have to hear it for yourself as I'm not capable of doing it justice in words. Favorite song: Your Fine Petting Duck.
Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album: I'm not 100% on board with his politics, but the fact that a rapper even has politics in his music - much less, articulated in an extremely thoughtful manner - these days gives him cred in my book. Very good all around album. Favorite song: Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito: Their electro-rock sound reminds me a lot of Garbage, and I really dug Garbage. However, what really got me going on this album was a completely out of the blue appearance from the one and only Dr. Octagon. Favorite song: Buried Alive
Snoop Lion - Reincarnated: Honestly, I still don't know what to make of this record. Snoop is a pretty mediocre reggae vocalist, but it takes guts to do something like Reincarnated and I feel like those guts are what make it work... on some levels. Favorite song: I'll get back to you.
Dropkick Murphys - Signed and Sealed in Blood: I dare you to not get amped up while listening to this group chant away. It's like Irish Crunk Music. Favorite song: They are all awesome but I'll go with Rose Tattoo (Prisoner's Song seems like a cheap pick)