Over the past year I have made a deliberate effort to increase and expand my cultural activities. I have read (or listened to) 25 books, all non-fiction, most of which came from the library. I have taken an online course (free from Yale) in the Philosophy of Death. I have seen more movies in the past 12 months than I saw in the previous ten years combined. More recently, I have been listening to more music and in the process decided to expand my music horizons and collection.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the oldies and still look for music to fill holes in my oldies collection. However, last year we invested in a Sonos music system to make it easier for us to listen to high quality music when we are relaxing on the deck. Although expensive, the Sonos system is quite expensive compared to other options (blue tooth speaker, boombox, etc.), it has been worth every penny. The sound quality is outstanding. The user interface on the controller (phone or tablet) is a easy to understand and operate. Also, the Sonos system creates its own wireless mesh network, meaning that does not impact – and is not impacted by – your home wifi system.
With the Sonos system, I started listening to the Pandora music streaming service (free). If I heard a song I liked, I created a channel around that song, which exposed me to similar music by other artists. For example, I really like the song “Little House” by Amanda Seyfried from the movie “Dear John.” I built a Pandora channel around that song, which then brought me more music by Norah Jones, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Howie Day, and many others. I found songs from all of these artists that I really enjoyed, so I bookmarked them in Pandora on the fly while the songs were playing. This built a list of songs that I might be interested in adding to my personal music collection.
I already had an iTunes account and had imported most of my oldies CDs into iTunes. However, I found iTunes too restrictive. For example, I wanted the ability to easily stream my music from the cloud to my office computer, etc. Therefore, I decided to import all of my iTunes music into Google Music Player and Amazon Cloud Player. This increased the utility of our Sonos system even more because Sonos has an arrangement with Amazon so that you can stream your music (and playlists) directly from the cloud into your Sonos system.
I can now purchase music from any of the three music services and move the music into the other two. It is actually easiest to buy from Amazon because immediately after downloading a new song or album (a) the Amazon software automatically adds the music to iTunes and (b) the Google software then automatically imports the new music from iTunes into the Google music player. Awesome.
I didn’t stop there. I discovered a hidden (to me) gem in our Nashville area – McKay Used Books, Movies, and Music. This is a supersized used music store. It has a huge collection of used CD’s in all music genres. Now, if I find a new song that I am interested in from a new artist, I go there to look for a CD with that song and perhaps a few others I like (based on sampling the songs online). If the price of the used CD is close to to the MP3 price, I by the CD. I have acquired a number of outstanding CDs for $3.95 or less. On the flip side, I have sold McKay’s a bunch of our unwanted books. This has offset the cost of the music purchases and then some.
Amazon helps here also. Every 10 days or so it will have a huge sale on high quality MP3 albums from established artists. For example, this past Saturday I downloaded greatest hits albums for Simon and Garfunkel and Elvis for $1.99 each. The Elvis album had 25 songs, most of which are among my favorites.
I now have over 1200 s0ngs I like, available to me on my phone, tablet, streaming to any computer (anywhere) and streaming to Sonos.
Many of you are probably way ahead of me on all of this. For those of you still stuck with your old music collection, consider extending yourself. There is some great music out there and the newer technology makes it so much easier to acquire and play it.
Do any of you have any suggestions for music or music technology for our fellow boomers?