Gatekeepers are an important thing in this industry. All the way from the hyper-press to the managers and PR outlets behind them. You - the fan, concert attendee, vinyl collector, message board griper - you are the biggest gatekeeper of all. You hold the real power over who gets heard, how much they get heard and how much support can be put behind a band to move from the house show to the 300-cap venue to the direct support on a stadium tour. You have that almighty power, no matter what other "hype machine" out there tells you differently. It's your money, it's your tweets, it's your conversations among friends.
Then there's the middle man. The label. The person doing all the work to even get this "thing" out to the public. In 2012, some might say that a label may be obsolete. Who needs a bank loan, when you can ask the public for a pre-order of charity? Beyond the monetary value of what a label consumes and distributes lies a "home." A label is supposed to be a community. It's supposed to be a co-op for not necessarily a similar sound, but like-minded bands. For a bastardized term, a label is a company that believes your band can supply quality goods for the greater output; it overseas how well that product comes out. In an overly driven digital world both legal and illegal, pushing people to buy physical copies of anything is sometimes selling a ketchup popsicle to a lady in white gloves.
Tuesday, one of the finest labels to exist closed down production. Hydra Head owner Aaron Turner posted a long farewell on the label's blog stating that Hydra Head's demise was imminent and that it was time to shut down the operation, sell off all the physical stock, repay debt and call it a day. In a industry of consumerism such as this one, one can't blame Turner for his actions. He hasn't exactly shelled out the most accessible music over the years. Take Old Man Gloom's latest, and strongest release to date. It's an album heavier, more progressive and more experimental than most. There are times on NO where even I scratch my cranium, trying to find some understanding. But Hydra Head's catalog is one large crate of just that. From Botch's We Are the Romans, Coalesce's Revolution in Just Listening and Jesu's self-titled to early Piebald and Converge releases. Few got it at the time, but many yearn for it now. It all came from a label that believed in the music when it hit the ears for the first time.
Then there's Hydra Head's packaging as well. If you own a piece of Hydra Head vinyl, you know it's durable. The sleeves are made from tough stock. The artwork and layouts speak volumes about the record within. It's hard to listen to Pelican's Australasia and not think about that melt of yellow and orange background that floats on the cover. There is detail within the grooves of the record as well as the package which protects it. Before vinyl was this cool new resurgence (that's not a hip jab, I'm stoked so many people are into it!), a lot of labels put a great deal into the physical medium, and Hydra Head is one of those kings that did it for years before vinyl was the "it" thing again.
Along with Dischord, Touch and Go and Kill Rock Stars and the now defunct Level Plane, these labels seem like relics of the past more than contemporary contenders with the likes of many greats today bringing back not only tangible goodness, but a feeling of community among their rosters. Beyond that community, again, there is a sense of style and a mission statement. Whether it's the powerful force behind Sargent House's climbing success or the smaller labels such as Topshelf, No Sleep, and Run For Cover that started in a dorm room and are now moved into actual warehouses. There are still little guys like The Ghost is Clear and Flannel Gurl producing their own small worth of music they believe in. Then there's Third Man and Paper + Plastick, working on physical mediums no other have thought of yet.
To the people who say that the physical medium is dead, I say it's just beginning. To the people who say interesting music doesn't exist anymore, stop being stuck in the past. There is a platform for both to coexist. To people who say that labels can be bypassed, that's up for argument, but there is no concrete small case in my eyes. Though Hydra Head Industries and its subsidiaries are now a moment in time, it is certainly petrified and everlasting. Contemporary labels - and the ones you want to start - should take a look at the core of what Hydra Head turned itself into. If you're signing bands for them to be the "next big thing," then you might as well subsidize out to the majors and take the beaten path. In 2012, you just have to believe in the music you're putting out. Listeners will attach themselves to that. They will attach themselves to the work put into your product. They will spend the money on quality, and they will trade in and sell the bullshit later down the line.
