Walter Becker--"Bob Is Not Your Uncle Anymore" (mp3)
Bruce Springsteen--"Winter Song (unreleased)" (mp3)
After purchasing Neil Young's Fork In The Road on Itunes this week and trying to get into it and having to acknowledge to myself what a disappointment it is (more on that in another post, perhaps), I got so depressed that I spent the better part of Saturday night seeing what other Neil Young was out there. I had to know he wasn't finished. I didn't want to lose faith in Neil.
And thanks to YouTube, I didn't.
I don't know how often you use YouTube for its musical offerings, but the range and depth of music on there is almost beyond belief--classic performances on old TV shows, concert footage with good quality, but also what I call "collage songs." Collage songs are not really the visual posts one expects on YouTube so much as they are a way of posting songs. Of course, you can't just post the music, so you collect a bunch of still photographs and whatnot and have a slideshow while the song plays.
These songs tend to fall into two categories: the live stuff and the unreleased stuff. Both categories make my heart race a little bit. There are few things I enjoy more than discovering that there is more music out there by someone I admire than I knew that there was.
By the end of the night Saturday, I had downloaded 43 Neil Young songs from YouTube, all of which are now on my Ipod. So, if this is something you've never done, I thought I'd tell you how.
1. First of all, you need a program that will convert YouTube files to Mp3s. The one I've used with great success is at DVDVideoSoft.com, available here. When you click to download it, it will take you to a CNET page, but it's the same program.
2. Once you've downloaded and installed it, you're ready to go. Get onto YouTube and find something like an unreleased Springsteen song called "Winter Song," played solo on piano in 1973. Copy the address of the video and paste it in your YouTube to MP3 Converter.
3. You have the option of choosing the sound quality. Why not go for the best? It will take a bit longer, but the difference is probably noticeable on most tracks.
4. Once you've pasted it, you just click download and wait for it to finish. My tracks save to "My Documents\DVDVideoSoft\FreeYouTubeToMP3Converter" and when I go there, Bruce is waiting for me. I can import the song into Itunes.
5. Of course, there are other types of converters you can get--if you wanted to watch the clip on your Ipod or something. I've done that with some concert footage, but now I wish I just had done the audio, because then the songs would be in the mix with my other stuff.
If you're wondering about the legality of this, well, so am I. A little bit. These songs sometimes have hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of hits, the software is readily available and not from some sketchy site, and it isn't like you're going to make money by having downloaded a song that, live or studio, was probably never released. You get to hear songs you never heard, concerts you couldn't go to. In the case of Neil Young, I got the audio of almost an entire concert he did just last year in Amsterdam, and hearing the range of new and old and never-heard-before-by-me songs performed with great skill reassured me that Neil Young is indeed still writing good songs and that I'll continue supporting him, in spite of Fork In The Road.
I suppose if the artist doesn't want the music out there, it would be an easy enough thing to contact YouTube and tell them to take it off.
Walter Becker, one of the geniuses behind Steely Dan, released Circus Money in 2008. Available at Itunes. Bruce Springsteen's "Winter Song" is available at YouTube.