I've been away in the sun for a bit celebrating the nuptials of one of my dear friends. She is the glue that holds our group together - so it was apt that we all got together to spend a week partying - and perhaps pontificating this next phase of our lives.
One of our group is a mate who has a knack for finding great new music. In fact I would wager that hunting down new sounds takes up a large part of his day. He likes to share too - always making us all CDs with esoteric MP3s derived from various hidden depths of the web. Not all of it is good - he loves a comedy novelty track, or a country & western cover song of 90s rave classics, but you are guaranteed a considered collection of something truly unique.
I asked him when the last time he bought music was - he couldn't recall, although he admits to buying a CD from time to time to give as a gift for birthdays, xmas etc. Largely though he uses HypeMachine and his network of favourite blogs to share new music.
He is reliable, consistent and considered by everyone he knows as an expert in music. He is a maven, one who shares his knowledge with his network. For now this has been confined to his friends and colleagues, but he is considering a blog - where others like him have been able to extend their network around the world.
Though the music industry would label them thieves, mavens are highly valuable. They transcend the tired role of the music critic (whose opinions will remain rooted in the mainstream). In our increasingly fragmented, niche-oriented landscape, the maven can find a voice and and willing audience eager to use them to find their next greatest hit.