"Look out honey, 'cause I'm using technology..."


The Musical Gardener's Tools #2: More Sources

My second biggest source for new music is the web, where, with a little work, a lot of high quality free and legal stuff is to be had. Here are some of my tips:


Easily my favorite website/service of the last years. For anyone still unfamiliar with it, what it does, in a nutshell, is keep track of all music you listen to on your computer (or even on your portable music player,) and generate weekly and lifelong personal and global charts from that.

While people with charts fetishes may feel that's quite exciting already, where last.fm positively shines is what it does with those charts; After a few hundred songs, it starts to compute your musical neighbours, and recommended artists you may or may not have heard of. It lets you listen to a personal 'recommended radio' station, which is in my opinion last.fm's greatest feature. It will play the artists last.fm thinks you might like based on your neighbours, in addition to personal recommendations from other users, and recommendations sent to groups you belong to.

What I usually do is have 'recommendation fridays' where instead of starting my regular music player, I listen to recommendation radio all day. If stuff comes by that I really like, I check whether it's available as a download on last.fm, (there are loads of free downloads,) or see if it's available elsewhere.

See the sidebar on the right for my weekly artist chart, and a link to 'thisfred radio' which you can listen to from any flash enabled browser, or from last.fm's own standalone music player.


The Daytrotter Sessions are a great and consistently high quality source of unique mp3s. The idea is that bands touring the area stop by at daytrotter, exclusively record three or four songs, which are then put up as free mp3s on the site. The bands are usually on the indie side of the fence, and on the verge of breaking through, although there are some bigger names in the list.

To consistently make available a new interesting session at least every week for a good while now, is a pretty amazing achievement. The new edition is a welcome surprise in my bag o' RSS each week.

A few of my personal favorites:

  • Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
  • About. This one just in, and maybe a bit chauvinistic, since they're from the Netherlands. I gather they'll be playing South by Southwest (see below) in Austin this month, so do check them out if you're there (if you are: I'm green with envy,) and in the mood for some high energy melodic bleepcore laptop pop.

South By Southwest Showcase Torrents

I've never been to SxSW, but every year it looks like I'm missing a lot, and I definitely plan to save up and go there one year. That year won't be 2007 unfortunately. *Fortunately*, for us Atlantically challenged Erpians, SxSW makes available a torrent of mp3s from artists that will be playing the festival each year. Apparently, not all of the music industry is clueless. The torrents go back to 2005, and are pretty large. it's some 8GB of music, a *lot* of it very good.


Just discovered this today: Amie Street is an mp3 web store with several twists: First of all: DRM-free, which is a sine qua non for me, but not terribly earth shattering. What is interesting is their business model: All mp3s start out as free, as in beer, downloads, but rise in price as they get more recommendations. People recommending the mp3s that get popular get a little kickback, if I understand correctly, which they can use to buy other mp3s. So it literally pays to check out new and unknown stuff, and the less adventurous/miserly users have a pretty good indication of popularity in the price of individual mp3s.

After sifting through some of the free mp3s, I must say the quality is varied to say the least, but that's to be expected. What I think I'll do is shell out some money, and jump in after the first round of sifting through is done, and look for the gems in the 1-10¢ price range. Watch this space for my recommendations.

I do think this might work as a business model, where you let users with little money pay with their time, and vice versa. It does feel right. And they don't just have completely unknown bands on there either. I already saw Barenaked Ladies and Au Revoir Simone advertised.

Your favorite mp3blogs and wget

A slightly more geeky way to get your mp3s, which I originally found here and then slightly adapted to suit my particular needs better.

As noted by Jeffrey in his post, using wget for this in the wrong way can cause bandwidth problems for the sites you are hitting, so use caution: presumably you are targeting those sites because you like the music they make available, causing them problems is probably not the best way to ensure they continue to do so.

The way I call wget is:

wget -U"Mozilla/5.0" -r -l1 -H -t1 -x -nc -np -P ~/mp3blogs/ -A.mp3,.ogg -erobots=off -i ~/mp3blogs/urls.txt

(That should be all on one line.)

My wget call differs from Jeffrey's in the following ways:

  • I added -nc which stands for 'no clobber', it means it won't re-download files that are already there, which I'm sure makes the site owners happier. I think the original does a checksum check on the files, so it won't reload them, *unless* they have changed. Since I use mp3gain on the files, and almost always correct some tags, that means they would always be downloaded again in my case, losing the changes I made...
  • I removed -nd and added -x, which forces directories for the entire url path, because I like having the directories over a single directory with all the files: It shows me where the files came from, so I can give kudos for those I like, and if I end up getting a lot of crappy ones from a particular site, I can remove its url from urls.txt. This can mean a lot of empty directories after a while, but I have a script for that too, see below.
  • I added .ogg to the file mask, just on the off chance that someone out there is providing oggs rather than mp3s.

Some more nice wget tips can be found here on linux.com

After the update, I run the following bash script to remove any empty directory trees that are created by using wget in this way:

LS="$(find ~/mp3blogs -type d -empty)"
echo $LS
while [ -n "$LS" ]; do
    find ~/mp3blogs -type d -empty -print0 | xargs -0 rm -rf
    LS="$(find ~/mp3blogs -type d -empty)"

[Edit 2007-08-23:] One thing that script doesn't take into account is album covers: my excellent music player lets me directly delete songs from the hard drive if I decide I don't like them, but when jpegs or playlist files remain in a directory when all the songs have gone, it won't ever get cleaned up. So I wrote a new version, that also takes an argument for the path:

set -u
find $1 -depth -type d | while read dir
    songList=`find "$dir" \( -iname '*.ogg' -o -iname '*.mp3' \)`
    if [[ -z "$songList" ]]
        rm -rf "$dir"

Then all that remains is to run the recursive mp3gain and vorbisgain commands I described in my previous post.

Of course I call these 3 commands (and then some I will talk about in an upcoming post) from a single master script, called 'hello', which I run about once a day while I get morning coffee.