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If you’d like a quick introduction to what Fingertips is and what it isn’t, here goes:


* An annotated, informed guide to the best free and legal downloadable music on the web.

This isn’t about illegal downloading and it’s also not about legal streaming. Fingertips is about free and legal music that you can download to your computer, sync to your iPod, and burn onto mix CDs. The music Fingertips points you to is free and legally available to download, typically via independent record companies and artists. There’s a lot of good stuff out there that you can download with a free conscience, allowing you to support those musicians with whom you connect most especially.

* A site introducing you to music the way DJs used to on the radio. I am not a “music critic”; I am instead a “music curator”: I sift through a whole lot of music that’s available for free online and write about songs that I value.

If I don’t care for something, I simply put it aside. It’s not for me to say someone’s music is “bad.” Way too many people writing about music on web sites are way too mean-spirited for their own good, or anyone else’s. Don’t let yourself be brainwashed by people who think it’s not legitimate music writing, somehow, if it’s not about both the good and the bad. That’s fine if you’re into that, but it’s not required. Here on Fingertips the vibe is all warm and supportive, while still intelligent and discriminating. Remember: back in the golden age of progressive radio, DJs didn’t play what they didn’t like; they played what they liked.

* A music web site for music fans of all ages.

The music industry, to its ongoing detriment, may think that people in their teens and early 20s are the only living breathing music fans on the planet but the industry is, was, and always will be wrong about that (and lots of other things too). The truth is there is an inspiring amount of high quality music being produced by current bands and musicians that is fully accessible to anyone interested in intelligent pop music (not an oxymoron!). Unlike the vast majority of online music sites, Fingertips does not presume you have to be in high school or college to be interested in this stuff. I particularly encourage listeners in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond to check this stuff out. You’ll like it, a lot.

* An edited, personal web site that believes in the value of filtering and organization.

With all the best intentions, the typical music site overfeeds us with lists and links and graphics, with things to download and watch and participate in. And yet when last I checked there are still only 24 hours in a day, at least some of which are valuably spent away from a screen. Someday, maybe soon, we will begin to more actively understand that there is in fact such thing as too much information, particularly when presented without any qualitative distinctions or meaningful organizational effort. This again gets to the basic idea of curation. A curator filters and organizes and informs, based on his or her personal knowledge and experience.

* A site written by a professional writer.

Not sure how to put this without sounding snarky but how many important tasks in this life do we consciously hand over to someone with no relevant experience? When a pipe breaks, do you let your neighbor fix it who recently decided to take up plumbing in his spare time? I guess not enough people think of writing as that important. Which is a shame. Anyway, for what it’s worth, which is maybe not that much here in the 21st century, I spent many many years writing for actual money for actual print publications.


* A daily blog offering more music than most people can feasibly listen to.

Fingertips features three songs a week. I consider them all top-notch and attempt, in a few brief paragraphs, to explain why. There are other things you can read on the site if you’re interested, beyond specific songs, in the digital music scene.

* An MP3 dump.

Music bloggers by nature receive a lot of promotional MP3s via email, day after day. Many music bloggers take those songs and simply pass them along to their readers, without rhyme or reason or explanation. In some ways I believe this is worse than not passing them along at all.

* A site about group opinions, polls, or “people who liked this also like that.”

For me, the best music recommendations come from one person with good taste, whether it’s someone I know or someone I don’t know. If you need to know that X number of people like a song before you feel inclined to listen, you’ve come to the wrong place; if you need to be able to vote on whether you like a song to enjoy your online experience, you’ve also come to the wrong place. I find music I like, and I write about it, and I hope you like it too.

* A site merely for legal streaming.

Sites where you can stream music on demand are great (when legal), but the music in this case is not anything you can download and keep for yourself and use, personally, however you’d like (e.g. on your iPod, or on a mix CD). To be sure, some of these sites are pretty cool, but what they’re basically offering is music to listen to, on demand, in a variety of customizable guises. Since 2003, when Fingertips says “free and legal” it means you can have the file, for free, and legally.

* More interested in being hip than useful.

As the music blogging community ballooned during the second half of the ’00s, many bloggers, again with the best of intentions, grew sidetracked by the trappings of being a hip music blogger. Seeing all the frenzied activity around them turned many a music blog into a frenzied sort of place to visit, with content focused rather too often on the rest of the blogosphere rather than on the straightforward–but perhaps more difficult–task of listening and responding to music. Most of all I consider Fingertips to be a place where anyone who likes intelligent music can with very little effort discover a lot of great songs that are free and legal to download. You don’t have to be an indie-rock maven or a computer geek, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being either of those things if you are.

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Finally, for the curious, Fingertips is named for an idiosyncratic They Might Be Giants song that can be found on the album Apollo 18—not really a song at all but a series of 21 song fragments.

And for the extremely curious, here’s a page about the site’s founder, writer, and curator.