Some further notes.

The first post has gotten a few comments, which is gratifying. I hoped I wasn't alone in wanting to streamline my listening habits, and it turns out I'm not--very cool.

In a way, I'm looking at this as a kind of 12-step program. Music gluttony has always been a problem for me--ever since I was a kid, my instinct was to acquire a lot. Growing up poor undoubtedly plays its part here, but I remember one particular moment when I was at a record store in Minneapolis and met a local DJ I admired, who walked in, went straight to the back wall, grabbed a half-dozen titles, and went straight to the counter with them. I'd never seen anyone do that before; it was something I'd always wanted to have the guts to do, rather than dithering around worrying over what I should or shouldn't pick up. The DJ had his pick of promos--this was 1996, when labels and publicists and the music biz were flush--but he liked buying stuff on impulse. I decided I did, too, and began doing so with even more impunity than I already had been, which is to say I went from weekend binge drinker to Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas in record time.

The biz aspect of things as it exists in the present day has been on my mind regarding SLM. (First I called it a movement; now I'm referring to it as an acronym. I'll get over myself someday, I promise.) As the first post indicated, I think about my consumption patterns more and more consciously. That's partly getting older and trying to be a more responsible citizen, but it also has to do with wanting, in some way, to put something back into the music economy I've gotten so much from.

From July 2003 to March 2006 I worked as music editor of Seattle Weekly, which will probably remain the best day job I'll ever have: aside from a misguided local music awards program begun shortly before I arrived, I had the freedom to more or less cover what I wanted, how I wanted, and made a living from it. You can't ask for much more. While there I received tons of promos--many local, of course, but many more not. I'd already been freelancing for a few years, plus had worked for the Weekly as a staff writer from October 1999 to February 2001, so I received a good number of freebies, but the editor's chair garnered me a lot more. Looking back it's easy to see that for a long while I was rather cavalier about getting promos; I think a lot of people were then, because the industry was pretty much rolling in it during the late '90s, and it was easy to get on the gravy train. And editing (and concurrently keeping up a busy freelance schedule) meant I could ask for pretty much anything I might want to hear easily enough, though by that point I was a lot more careful about requesting stuff, something that increased as the job progressed.

That changed when I left the Weekly for a job at eMusic in New York. I figured I wouldn't need all that many promos. As an eMusic contributor, I'd gotten a healthy slate of monthly downloads gratis, but working there I figured would exempt me from needing much that wasn't already available on the site, and when I emailed couple-hundred folks whose addresses I'd kept in a folder for this occasion, I noted that they should only update my info if they were planning to send me stuff for freelance purposes. I figured my promo haul would drop dramatically, and it did; it dropped further when I returned to Seattle shortly before Thanksgiving 2006 to be with the woman I'd begun dating around the time I left for New York.

Getting so much for free, for so long, had made me miss voting with my dollars, and it also made me wonder, often, if I wasn't just jobbing it. I still get promos, and eMusic still allots me a healthy number of monthly downloads, both of which I'm thankful for. But coming back to Seattle, I was equally happy to realize I hadn't been jaded by all those freebies--that I was as eager to buy new music as I had been before I started writing reviews. It was relief, and it was also exciting--I felt like I was rediscovering the impulse that brought me into the field originally. I look at 2007 as a good music year in part because I enjoyed a lot of things released then, but also because I felt like a fan again, not just a professional. Going to the nearby Sonic Boom Records on Tuesdays became a habit. Especially as someone who'd made a living in part from the recording industry for so long, it felt right to be putting some money back into it, especially as it became a dicier proposition, particularly to a community-based business.

So in a sense I'm embarking on the SLM with a hint of regret, because I like buying large numbers of records at a time--not just because it satisfies the pack-rat in me, but because it benefits a sector of the local economy that can use all the help it gets. Well, most of it's the pack-rat part. But if this works the way it should, it won't mean that, as a rule, I'd be buying fewer records--just that I'll pay closer attention to them once acquired. Ideally, this will be to everyone's benefit.


So here's the deal.

I need to clean out my ears. So from January to November 2009, I'm embarking on a kind of purification rite. In that time, I'm only allowing myself to download one MP3 at a time; the next MP3 can only be downloaded once I listen to the first one. With CDs, if I buy one, I have to listen to it all before I buy another, and before I am allowed to rip any of it to iTunes. There will surely be exceptions--CDs that suck, that I can't deal with playing all the way through--but hearing a bad album end to end is, if nothing else, a learning experience, so I plan to stick by this rule as much as I can.

I write about music and am on a number of publicists' mailing lists. I'm not sent as many free physical CDs as I used to be--a blessing--but they still arrive and they still pile up, and it's impossible to hear them all, not that I necessarily want to. I've often ripped the better looking ones to my hard drive, put them on my iPod, and never, ever listened to them. The one-in, one-out rule should eliminate this wasteful procedure. Digital promos I will download only when I have time to hear them, just like any other MP3s I acquire.

Like a lot of people who love music a lot, I am a pack rat and a glutton. The Slow Listening Movement is my way of trying to curb those tendencies. Partly this is out of necessity: I have back taxes to start paying off, I'm planning to move cross-country (hopefully speaking, soon; practically speaking, probably not any time soon), and I'm sick of feeling trapped by my own clutter, be it my overcrowded CD shelves or the ungodly amount of MP3s my 1TB hard drive contains. It's great to have an extensive reference library, and many of those MP3s are duplicates--organizing it will be a project in itself--but there's a limit to these things as necessities. I can stand to indulge myself with fewer mindless acquisition sprees. Of course, it's not really a movement if only one person does it, and I hope others try it as well. (The name is, of course, a hat-tip to the Slow Food Movement.)

I've deliberately made this an 11-month project rather than a 12-month one. December is when year-end best-of come out en masse, and I've long had the habit of compiling playlists based on the more intriguing singles/tracks lists, as well as picking up likely-looking CDs I've missed. (Not to mention Christmas, when I often ask for new titles and, occasionally, box sets.) But with any luck, after 11 months of one pellet at a time, I'll have acclimated to it enough that I won't get too greedy for my own good again. Thanks for joining me in this experiment.