When I started Fingertips in 2003, I had no game plan or road map. I had no idea whether I might be writing my idiosyncratic song reviews here for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.
And here we are 10 years later.
I am surprised that both I and the MP3 have remained viable for quite so long—me with my idiosyncratic song selections and wordy paragraphs, the MP3 with its unideal sound and tendency to be decoupled from proper copyright considerations.
But things do seem to be shifting. I have noticed a decisive reduction in the number of free and legal MP3s that come along with music industry promotional emails over the last year or two; a clear and growing majority of them now traffic in streams and/or videos only. While I do not personally find any solace in the idea of a future in which access trumps ownership for music fans, I also can’t deny that streaming versus downloading looks now to be a major part of music’s future.
Note that this could yet change. No one knows anything, really. The best we can do is keep our eyes open, acknowledge change, and try not to be blinded by greed and ego.
In an effort to keep my eyes appropriately open, it feels to me that a recalibration of Fingertips is in order. This recalibration will be driven by two changes, which are really more like unshacklings, and which are effective immediately.
To begin with, I release myself from the idea that I am updating this site with three new free and legal MP3s every week. Maybe you’ll be relieved as well; maybe it’s become just as hard for you to keep up with the listening as it’s been for me to keep up with the presenting. Or maybe not. In any case, the weekly gig—which has gotten pretty shaky over the last six months or more in any case—is over. My reviews of free and legal downloads will happen when they happen. And if the industry moves entirely away from free and legal downloads at some point, whether sooner or later, that’s okay too. I’m prepared to move forward.
Next, I release myself from the obligation to read all the incoming email. (Gasp, yes, I know: why was I even reading it in the first place? Psychoanalyze away.) I’m not quite sure what took me so long but I realize now in a relative flash that opening and scanning so many emails, day after day, has been the definition of a Sisyphean task. The boulder can now roll down the hill and stay there.
I am by the way talking about the impersonal, boiler-plate, send-to-a-zillion-blogs-at-once emails that have always filled up at least 80 percent of my inbox. If it’s personal, if it’s email from a visitor or from a musician specifically addressed to me, I will still read it, and I will still listen to music contained in such submissions. So keep those cards and letters coming in.
Everything else, all the endless streams and videos and album releases and tour dates and “my gimmick is better than that other guy’s gimmick” and “they’re an internet sensation!” and (pet peeve!) “he’s 14 but he’s wise beyond his years”—all of it goes to the trash bin. I’ve been reading it all for 10 years. I’ve paid my dues.
I understand I may miss some good music this way. I know that honest, hard-working publicists and bands alike typically feel they have little choice but to send out impersonal, boiler-plate emails. But: what happens if the sum total of what all those honest, hard-working publicists and bands sends out is quite literally far more than one honest, hard-working blogger can possibly read and deal with? A first-world problem, yes. And: no longer my concern.
Unshackled (I feel lighter already), I can also begin to think about moving Fingertips into a new direction or two, based on the aforementioned recognition of the importance of streaming versus downloading to 21st-century music fans. While I’m still not quite sure what specific changes may be coming to the site, they will likely have something to do with musical integration, something to do with a lifelong interest in mixing a satisfying variety of music together. This interest of mine has never been fully engaged by a format presenting only new songs, and only in three-song packages.
To let go the unflinching need for three weekly MP3s while freeing up my time to explore music in a more natural and easy-going way: this is the recalibration. I am hopeful that it will open up some new vistas, bring me back to my roots as a free-form FM radio DJ, and still allow me to put my own small but particular stamp on the digital music scene.
Stay tuned, and thanks for all the fish.