By Brian Fee
Transient

News of online storage service FileSonic's disablement didn't exactly get this downloading devotee's heart racing. FileSonic…had I ever heard of them? But Megaupload's shutdown left me shattered, considering its ultra-convenience and the realization that Swizz Beatz is CEO! (or is he?) Me, I'll remember Swizz for his bangin' production skills, plus his marrying the most beautiful woman in music.

Though there are myriad music-downloading options—not to mention social media-friendly sharables like Spotify and SoundCloud—that wasn't the case when I was a trainspotting undergrad, circa 2003. Picture it: an impressionable young man caught up in the crackling allure of breakbeats and basslines, dutifully reading BPM-bible URB magazine while marooned in Central Texas.

The massive Tower Records adjacent to campus helped a bit (carrying CDs of both Photek's splintered-rhythm masterpiece Modus Operandi and Autechre's cerebral robo-jam LP5), but it wasn't enough. Most of the artists I read about released their tracks on dubplates: DJ-friendly 12" or 7" vinyl records. Tower Records didn't carry vinyl, nor were these artists releasing “proper” CDs. So I made do with mp3 downloads. I wasn't content with streaming new tracks from the epic Drum & Bass Arena; I wanted to “possess” them, to listen to them whenever and wherever. I had a 2G iPod, but before that—I kid you not—I walked around campus with a Walkman, big-ass headphones and a bag full of burned CD-Rs.

I probably downloaded a million Gigs of music through the P2P networkSoulseek. This marvelous application was created by a former Napster programmer and had an enormous underground electronic music userbase. Soulseek featured "wishlists" (shareable stored searches of tracks you want) and chat-rooms with other users. I spent my days in lectures and nights downloading tracks and chatting with new "friends" on both coasts.

So when I "share" a track on Spotify with my friends or post it on Facebook/Twitter, I barely give it a second thought. It's funny that UK distributor STHoldings pulled its 200+ labels from Spotify in mid-November of last year, as many of those labels were my outlets for dope d'n'b back in the day. I can't add Blame's transcendent “Amazon Girl” to a Spotify playlist—yet his Asylum EP is available on iTunes, incredibly. The RIAA recently commented that the closure of P2P sites like Limewire actually lead to digital album sales, as many former users seek legal outlets.

It's not as freeing as last decade's nascent download/share culture, but for us trainspotters, there's always a way.

Image: Black Christian News (slightly photo-chopped by the author)