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.


  1. Fear of the (non-self-directed) deluge is one reason I always steered well clear of letting my obsession-addiction-love-affair with music become professional. So I sympathise with your inclination, here. I remember weekly Tuesday trips to the record shop, getting myself excited, buying all I couldn't afford (and this was when I was a professional, not working non-profit), doing the unwrap dance. . . and then feeling slightly let down, before feeling more let down by mostly-mediocre sound results.

    That was a decade ago. And I found a fix--without cutting back on my habit. My solution: quit giving a single shit about [i]the new[/i]. Quit caring about Tuesday. I realised--what is so amazing and important about this very narrow and fleeting edge of time at which we stand, that it should take up any significant portion of my love of music? We're going on over 100 years of recorded sound, thousands of years of retained musical tradition, and at least 50 years of "modern popular" musical trajectory. That's a lot of Tuesdays, and the one this week is nearly nothing by comparison.

    The key, then, wasn't to cut back on the music appreciated--but to decrease the music merely [i]consumed[/i] a la Big Macs and American Idols and every other fad and fast and throwaway; and to increase the amount [i]actually appreciated[/i]. The desire to know more and better art is not, if genuinely pursued (another trapping of This New Tuesday is that it's likely based in an idea of cool, a tertiary and ephemeral criterion) akin to the desire to Own More Stuff. We're not collecting shiny round beer mats. We're not filling hard drives to brag about their fullness. It's about the beauty, the inspiration, the craziness, the cultures, the ideas, hopes, angers--the human be-ing that they conveniently contain, when properly unpacked.

    Unpacking is where I can see the slow listening making sense--we have to remember to really listen. So I've committed to listening uninterrupted to one full album or mix a day; to cut back on hitting "random" (though again I don't find that to be nearly as in line with capricious consumerist mentality as it might seem). But I'm not worried about finding less music, hearing less music--I just want to be choosy. Which for me has meant: exploring longitutinally and deeply, across the many years of recorded music (and beyond). Ditching the Pitchfork what's-next mentality. Knowing where things came from, where they went, and then wondering where they're going next. And that means I don't listen to music that's hip-today, gone-tomorrow. I turned in any pretense of being cool, and embraced being the younger version not of the hip DJ you saw walking in, but the weird scuzzy but enthralled looking balding weirdo at the back of the less popular, more densely packed old basement record shop. That guy is not cool. But he is not a pack rat. He just loves music, and enjoys it fully.

    Music isn't about dollars spent, though I remain one of those people who will never consider an mp3 safe or permanent enough to buy one. It isn't about whom you know, where you live, if you had a cool older sister who DJed at the university radio station, if you got to stand behind the counter at the snooty record shop. And no offense to a proper writer, but it's not about what anyone has to say about it, or reading what anyone has to say. It's just passion. And that's where the internet, and its opening of the floodgates in terms of hearing as much music as you can seek out, is nothing but a good thing. Whoever you are, wherever you are, however much or little money you have, all that matters is how carefully and joyfully you listen--slow, fast, or both.

    Good luck in your project, and I hope as you listen slowly you'll see the horizons opening up completely. It's all yours.

  2. I appreciate your thoughts, and they're well put, but "the new" or any sort of "what's-next mentality" has very little to do with this project. It's about not buying or acquiring more music then I'll actually listen to, of whatever vintage. People who buy new stuff or try to keep up (whatever that means at this stage, when there are, I'd bet, more hours of music made public per month than there are available to listen in a year) have no monopoly on over-acquiring it.