How I get my music

Audiophiliac blogger Steve Guttenberg has asked how users get their music. Here's my answer.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
4 min read

Over on the Audiophiliac blog, Steve Guttenberg is polling readers about how they get their music. Here are my answers to his questions.

Wilco's last album was available in double vinyl, with a full CD included in the package for easier ripping.

Do you buy CDs, LPs, MP3s, iTunes, or 8 track cartridges?
I purchase about 80% of my music on LP. For a few years in the early 1990s it was almost impossible to find new vinyl, but now it's reasonably common, especially for indie rock, electronic music, and hip hop. (Classical? Not so much. Jazz? Only re-releases.) In fact, vinyl availability sometimes convinces me to buy a record I otherwise might have skipped--Of Montreal'sGladiator Nightstick Collection and Wilco's Sky Blue Sky come to mind. (The Wilco was particularly nice because it came with a full CD, so I could more easily rip it to my computer to transfer to my iPod and Zune players.) About 1 in 20 brand new LPs have defects--most recently, Radiohead's In Rainbows was marred by a bunch of crud in the grooves on side 2. When that happens, I'll exchange it for a CD, reasoning that there might be some persistent manufacturing or storage problem. (A record store worker recently told me that every shipment they received of the $200 Sigur Ros box set contained warped records. They had to take a lot of returns.)

If so, do you buy them from Amazon or other online retailer, brick and mortar chain store, or local "record" shop?
Local record shops have the best selection of vinyl, so I usually buy from Sonic Boom in Seattle, and go out of my way to visit Amoeba whenever I'm in the Bay Area and Other Music in New York. If I really want a new release, I'll check the band's or label's Web site to see if they sell the LP. I also buy LPs at shows whenever they're sold--I'll buy an LP from a band whose set I liked in a heartbeat, but hardly ever a CD. I have not bought anything from iTunes because of DRM, although I've gotten plenty of free downloads as promotions. I've bought a handful of songs from the Zune Marketplace and other Windows Media-based stores for testing purposes.

Do you regularly buy used CDs or LPs? And rarely buy new CDs or LPs?
I regularly buy new and used LPs and occasionally buy new CDs. I never buy used CDs. For used LPs, the seller might have gotten rid of it as they replaced it on CD. For used CDs, the seller almost always got rid of it because (a.) it sucked (which means I'll seldom take a risk on a used CD) or (b.) it had a scratch or other mar that made it physically unplayable. Either way, I'm often too lazy to go back to the store to exchange it within the allotted time period, which means I'm stuck with a CD I don't want.

Do you subscribe to a subscription service, if so, which one? Rhapsody, Yahoo, Napster, etc?
No, but I might if it offered lossless downloads with no DRM.

Or do you get your tunes from a P2P like Morpheus or Blubster?
Only for tracks that I can't find easily, like unauthorized live recordings. Instead of suing me, why not sell them to me?

What about DRM, do you care?
I won't buy DRM-protected files because I want to play music I own on any device or player I own. CDs don't have DRM, analog sources don't have DRM, why should I pay the same price for less portability?

What percentage of your physical music collection did you get for free (ripped CDs, gifts, etc)?
Less than 10%. I have about 40 ripped CDs and a number of LPs and CDs I've received as gifts over the years. I also have a number of digital files that have been given to me on flash drives.

Is sound quality a factor, would you pay more for higher quality downloads or subscriptions?
Yes, I'd pay more than $0, which is what I pay for downloads today.

Do you buy CDs, burn 'em, and them sell them?
Luckily, I've always been able to find work, so I've never needed to do this.

How do you discover new music? Radio, friends, online, record stores?
Almost exclusively through friends and by going to shows, with about 10% through local radio station KEXP. Often, I'll hear about the same band or album several times from multiple friends who don't know one another, read a great live review in a local weekly, then hear a song on KEXP--that happened to me with Battles last year, and it turned out to be a good indicator that I'd like them.

What have I left out?
I'm most curious about where, when, and how people actually listen to music. Do you sit down and listen to an LP or CD start to finish? When you use an MP3 player, do you shuffle or listen to specific songs or albums? Do you listen with headphones, or connect your MP3 player to a home or car stereo? Personally, I listen to at least a few album sides per week with no distractions, but play a lot of background music through my iPod and Zune connected to various clock radio-stereo devices in my house.