It was the shit. Especially because everyone was using it, you had access to the largest selection of music files. I can only point at three things that could ruin your Napster experience: your computer specs, your internet connection, and the type of music you were looking for. None of those were working in my favor when I was 15. My computer had a 300 Mhz Celeron processor and 32 Mb of RAM. That thing, with its fantastic 56.6 kbps modem, would take at least 30 minutes to download a song. Additionally, trying to download Argentinean bootleg concerts from another poor bastard like myself (with the shitty computer and slow internet) in South America was not ideal. But I also had a friend who had a decent computer. He could download a song in 15 minutes, so he could try twice as many songs as I could. Besides, with a phone line dedicated just to the internet connection, he could queue up songs for downloading at any time. For me, he might as well have owned a record company; he’d try all sorts of tunes, so he’d download anything and then he’d tell me about the stuff worth listening to.
So a while ago, when someone asked me how I usually find the music I listen to, this memory came to mind. But upon thinking further, this is not the only way I find stuff. I mean, I don’t use Napster anymore (in fact, not until recently did I learn that it has continued to exist for the last 12 years). But saying that most of the music I find comes from online music catalogs—such as Spotify—doesn’t feel right. And then I remembered how I ran into Belle and Sebastian.
I remember reading about them in the newspaper’s Sunday magazine. Where you’d usually find celebrity pictures, horoscopes and liposuction ads, I found a half-page note about their latest album at that point, Dear Catastrophe Waitress. I was pulling 65 kg (130 lb) at that time, so I discarded the highly attractive message from the lipo clinic with the hot girl wearing a bikini, and glanced at the band’s article. First thing I caught was the genre of the band: Indie rock. It caught my attention because I had no idea what that was, so I kept reading. The note was probably just a translation from an Anglo magazine itself, but the review was good overall, awarding 4/5 stars or points or discs to the album, so I memorized the name of the band. Some months after that I went to the music store and got them to play the album for me.
At this point, Pretty in Pink comes to mind. Remember how that rich kid goes into the store to buy a record without even listening to it? I have to admit I’ve done that too but I’m sure I didn’t come off as a frat boy that can just buy his way into conversations with cute girls… more like the geek who got too excited about finding a rare album. This is unfortunate, make no mistake.
But going back to the original comment, almost as soon as I started listening to Step into my office, I thought I had discovered a whole new sound that nobody knew about, and I liked it a lot. So I bought the album. And here’s the difference between just using Spotify to try something new and taking further action than just double-clicking. Once you actually purchase an album you are making a larger commitment, so you want to make sure you really like it and, once you have it, you try to listen to it often, at least initially. Whereas a lot of new stuff I find while browsing on Spotify gets lost in the navigation thread. And in fact, after buying this album and listening to it for a while I decided to download the band’s whole discography.
This was sort of an educated process of getting to listen to new music. First you read about it, then you listen to it for free and legally, and then you take further action to listen to it more often.