I may have not liked everything Hydra Head put out. I don't like everything my favorite labels now put out, but there's an integrity behind them that keeps me coming back, at the very least, to see what it is they are offering. I know the bigger message here is to support your favorite labels and put money back into them so they can help out the bands you love so dearly. That's a given. Hydra Head, again, didn't boast the easiest roster to understand, but I'm offering advice to the other side in this. Not the consumers. This is a blueprint for the producers. You can put a ton of money into viral campaigns and advertisements. Like certain bands, it's time to stop thinking in the now, and thinking about longevity. Though we're talking about a now defunct label, 15 years and a hell of a resume that will certainly last well beyond this moment of grief. That's a definition of longevity some of us tend to forget: constant refelection after demise.
Thank you Hydra Head. I'd play you that crappy Sarah Mclachlan song, but it never got pressed. Maybe one last thing to look into before you shut your production down for good…
I'm pretty spent after this weekend. Heat. Booze. Late nights and early mornings. There was something I wanted to share and/or discuss before I tried to catch up on some more sleep.
This year's Austin City Limits was not just another festival for me, but a realization of general public perception. See, I have some distaste for the general public's idea of what good music is. When Linkin Park and Daughtry are selling millions of mediocre (yes, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt by using that word) records, I don't understand how great bands lose out. Sure, while there are bands like Muse and the Foo Fighters and newer bands like Band of Horses and Circa Survive constantly gaining momentum with the gen pub over their last few albums, there's still crap out selling the good.
That said, after having a few talks with some festival attendees throughout the day and on rides on the shuttle to and from the park, it seems that festivals like Austin City Limits - and festivals in general - are not for us music snobs, they are for the general public. That's a good thing. Some attendees just set up camp in front a stage and watched based on the headliner. People waiting to see The Eagles may have encountered Portugal. The Man. Some attendees floated on word of mouth, or just walked between main and side stages on one side of the park. Some sought shade and found a new great act, while others overheard and were lured over waiting on other acts.
While many of us are knowledgeable about the current music scene, there's a majority that are not. So I say that festival attendance - no matter how much some of you may hate the crowds or how people seem to handle themselves - is sometimes the best way to get new music out to Clear Channel listeners. Unlike the young music scene who do nothing but hijack, it would go without saying that the older generations aren't as tech savvy. Maybe what we should be excited about is that those bands we want to see succeed need to be heard by that majority who we think have such terrible tastes.
I mean, at least they can have an even mix of good and bad music. Something listenable on their iPod when you don't have yours to switch out on them.
I bought something from IKEA the other day. Yes, the one place that defines the modern home to look somewhere simple, space aged and almost O.C.D., lured me in with a bookcase. For some time now I've been looking for something to shelve my vinyl collection. This particular bookcase was just the perfect thing as a much needed move for a collection that was growing past the few milk crates holding them.
While there certainly isn't an IKEA in every town like Wal-Mart or Target or McDonald's (places we all shun for their conformity and lowbrow appeal, yet still make repeat offensive purchases from), the selling and appeal of mass consumption still lies within the idea of the particular furniture and housewares store.
So after putting together this bookcase and shelving up the wax collection, I finally sat down to watch I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival of the Independent Record Store). A purchase made many weeks ago (ironically enough, on Record Store Day) but put off until now.
The DVD begins with the closing of two local record stores in Connecticut: Record Express and Trash American Style. The movie then goes into a brief history of how radio turned into payola turned into Telecommunications Act turned into MP3 turned into...well, if you need the 20 minutes history lesson, then by all means, the first part of the documentary is a quick fire synopsis that covers the gist of how we are addicted to $5 MP3 and $10 CD deals that can't even save the industry from dwindling profits that they still so long for.
The DVD does capture some great interviews with Ian Mackaye, Mike Watts and record store owners from Newbury Comics and Grimey's. For any and all music lovers, new or old vinyl purchasers or snot nosed punks who love their 7" collection unconditionally, the things that are said by these artists and owners hit a truth about why we are so abrasive in spending our disposable income (whatever is left over from our bills and debt) on 12" of fine pressed audible candy.
What the documentary fails to do is explain the "possible survival." There's talk of hope and owners moving forward with their dreams with a middle finger to the man, but there's no talk of the success of Record Store Day, the rise in vinyl sales, major label reissues and (only lightly touched upon) the actual "need/want/desire/obsession" of needing that record.
Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty decent documentary, and for someone who may not know as much as I had known going into the film, it's a great education worth sitting through. The film also speaks volumes about the importance of local businesses and the corruption of an industry running on the dollar and not the sound. There are still a lot of unanswered questions as well. The main one I ask is, "How long will this vinyl/tangible medium last?"
