This time last year I decided to start getting serious about tracking singles. I began by copying and pasting the new entries of eight weekly charts--five from Billboard, three from the BBC, from which the only two I paid much attention in the long run were the former's Country Top 60 and the latter's Independent Labels Top 30, both of which netted me some good stuff I'd have otherwise missed (plus plenty o' dross, I can assure you). The other thing I did was begin regularly checking a handful of MP3 blogs.
I'd liked the idea of MP3 blogs more than I'd ever utilized them. And as 2008 progressed, I began to understand why. I'd already left them more or less alone (not counting a few months in late '04), mostly because I already had too much music to listen to already. But because I was writing a singles column (which I still am), it seemed logical to try and hear the largely indie rock-oriented choice cuts being proffered to blogs, especially since the readership of The Stranger, the column's home, skews heavily indie. This practice introduced me to a lot of good music, and it also left me with a hell of a lot of clutter that I never got around to listening to and very likely never will.
My plan for '08 had simply been to see what was available and act frugally. Instead I went haywire, kid-in-candy-store style, without actually realizing that's what I was doing. It's strange to think the Internet used to thought of as the harbinger of a "gift economy," since what it's more or less evolved into is a smash-and-grab one. It's entirely too easy to think, "I'll try this one, and this one, and those four, and hey, why not, that one too," while looking at MP3 blogs and then never bother with any of it. It's like eating too much cereal--empty calories bulking things up unnecessarily.
Even beyond MP3 blogs, though, are a couple other free-MP3 sources. One is a private FTP I'm privy to thanks to one of my outlets. Its many goodies have been difficult to resist--I'm sure I'd have downloaded even more than I did already in 2008 (which is a considerable amount) had it not been for space issues on my laptop's hard drive. The other is the cache of promos I get from eMusic every month, which I've had access to since I began writing for it five years ago. That's always been helpful to me for filling in gaps in new titles and old, as well as the weekly U.K. Indie chart new arrivals. (I presume I'll continue to monitor those in '09, as well as the Country. I will probably try and kick up my listening from the R&B/Hip-Hop chart also.)
But the list of eMusic titles I haven't even played is as long as any of them--maybe longer. That's partly because when my time is running out and I have X amount of downloads left, I try to use them--that's why I have them, right? So it'll be interesting to see if I end up giving into that impulse and then listening to the (four? five?) albums I've chosen--the ideal result--or just leave those downloads dangling. Probably a little of each. We shall see.