I don’t really listen to ‘radio’ anymore. Its been years since I’ve commuted by car and listened to morning and evening drive shows. I like most people discover and share music through their friends on Twitter, Facebook and Blogs or music services like Last.fm, Pandora.
One of the most common places I hear new albums now is at NPR Music. Anyone who follows me on Twitter has seen me tweet enthusiastically as highly anticipated albums are streamed through their First Listen feature. Recently NPR has used the chat application ScribbleLive effectively for shared listening parties of new releases including Radiohead’s ‘The King of Limbs’ 2 weeks ago.
On January 3, NPR debuted ‘Oh My Heart’ the first song from REM’s soon-to-be-released Collapse Into Now, their first album since 2008.
Since I don’t listen to radio I don’t know if these albums are being played in their entirety on air, but it hardly matters as ‘Collapse Into Now’ is being streamed in its entirety from the NPR Music site a week before its scheduled North American release date.
It’s also available to the premium users of Spotify in the UK, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Netherlands and Finland before its European release. I am fortunate to have an invite to Spotify, and that’s where I am enjoying the album right now.
I have a feeling that providing these exclusive preview releases will combat downloading by curious listeners. But serious fans will always want to have that instant access to albums for their mobile devices by downloading the files legally or in other ways.
One hopes that Spotify (if it ever makes it to North America), iTunes cloud service, or the half-dozen similar streaming music services will somehow be able to provide that instant access to music anywhere that I am.
As for my first impressions of ‘Collapse Into Now’ – it sounds to me as a return to the REM I loved on 1993s ‘Automatic for the People’. Standout tracks on my first few listens are the ballads ‘Oh My Heart’, ‘UBerlin’ as well as rockers ‘All the Best’, ‘Mine Smell Like Honey’ and ‘That Someone is You’.