Just yesterday I picked up the Felix Culpa's Sever Your Roots and Underoath's Lost in the Sound of Separation for dirt cheap in the used bin at a local shop here in Austin. On Monday, I'll be shelling out a few bucks for two upcoming pressings of two of my favorite albums. I'm sure (especially since I bought this damn bookcase) those won't be final purchases for the year, or the next few years at that. But how long will the trend of vinyl last at this point? It seems Record Store Day was quite a success, more so than last year, but it also seemed it was due to some scalping off those who waited for the aforementioned desire.
I think the title speaks more volumes than the documentary itself. There are certain records I would pay a good amount for, because of the attachment either musically or emotionally felt by what lies between the grooves or hand crafted packaging. I can't speak twenty years from now. Maybe then my collection will at least end up turning over a small profit for a family vacation and bring joy to a kid in the next generation that finds it in the used bin at the local record store that hopefully hasn't closed down by then.
I'm not going to say I haven't lived my life without regret. If there is one thing I don't regret, it's taking my father's record player and his collection instead of him just tossing it out. If there is even a thought to tossing those albums out, at least recycle them at the local store. We all have different eclectic taste. There's no telling if there's going to be someone who comes along that has always needed that record you were kicking to the curb.
I only have the Beatles' albums digitally and on wax. While I can't take my vinyl babies with me, the digital bit rates I have aren't so great. While the remastered box set is a bit too pricey for my wallet right now, I decided to pick up the White Album individual remaster.
Now, I preface what I'm about to say in that I believe re-releases are a way to reap in more money. Whether it's bonus material, or a remaster, many times it's not worth the double price, and we all wish the extra material was just individually purchasable through other means as opposed to being part of additional packaging.
Upon opening the packaging to The Beatles' double wide album, it already had me happy for the purchase. As opposed to the plastic bulky case of the original, the remaster is a digipak (and I believe all the releases are like this) that resembles the original vinyl packaging, similar in both a small poster fold out and well put together lyric booklet.
What about the sound? What about keeping the integrity without blowing out the speakers? Well, whoever mixed these discs deserves a medal. The stereo sound is crisp, able to pick out each instrument, understanding each background smirk and a quality of sound that exceeds the originals, but still maintains its true essence and feel.
With Rock Band and the usual ten or so year throwback to The Beatles themselves, it's easy to see why the labels are at it again to cash in. Unlike many other attempts (ahem...Radiohead), these albums have no bonus, except for the quality of their tangible worth and euphoric, intense sound.
It looks like I'll buy into these remasters - just the albums I like though, not the full box set. If you're going to grab more cash from our already empty wallets - be sure to take note of these legends, they got it right the second time around too.
So I guess this year's New Moon soundtrack is this year's Garden State, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine...well, you get the point.
I recently spoke with Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear and we discussed the idea of having lesser known bands being a part of a mass marketed soundtrack or compilation.
Let me make this clear, I'm not opposed to great underground artists using these channels to get their music out there. I just have no faith in the system. The one example I can think of is the Guitar Hero/Rock Band franchise.
Beginning with classic shred tracks, the video games now contain choice cuts from bands we would have never expected to see on such a mass level. Many of my friends who don't normally listen to the artist they were now introduced to, only listened to those tracks, and nothing more - singles on their iPod.
When Juno came out, we had calls every hour at the KLSU radio station to hear "Anyone Else But You." Oh, Inverted World is my favorite Shins album, but many friends have only heard the two cuts off the Garden State soundtrack.
Like Taylor had said, it is a way to make money. That's not selling out considering that leaks and illegal downloading has hurt the pocket books of many underground artists who still work 9 to 5 jobs. If it helps put back into a great band putting out more great music, then I say go for it.
Since we now have the ability to buy in a pick and choose digital market, it's great to sift through the filler as a Top 40 listener, but for those of us who still are enthralled with the idea of an album, and great albums at that, it seems like a double edged sword to move your music in one song units above the hazy underground line.
What do I know? Maybe it's my cynicism and fast paced views of popular music that will not change. Maybe if one person hears the soundtrack and they put down their Breaking Benjamin albums for a Muse or Bon Iver one, then it's a win on many levels. In the end, that's all I can hope for.
