Digital Music and An Old Fart Like Me

Just had lunch with the OffBeat staff, and we had some interesting conversations about music that made me think about how things have changed so drastically over the past 10 years. We were talking about how difficult it is to find so-called “world music” on any of the digital sites. I am a member of Rhapsody so I can listen to music on their site whenever I want to.  I love African music and I wanted to hear something from Mali. But that’s not necessarily easy to find in a digital music environment. If you search for “Mali” or “Malian music,” you’re not likely to come up with too much on Rhapsody. If I wanted to google some of the artists from Mali, I could probably search using those results, which adds another level to the search process.

In some ways, it’s harder to be exposed to new and unusual music these days. In the good old days of record stores, when you were browsing through the CD stacks, you could come across something random that you might be interested in a lot more easily than the specificity of the digital music searches allows. Yeah, we get a lot of music pitched at us here at the magazine, but frankly, most of it doesn’t run to what I like. I do like it when I listen to something and discover something new and totally unexpected that I really enjoy. Music is always opening my ears to new sounds, so the more ways I can find stuff I enjoy, the more open I am to it. I certainly do like the easy access, but I miss record stores, old fart that I am.

I’m interested in hearing about your experiences with digital versus old-school exposure to new music that’s to your taste. What do you think the old-school retailers (i.e., the few remaining CD and vinyl stores) have to do to survive in a digital world?

On another note, I just finished reading Nine Lives last night, a book you should definitely read if you want some interesting insight into the way New Orleans “works”…or doesn’t work, depending on your point of view. I talk more about the book and the Threadhead Records involvement in a musical based on the book in our upcoming print issue, which will hit the street next Tuesday. Look out for it (and tell me what you think about our cover).

  • Jcthompson1114

    As a younger person from a culturally deprived area, most of the music shops were national chains with top 40 music tastes. It was only when I started looking up bands I liked through the internet that I became exposed to some other scenes that would have been totally inaccessible. Once you start looking up opening bands for groups you enjoy, and then getting into one of the bands they split an EP with, before you know it you are knee deep in the Scottish instrumental scene. It was only with the internet that I have exposure to any of my favorite bands.

  • Polyop

    Following along the lines of the last commenter, maybe the problem is that you need to get out of the mainstream. I’m not too familiar with Rhapsody, but perhaps it’s a digital equivalent of Sam Goody? I recommend checking out music blogs. There are blogs devoted to every obscure corner of the musical spectrum. Have you seen Awesome Tapes from Africa? I just checked and the most recent post is about a band from Mali.

  • ptfoster

    For world music downloads try (it used to
    Steve Hochman’s “Around the World” blog on is one source for info on interesting world music.

  • Rhapsody World Music Editor

    Hey there — I’m the World editor at Rhapsody. And I sympathize with your predicament — I think I might be an old fart in young fart clothing! BUT we actually have a genre called “Mali” — when you enter it in the search field, it’s the last item in a list of predictive text options.

    Please feel free to be in touch if you’d like — I’d love to talk more about this.

  • Edward

    want interesting music
    offbeat wont do a review I guess its to interesting ha ha