But let’s not get too snobby about this, Michael. If Alice DiMicele or Alice Cooper floats your boat, go with it. But why spend money on music when there’s so much of it to be had for free? Dedicated readers of my blagger’s guides will know that my target provider of free stuff is Westminster Libraries & Archives. So how many ways can we soothe our savage breasts without dipping into our back pockets?
Let’s start with free Internet (and wifi) access for library members. I Googled for a piece of music the other day – it was classical, but it had been used as a TV theme. Not all the 44,000+ hits were media clips, but loads of them were. Thousands of audio and video tracks jostled for my attention. From lone guitarists to massive orchestras, from 10-second snatches to complete works – I was pretty staggered, and I’m a hard-bitten Internet habitué. I particularly liked the bloke with long, flowing hair, sawing away at his violin backed by serried lovelies in shiny frocks. Cheesy or what? Fun though. And all to be had sitting in the library, free.
But hardcore freebie-hunters want something the others haven’t got, and this is where your library membership comes in handy. Westminster Libraries have some especially succulent Exclusive Resources in this area (where they pay a subscription and it’s free for members). First up is Naxos Music Library. Naxos started by selling cheap CDs of not-very-good classical recordings. Then the recordings went from naff to excellent, but the prices stayed low. Now they offer their whole catalogue, and a whole stable of smaller labels, streamed online. It was nearly 48,000 discs the last time I looked. And it’s not just classical now: jazz, folk, blues and world music are included, and they do a nice line in nostalgia – dance bands, Noel Coward… that sort of thing. All free from anywhere you can reach the Net.
One rich source doesn’t really make it on to my list, but is worth an honourable mention – all Westminster lending libraries have CDs for hire. Aaaaargh! Hire! For money! Don’t panic – the prices are laughably low.
Tomorrow, music on paper. Not with a comb.