They say you can’t get something for nothing. Wrong…
Having grown up on 45 singles and gatefold albums, I’m still a tactile music lover. I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital distribution world, even though I realize that it’s more convenient and less expensive. Can’t help it. Old habits die hard.
So since I’m not constantly surfing iTunes and Rhapsody and other music services, I sometimes miss out on titles that come out exclusively for the digital market, be they music or comedy. Hell, it’s hard enough to keep track of everything and I’m proactively looking…I can imagine how hard it is to find everything passively. And record companies – small and big – realize this also.
There’s nothing new about samplers, but pressing and distributing vinyl and CD platters cost money and couldn’t be offered for free in large quantities. Warner Brothers used to sell them for two dollars through the mail, which probably was a break-even point for them, although it wasn’t that much cheaper than a normal retail priced album at the time. When CDs became deceptively cheap, the market was flooded with indie samplers, although most would up in dollar racks. It would have been nice to try to discover new bands, but with the plethora of CDs in the store, who had the time and the money to experiment?
So here’s one thing digital got right - free albums, a click away from wherever you happen to be. The purpose is the same – hear some new bands, hopefully find someone you like, become a fan and buy their product. It’s the try-before-you-buy policy that is the new paradigm for a fractured industry. I’ve stumbled across several by pure happenstance; I’m sure you’ll find tons of others. Many bands are happy to give their albums away hoping you will come out to the show and support them on tour.
So here are Ten Free Digital Samplers that I found worthwhile; no-risk free records for the taking. Imagine – a money back guarantee!
01) Ike Reilly digital sampler - one of the best songwriters around and a dynamic performer, a cutting edge Dylan-influenced poet. I’ve got his whole catalogue and if you don’t know him, trust me, you will love this guy.
02) Americana Music Awards Sampler - featuring cuts from John Hiatt, Buddy and Julie Miller, Steve Earle and James McMurtry to draw you in, you’ll come away as fans of Jason Isbell and The Avett Brothers.
03) Wicked Cool Coming Attractions - A great sampler from Little Steven’s label (and Underground Garage playlist) including The Chesterfield Kings, The Breakers, The Cocktail Slippers and contenders for 2010′s best album, The Len Price 3.
04) Merge Records 2010 Sampler - Indie wonderland, featuring Destroyer, She and Him, Clean, The Clientele and The Shout Out Louds.
05) Alive Records 2009 Sampler - Not dated in any way, this runs the gamut from re-released gems from The Nerves to great cuts from The Buffalo Killers, Left Lane Cruiser and Outrageous Cherry.
06) ROIR: So Indie It Hurts - Jackpot! New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Suicide, The Mekons, The Fleshtones, James Chance and the Contortions…NYC punk bonanza!
07) Ryko: Flash of Light - Worth it for the acoustic Gary Louris tune alone, but this is filled with great singer-songwriters like Will Hoge and Justin Currie (from Del Amitri).
08) Barsuk Records 2009 Sampler - OK, so I wish that Nada Surf was on here, but otherwise this is a killer collection featuring Death Cab For Cutie, Menomena and Ra Ra Riot.
09) CMJ 2009 Sampler - I imagine there will be a 2010 version floating around soon, but this is stuffed with lesser known bands so what difference does a year make? I already liked The Black Hollies and The High Strung and came away discovering The Generationals and The Bloodsugars.
10) Best of Yep Roc Singles - This is an absolute steal. When you’re one of the best labels of the past twenty years, of course your roster boasts Nick Lowe, Todd Snider, Dave Alvin, The Apples In Stereo and Reverend Horton Heat.
And what the hell – it’s free - one from Sub Pop containing Blitzen Trapper, Wolf Parade, Beach House…even a clip from comedian David Cross!