I am a real lover of good music. I was a radio DJ in college, and through that, I developed an admiration for good music and talented musicians…regardless of the genre.
When I heard that Bowers & Wilkins, the makers of some extremely nice iPod speakers (watch for my review of their speakers coming soon) had begun a new kind of music club, I knew I would have to check it out. And boy am I glad I did.
The B&W Music Club is unlike any music club I have seen. Many of you are probably thinking, as I did, of something like select 12 CD’s for a penny and buy 5 at the regular price over the course of the next year. Well, you can forget about that notion entirely. The B&W Music Club is no Columbia House. In fact, if you are looking to complete that last CD in your Guns and Roses collection then you are in the wrong place here. However, if you are looking to discover new and exciting musical talent…well, just hit the jump and we will take a look.
OK. Great. I am glad you stuck with me. Now that we know what the B&W Music Club is not, let’s talk about how it really works. It is pretty simple. Every month, B&W will offer one album for download. You can download the album at any time during the month, but you can only download that album. Once the month ends, that music is gone forever. It would be nice if you could purchase these albums at a later time if you missed one. Along with the album, B&W will also provide you with a short article about the musician or band featured in that month’s album, along with podcasts, videos, picture galleries and more. Pretty much everything you need to not just enjoy, but become thoroughly acquainted with that month’s selected musician.
Let’s take a look at the selected musicians, because this is where things can get really interesting. The first thing I noticed when I looked through the albums was that I had never heard of any of these musicians. Not one. As I mentioned, I have a pretty wide musical repertoire in my music collection, so I was instantly intrigued. You see, the B&W Music Club is not about taking some multi-platinum been-there-done-that musician that you can find at any music store and adding to their popularity. No. B&W scours the globe for some of the most creative and varied musicians they can find. I don’t want to say that they are all undiscovered. Some are, but others are well known in their own circles. It would be more accurate to say that these musicians are not mainstream…yet.
B&W then brings the musicians into their state-of-the-art studio (actually, Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio) where they record an album for the B&W music club. In other words, these are exclusive albums, which you will never find in any mall or music store. The nice thing here is that B&W puts no constraints on the musician, like some record labels might. The musicians are given complete freedom to express themselves and write creatively. In fact, “The only essential criteria is quality – both of the audio experience and the passion and integrity of the performance.” Which means you will find some extremely eclectic and original musical selections. I have yet to be disappointed by this approach, which focuses on creativity rather than marketability.
Because each month brings a completely new musical experience, you can almost feel your musical aptitude broadening with each download. So far, I have checked out three albums, and they were all unique. Most stunning was Dub Collosus, an Ethopian band with a truly unique sound. I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive at first, but the whole point for me was to broaden my horizons. Well, Dub Collosus accomplished that and a whole lot more.
The next album is Tom Kerstens and G Plus. G Plus, of course, stands for guitar plus at least one other instrument. As someone who plays guitar myself, I am truly excited about this one. It is downloading now, and I am eager to listen to it on the train.
The other fantastic feature of the music club is that these albums are released only through digital downloads. This means that, unlike CD recordings, the music can be offered in a completely uncompressed or lossless format. This means there is no degradation of the sound at all, ensuring pitch perfect clarity on every song. I was really impressed by just how good this music sounded, and how much more clear it was than music I had ripped from a CD. Of course, this clarity does come with a price as the downloadable albums are enormous files. Leave yourself a good couple of hours (I usually start the download at night and go to bed. When I wake up in the morning – whallah – new music is waiting on my hard drive.)
I had an absolute blast discovering new music and new kinds of music. I found myself looking forward to the 17th of every month (download day) to see what new discovery B&W would bring my way. The huge downloads were kind of a pain, but were really a small price to pay for the incredible and diverse music you will find here.
What I Liked: Fantastic music. Great introduction to some extremely talented, but otherwise unrecognized musicians.
What Needs Improvement: Huge downloads. It would be nice (even at an extra fee) to be able to download previous months’ albums.
Where to Find It: B&W Music Club
Price: The first 3 months are free. After that, 6 months will cost 39.99 while twelve months costs $59.99