Tunesday: A Remembrance of Peer-To-Peer Music Sharing featuring Jets to Brazil

It’s Tuesday so that means at ilisteniwatch.com, it’s Tunesday! Every Tuesday, we will share a song with you that we love and hope you will too.

In my ninth grade history class, I sat in a desk clump with a boy I had known since we were in Kindergarten. It was the year 2000. I was 14.

“Look, do you have internet at home?” he asked.

“Yeah, well my brother has it. He bought a computer for school, and he pays for the dial-up.”

“Well, you gotta download Napster. You can get any song you want for free.”

“Nap– what?”

He grabbed my notebook, scrawled it out, and explained peer-to-peer file sharing to me.

At this point, especially at 14, in those wild and free early years of P2P, neither of us understood we were stealing from anyone. For us, it was this exciting portal into this huge world of music. We had one music store in the mall over an hour away. We had a small local record store that we walked into kind of posturing like we knew what we were there for. I would have never had the courage to approach one of the cool, tattooed guys running the register to help me find something new. We could access four FM stations – country, classic rock, Christian contemporary, and Top 40. Sometimes our older siblings trickled newer, more obscure music to us, but mostly we were grasping in the dark.

Then, all of the sudden, I could open up this application and just start finding my way through an unlimited musical archive, libraries from people who were FINDING and SHARING all of this music. I was voracious. I would queue up 20 songs before going to bed, they would take all night to download – and of course several would always fail – on the super slow internet we had, and in the morning, I would jump out of bed, disconnect before my mom could discover I had tied up our phone line all night. And I would revel in my new songs.

Bands led me to new bands and on to new bands and on to new bands. I would scour whatever blogs were called back then, and I would jump from band to band, find their influences, jump further. I would download song after song, burn them to CDs and give to friends. It was an amazing time to be a nerdy music lover.

Then, of course, Metallica led the charge against services like Napster. I grew up a bit, and I began to understand that it was truly piracy, and that what I was doing was wrong. It was hurtful to the very people I was working so hard to discover.

Yet, honestly, I and most of the people who used those services never meant to steal. We were starving for art, and all of the sudden we were able to glut ourselves on it. It was magical.

As a 29-year-old woman, I live more responsibly. I pay for my music. I won’t burn copies of full CDs for friends. I do listen to and link to YouTube videos uploaded by other fans if I cannot find official versions from the artist. I’m not perfect. I think we will have to continue to learn how to share and discover freely, while still being ethical about our consumption.

Now, I leave you with a song I discovered back then that fits how I feel about that time. When I listened as a teenage girl, it was a song I cried to as I thought about boys who didn’t reciprocate my romantic feelings, about how perfect it would be if I could stay in a dream about a world where they DID. And now it just puts me in a deeply sentimental mood about all the times in my past where things were some brand of perfection. I can’t wake up from this. Listen below. And then go buy it.

Read more from Amanda here and on Twitter: @aaahmanda.