I was listening to Wire yesterday, first Send and then Pink Flag. I think they were among the first bands that I discovered back in 2000-2001 when I got home broadband (a cable modem, I think) and started downloading lots of music from the peer-to-peer file sharing services.
I don’t remember when I initially ran across the band, but I had never heard them before; I remember being surprised the first time I heard “Three Girl Rhumba” and recognized the guitar riff from that Elastica song, the latter having lifted it directly from the former. My process was that when I heard of some band that was supposed to be good, I would look them up on AllMusic, find their highest rated albums, and then download as many songs from those albums as I could find. Then I would look at the similar artists and albums listings and keep repeating that cycle.
Wire was my first experience of post-punk (aside from a bit of Joy Division) and I ended up going pretty far down that road—it is how I found Television and The Comsat Angels and The Charlatans, among many others. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit now that it is also how I first started listening to Bauhaus. I had definitely heard of them before, but had never listened to any of their music.
I pay for all of my music now, and I have no idea what has become of any of the CDs I burned from all that that stuff that I downloaded, but those services—which were all pretty sketchy at best—were critical to me for finding all of these bands and their music. It is strange to think about now, when we have our choice of multiple legitimate streaming services and easy access to nearly any song or album we want.
Back then, though, it was like a whole new world was opening up, both in terms of the technology that was available and in my own personal musical tastes and knowledge.