the best things in life are free…

…Such as music.  I am among those heathen pirates mentioned on the evening news just often enough to scare anyone younger than 14 and older than 60.  I’ve been at it for 10 years already.  It’s like a long-term relationship.  I remember acquiring my first batch of tunes.  A friend sort of hooked me up with about 40 songs.  Among them were Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Frozen” by Madonna.  At first I thought, “well hell, this is pointless” because I already had the more important songs on CD or the less important songs on tape off the radio.  And the file sizes—they were huge!  Three and four megabytes each!  If I collected any more, my hard drive space would vaporize.

But then I thought it might be cool, especially since I started hearing murmurs about this process called “CD burning” and some people were archiving their audio loot onto CD-Rs.  Despite still being light years away from actually acquiring a CD burner, I did have a hazy vision of the future, and I gave it the benefit of the doubt.  I decided to casually start collecting.

Of course, you couldn’t really find anything GOOD yet.  At first, there were a few Geocities pages that hosted a few miscellaneous Jewel and U2 tunes, but only those that were current hits of the day.  These were interspersed with a limited offering of “legal” mp3 files from who-cares groups like Antiloop and 13 Stories.

Wow, how far we’ve come since the Dark Ages of MP3.  Napster’s heyday has come and gone, and it spawned in its wake a dozen little copycat germinations determined to carry out the Robin Hood spirit that it so innocently pioneered.  One of them became MY P2P.  Not that I invented it; I just wish I had.  It started out as a safe haven for a select community of elite uber-nerds who use words like haxx0r and 1337 to swap album wrapped sets of their favorite obscure IDM electronica artists.

At first, none of my searches bore any fruit.  Six months or so later, I returned to find a pleasant surprise; the whole atmosphere had changed, and now whatever you wanted, no matter how obscure or even unreleased, was all there for the taking.

So I did.  Icehouse, Cocteau Twins, the Motels, and Juliana Hatfield—entire albums’ worth—became mine with the double-click of a mouse button.

I was in heaven.

Over six years later, the snuggly relationship is still going strong.  My tastes have grown ever more eclectic and spoiled, having taken for granted that I can search for whatever I want and it will simply pop up; if not now, then eventually.  The wishlist feature makes that happen.  If I want to browse a user because he or she turned up results for an awesome obscure search I ran, I can do that too.  And if I’d like to send a private message to said user inquiring about anything similar they can recommend, it’s a done deal.  I can even start a chat room dedicated to anything I want, whether it’s a genre of music, a political view, or simply an exclusive little group for people with huge collections.

I still remember my first few songs…

Cocteau Twins “Oomingmak”

The Church “Numbers” and “Pharoah”

Murray Head “One Night In Bangkok”

Michelle Branch & Santana “Game of Love”

Juliana Hatfield “My Sister”

Blake Babies “Disappear”

Pizzicato Five “Strawberry Sleighride”

Bif Naked “Chotee”

Johnny Cash “Hurt” and “Personal Jesus”

Due exclusively to the act of napping music for free off the internet, (let’s not kid ourselves—that’s the only real reason anyone would need a broadband connection), I have discovered more music than I would otherwise have ever thought possible.  It has literally opened new doors for thousands of users.  Lately, it’s Celtic music (both the hand-clapping, knee-slapping, foot-stomping violin-based music AND the serene, beatless, beautiful harp melodies), Turkish bellydancing, Persian dance/pop music from Iran, or ambient/dub with traditional/ethnic accents from places like India, the UK, Egypt, or Tokyo.  And I love Musical Starstreams shows as well.  I’m currently collecting the entire Hearts of Space collection.

Mmm.

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