My annual Musical Advent Calendar always begins with the best of intentions (“Recommend one music track every day between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day”) and then ends about a week short of the original goal. “It’s Christmas,” the reader is inclined to shrug, when a blogger’s series of posts about favorite music tracks inexplicably ends on December the 17 instead of December the 25. “Peace on Earth, good will towards peoplekind and all that.”
Speaking of which, I extend my hearty thanks to everybody who clicks on my various Amazon affiliate links and then buys whatever stuff they were going to buy anyway. My first Amazon Advent Calendar inspired me to sign up for the program because I thought “Well, a nickel of store credit from every 99 cent track that people buy from my links might slightly offset the fifty to a hundred bucks I spend auditioning new music for this series.” I didn’t realize that the percentage is based on all purchases that people make immediately after walking through Amazon’s doors. Not until the first month’s credits arrived, I picked myself off the floor, and realized that I was able to substantially accelerate my schedule for replacing the old Trinitron in the living room with something that has more pixels. Or, anything that might be termed “Pixels,” for that matter.
I usually spend those credits on two kinds of things. Sometimes I’m writing a column and I think, for instance, “But what would it even be like to use a little phone like a desktop computer?” I discover that to conduct that experiment I’ll need a special kind of Bluetooth mouse that’s Android-compatible. I might balk at blowing the cost of five burritos (for the love of God) on a flyer like this, but then I think of the pool of credits I have in my Amazon account — practically free money, don’t you know — and I prepare my One-Click button.
And then there’s the larger category of “fun stuff I might not ordinarily buy for myself.” Have you been enjoying the photos I’ve been posting from this year’s New York Comic-Con? I can thank you folks for them, in part. I bought an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in February, thanks largely to how many people clicked my Amazon links during the week after Thanksgiving. The Panasonic GX-1 that I bought a few years ago was a stopgap diversion from the Bigass Consumer SLRs I’ve been favoring and this Olympus is a glorious return to form, a modern camera by every conceivable definition, a “pro” camera by almost every definition as well. The difference between “competent consumer camera” and “something built for use in rough weather and in tricky situations” has never been more apparent to me than it has in the past seven months. For the first time in my life, I have a camera for which the only real excuse for a bad photo is incompetence on my part.
(Which might not seem like such a great advantage.)
I have rules for these affiliate links, o’course. I never ever ever create affiliate links to anything that’s tech-related. When I recommend a good deal on a USB microphone that I own and like, I’m a tech journalist and I post a plain link to the sale page. When I recommend a song from the 80s that I like chiefly because it’s in my vocal range and it’s kind of intentionally written so that the sillier you sing it, the better it sounds, I’m just a guy with a blog and a Twitter account. A journalist must scrupulously avoid conflicts of interest. A Guy With A Blog And A Twitter Account can think “Hey! Free Amazon credits! Cool!”
If all of this sounds exploitative and crass to you, I can only say…
Okay, I don’t know what to say. I have indeed thought about this sort of thing a lot and if I believed it was even remotely exploitative, I wouldn’t come near it. “Crass,” I suppose, is a subjective opinion. I think it’s important for people to know that I do derive a personal benefit from these non-tech-related Amazon links, and that I’m linking specifically to Amazon tracks instead of iTunes or Spotify tracks for totally selfish reasons. Along the way, I try to use a bit of humor. If the humor makes it seem like I have a careless attitude and that I’m trying to fleece Loyal And Decent Readers, well, who gives a **** so long as I get my credits?
See! I did it again! Whee!
Buuuut seriously. I like these affiliate links because all you have to do is something you were going to do anyway. Such as buy, like, ten or twenty original oil paintings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. Your friends get some wonderful stocking-fillers (assuming large, square stockings), and I get to buzz over to the comic book store in this awesome dune buggy that I totally don’t need but when else am I going to be able to buy a dune buggy for zero cash!
Please do feel free to create your own Spotify playlists or links to any other music store based on my picks, if you think it’ll benefit other people.
This year, I decided to tighten up the Advent Calendar a little bit. The source of my picks is a playlist entitled “Advent Calendar Candidates” that I’ve been curating over the past two or three months, mostly populated with songs I’ve bought since the last Advent Calendar. Every year, there are a dozen that I can’t wait to write about, a half dozen to ten that I like a whole lot, and enough left over to make sincere recommendations to fill out any gaps that remain.
(Or, as is more likely: “quickies that I can slap into service when I look at the clock and realize that I’ve written 1800 words about a Specials bootleg track and I’m still no closer to the finish than when I started two hours ago and holy crap dental appointment jesus well what song can I start and finish writing about in the next ten minutes why do I always DO this?!“)
So! Be warned: the 2014 Andy Ihnatko Holiday Musical Advent Calendar starts tomorrow. For the aforementioned wholly selfish reasons, they’ll all contain links to Amazon tracks. If I were a more perfect person, I’d paste in a bank of links to every streaming service and online music store on the planet. Alas, I am an imperfect vessel for the perfection of the universe AND I seriously have my eyes on a super-awesome f2.8 sports zoom that Olympus released just a month or two ago.