Free Music and the Power of the Internet

The internet really is a marvel, isn’t it? So many of us use it on a daily basis that it can be easily taken for granted (until it breaks down or we go on vacation to lands unknown; that’s when we usually cry with relief once we’re “reconnected”). One of the first things that I was excited to explore was meeting new people, so for my first few years of being constantly online I participated in a lot of internet chat rooms and message boards. However, long after that aspect lost its glitter, utilizing the internet to find rare and obscure music has remained a constant source of happiness for these Hot Pink Headphones.

I still vividly recall my first ever internet purchase: it was done on our (now ancient) Mac computer in the attic of the house where I grew up. This was back in the days when “getting online” meant basically scrolling through lines of words with very few graphics and no colour save for green. I don’t even remember search engines, so how I managed to find any website is a mystery. However, some way, somehow, I found a mail order store online that sold the soundtrack to the Canadian 90s vampire show Forever Knight. I didn’t even know that such an album existed (I had certainly never seen it in a brick and mortar store) and it was my absolute favourite show at that time. So I filled out the form, borrowing my parents’ credit card, hit “send,” then sat back to wait, hoping and praying that I wasn’t just ripped off. In a couple of weeks it finally arrived, o frabjous day, callooh, callay! I was ecstatic, and I thought, “It can’t get any better than this.”

Needless to say, at present I use the internet to find new music on a near daily basis. It’s staggering to think that in my lifetime I went from no internet to sending emails into the void in the hopes of receiving a package in the mail to downloading entire albums in less than five minutes. And there is even a great deal of 100% legally free music to be found online, which is something I never would have anticipated in my wildest dreams! Today’s post was in fact inspired by a new Bat For Lashes cover of Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove,” which at the time of this writing, is available to download absolutely free on Facebook. Just go to the Facebook page for Gucci, click on “Gucci Guilty,” and presto, free song! It’s quite good, too, especially if you are already a fan of either (that goes double if, like me, you’re already a fan of both). In honor of free music everywhere, I’m posting three of my favourite free internet finds of the past year. Happy hunting!

1.) Pogo – Expialidocious

When it comes to free, awesome music, one name springs to mind: Pogo. If you’ve already heard his phenomenal song “Upular,” then you know who he is and what he does. In case you’re uninitiated, Pogo is an Australian DJ who is best known for taking sounds from films and stringing them together to form amazing electronic songs. This entire entry could just be a love note to him, because his music truly touches my heart. I don’t know if it’s because the films that he chooses are almost all favourites of mine (Harry Potter, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Hook, Alice In Wonderland, A Little Princess, Up, The Secret Garden) or if it’s just the way that he blends melodies together, but I can’t get enough of him and his brilliant work. When a friend of mine first turned me onto his work last year, most of his catalog was available to download for free from his website.

Today you can still download them there, but in the manner of Radiohead and free music lovers everywhere, he has a “name your own price” function by some of his better known mp3s (while others are still just free). For my money, this is as good as free (or almost free) music gets. The video that I’m sharing in this entry is probably my absolute favourite of his (which is saying a lot, as picking just one is nearly impossible). The building of the beats mixed with the sweet voice of Karen Dotrice creates a sort of magic that instantly transports me to childhood, and the accompanying video always makes me want to dance along the rooftops with Bert and Mary Poppins.

2.) The Ruby Suns – Closet Astrologer

Love it or hate it, is an online force to be reckoned with. When it comes to free music, it far surpasses iTunes in sheer numbers alone. True, there is a lot of chaff amidst the wheat, but when you find something worthwhile it almost seems too good to be true. That was how I felt when I downloaded Digital Bang: The 2010 Sub Pop Sampler For Amazon. The whole album is completely free, and it’s filled to the brim with some really excellent tracks by great artists such as Beach House, Dum Dum Girls, and Cocorosie. But my favourite track was from a band completely new to me: The Ruby Suns. This New Zealand band makes music with a hazy kind of ease, like falling into a soft pillow of a dream that you don’t want to wake up from. I’m certain that the intention of releasing this sampler album was to introduce people to these bands and lead them to future purchases, and let me tell you, that technique worked like wildfire. I did indeed go on to purchase the entire Ruby Suns album Fight Softly, and I have officially added them to my “bands to watch” list. So take that, greedy music executives who try to stop free music from being given away! Have a little faith in music fans, because like all true addicts, we never stop at just one good song.

3.) Cut Copy – Need You Now

Though I dismissed them earlier, once in a while iTunes does let a winner slip out every so often as their “Free Single Of The Week.” This song, which was featured a few weeks ago, is just that: crisp Australian electropop that brings to mind New Order without encroaching on their sacred territory. And this is the second song by Cut Copy which has been the FSotW! (Hmm, what is it about Aussies and Kiwis that makes them so generous with their excellent music?) While this song is unfortunately no longer a free download on iTunes, I would definitely categorize it as music worth the money. It’s peppy without becoming too cloying, hopeful and mellow at the same time; a perfect song for twirling around to on a dance floor or in your bedroom. As for the conglomerate known as iTunes, releasing songs like this one shows that there are gems to be found in all corners of the web if you just cast your ‘net far and frequently enough.



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