What's that Sound? Once a month all the children in my son's elementary school gather around for a sing. Parents join their little geniuses in song and it's all quite inspiring. I tear up at "This Land Is Your Land" and look knowingly at fellow parents while the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" becomes a harmless ditty devoid of any nefarious references (wink, wink). This time, as the kids raised their voices in chorus to "I Don't Want to Grow Up," I thought about how right they were. Especially when it comes to music.
Moving into a family mode often means trading off your personal interests in favor of your children's. You watch Dora the Explorer, become conversant with PokÃ©mon and maybe even do battle on the Game Boy. Having a family cuts into personal time and getting on the early-to-bed-early-to-rise schedule means cutting back on nightlife activities. And for someone like me, whose social life was built around going out at night, this turn of events could be deadly. Clubs are where I would run into all my friends and where I would get turned on to new music. Classic rock still moves me, and I can sing along with Adam Lambert on American Idol when he belts out "Whole Lotta Love." But there's also that thing within me that wants to feel current and young, not someone stuck in the past who stopped listening to music after the end of punk or old-school hip-hop -- or whatever happened to be the music of the moment when you were single, carefree, up all night and back at work in the morning, wondering where you would go the next night to start the process all over again.
Even someone as current as Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore is perplexed with the problem of keeping up with new music. Elsewhere in this issue, heâ¯relates how when his daughter plays her iPod in the car, he'll hear a song he likes and that will get him thinking about how kids find out about new music today. Much has been written about changes in the music industry -- now no longer dominated by the star-making machine and the radio stations that willingly, and lucratively, enabled the record companies to maintain their addictive money-making habits. Thankfully, those days are gone. And so are the stacks of new CDs that used to regularly make their way to my desk.
Instead, I'm forced to look elsewhere to feed my passion for music. The search often begins at the desk of Alexis Swerdloff, our music editor, who knows what's going on and hears about new bands through some secret underground grapevine that's off-limits to anyone over 30. She shares her knowledge and CDs (but not -- please to note, ultra-paranoid record companies -- the "watermarked" ones that she has sworn to protect until her death).
And then there's the one-eyed monster, the Internet. Despite every effort to do so, the record industry has been unable to stop people from downloading music, free or otherwise. If they'd only have let Napster live in its original incarnation and figure out a way to work with them, they could have saved themselves. Now that the Internet has become the way that people discover new music, the labels need it more than ever. Satellite radio is approaching bankruptcy and Clear Channel has sucked the life out of everything it has touched, including the thousands of stations it owns and programs around the country. Ironically, it's the beast they thought would destroy them that is now coming forward as their savior.
There's more good music around now than ever before. Many people still don't realize that iTunes can connect you to hundreds of radio stations. Three of my favorites are KCRW in L.A., KEXP in Seattle and WFMU from New Jersey. I like the first two for new stuff, as well as for their great DJs, who have highly evolved music sensibilities, and FMU for its sheer silliness. I also love The Hype Machine and the famous iPhone app Shazam, which when activated can identify a song that's playing. And now, rather than fighting the Internet, record companies have decided to join them. Most recently, there's the example of Imeem, a cool site where some 26 million people a month go to hear free, legally licensed music. When it launched, Imeem agreed to pay the record companies a licensing fee plus a royalty of a penny or less each time a song is played. But then a few months ago, Imeem was on the verge of going out of business. Solution? Rather than dancing on its grave, the record companies, realizing that Imeem served an important role in promoting new music, forgave their debt. Better late than never.