For a lifelong Jazz aficionado, one of the coolest things about the Net is that it offers unique ways to discover new music. Lately, I've been listening to soundclips, online radio and legal downloading services. And thanks to my broadband connection, friends email me MP3 files, so there's no shortage of new music coming out of my computer speakers.
Although the marketing and delivery of digital music improves daily, it's still the recommendation of a friend that matters most. This is viral marketing, when one person turns another on to a track, an artist, or a recording, and then that person turns on another, etc. The movie biz calls it "word of mouth."
In the old days, the delivery medium was the cassette. Filesharing is just an extension of those cassettes, but because it's so easy, we need to revise our copyright laws. Before the legal brouhaha, I used Napster to find new music, with sometimes startling results. Today, I wouldn't use Kazaa or Grokster, not so much for fear of a lawsuit, but because they load up your computer with spyware that's nearly impossible to remove.
In its first incarnation, Napster was a musical gold mine. Instead of buying an entire recording, I'd download a few tracks, listen and then buy the CD if I liked the music. Of course many people downloaded and would never buy the music. Hence the current controversy.
Napster also had an instant messaging feature that allowed filesharers to communicate, if that option was enabled in your configuration.
One time I was downloading a Jobim track, a version of his "Photograph." I had Joe Henderson's interpretation and to wanted to hear the original. Suddenly, I got an instant message from the person who was sharing it. He saw that I was downloading his music and wanted to talk about. An engineer with a few minutes to spare, he was online in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
I've loved Brazilian music since Stan Getz recorded "Desafinado" so this chat was quite informative and an opportunity to communicate with someone I'd probably never meet face to face. He asked why I chose to download that particular file, and I told him about Joe Henderson's Jobim recording, "Double Rainbow." He hadn't heard it and asked me to wait a moment, and he did a search for the music but couldn't find it online at that time but said he would definitely search again.
Then he suggested that I check out another Jobim composition, Matita Pere. I put him on hold and quickly found the music, from a 1996 CD only available in Brazil. As we spoke, the track downloaded, and I was able to listen immediately, and discuss it with my newfound friend.
All of this within ten minutes! Through the Net, I was able to find a like-minded listener on the other side of the planet, share some music, and leave the encounter with a new CD for my shopping list. Since then, I've introduced several friends to the Jobim recording, and I suspect my Brazilian friend has probably purchased the Joe Henderson CD, as well.
Napster was shut down by the courts and has been reborn in legal form, without instant messaging. Yet, this experience clearly demonstrated the power of this technology. To try some of this today, check out Rhapsody. And throughout the web there are numerous forums and vehicles for music-related cyber communication including the All About Jazz Forums.
Given the global audience for America's homegrown art form, I strongly suspect that at this very moment, someone, somewhere is online asking a stranger, "have you heard Alice Coltrane's new CD?"