Starting Monday at 11:59 p.m., NPR.org will stream Bruce Springsteen's upcoming album, Working on a Dream. The album won't be in stores until January 27.
To his credit, Springsteen hasn't seemed to wrestle awkwardly with his changing place in the market as he has aged - not since Human Touch and Lucky Town, anyway. Still, it's interesting to think about the role local FM rock stations played in his career up to Darkness on the Edge of Town. Before Born to Run, his reputation as a great live act kept his name in public when listeners weren't convinced by the albums, and the bootlegs of radio broadcasts suggested that it wasn't all hype. In the period between Born to Run and Darkness when he was in legal limbo dealing with then-manager Mike Appel, the slow-churn of those bootlegs through the underground helped spread the word of his live shows at a time when he depended on them for income. They also kept semi-fresh music in front of fans and gave them something to convert unbelievers with, much like Lil Wayne's mixtapes did before Tha Carter III.