This past week I had the honor of interviewing Shawn Stern, not only a member of one of punk's influential bands (Youth Brigade), but also co-founder of BYO Records, an imprint that has been around for 25+ years, and one of the first labels to come up after the so called "death of punk."
One of his answers really stuck out:
You couldn’t “Google” your questions, as the Internet didn’t exist. [There were] no cell phones to book a tour. So we just pounded the pavement, asked questions and eventually figured it out by doing it.
I sometimes wonder if we all have it too easy. If this isn't hard work, but life led by a handicap. Then I wonder how much more adventurous and exciting this whole music thing would be without the laments of technology.
As someone who is all for hearing an album with the least amount of anticipation as possible, the "plausible" new system would be the plug in the leak.
Like print, with the advent of the Internet, buzz seems to trump contemporary print reviews. Why pick up a paper, when you can instantly get an idea in a forum or on a messageboard.
But, let's not forget how the hype machine started. It started with advances and song clips showing up weeks before releases on sites like this, and countless blogs across the Web. Some embrace it, others want to get it shut down.
Honestly, there was a time when I got excited off a single, or listened to a few free MP3's that I found until I could save up to get the CD. Now it has turned into a full blown hoard and digital impatience for many of us.
There was a time when we worked, and sat patiently for our just desserts. I think it'll come around again, because the system's starting to look like one big game of Jenga, and someone's about to pull the wrong piece.
Today, along with the New Junk Aesthetic, I picked up Thrice's Beggars, with anticipation of a vinyl to come.
Weeks ago, I did not purchase the album digitally. Honestly, I didn't want to pay for it three times, when I knew I was going to pay for it twice.
This brings up the discussion of physical and digital releases, yet again. With the digital age, we are able to hear anticipation with the click of our index finger, or thumb depending. It also takes away from the album experience of waking up, heading to the store, and blasting it back to the house, where you will almost immediately transfer the CD, or vinyl, to a home format (probably to the computer+speakers) and continue to listen through while skimming the booklet, and awing at the album's artwork.
If you haven't already updated, this week was the release of iTunes 9. With that release, Apple announced iTunes LP, which is less a digital wax and 12 inches of artwork, and more a digital kit experience.
I hope this is not the next step in our music evolution. Virgil Dickerson had some great things to say about this as well.
Sure, if you are not a tangible nerd like me, I encourage you to continue to support great music through the new form of digital releases. I am happy that I waited to get Beggars on CD, even though I transferred it to my computer and iPod already. The artwork is stunning, and reminds me a lot of the The Artist and the Ambulance. Anyone who purchased the limited edition packaging of that record knows how awesome it was with the individual cards for each song -- stunning!
I'd really hate to get TV scanned into my brain, and I'd hate to have to go back to my computer for lyrics and great artwork. Nothing will beat a beautiful tangible medium, as well as some sort of physical back-up in case of a crash...who knows?
I also completely back, and can't stress enough to labels and vinyl distributors alike, to combine their wax with a digital download card. We can have our cake, and eat it too.
The jury is still out on how I feel about Beggars. I need a few more listens, but it definitely is one of the best records to come out this year, and keeps growing more beautiful with each listen.
Could anticipation be killing the tangible form, even if we support it in the end? Time will tell I guess, or make fools of us all.
Well Rolling Stone, you were wrong again. This isn't the first time you've been wrong, nor will it be the last. Who am I to judge? You could have never foreseen the digital age making a mockery of your headline and all.
What to do with all these CD's. What to do.
There's a shop here in Austin a few blocks from Waterloo called Cheapos. If you're ever looking for a used album on CD, you should be able to find it here. In fact, you should be able to find quantities of it here.
Saturday I found a Holland import of Radiohead's Amnesiac in special packaging for $5. Days before, I found a Grand Royal pressing of At the Drive In's Relationship of Command for $6.
There's a gem here and there. Combined with the ample amounts of used vinyl that includes 20 copies of every Linda Ronstadt record and the usual picks that show up at every used record store, I began to wonder where all this wax and plastic that the public doesn't want anymore will end up. Landfill? The island of misfit records?
The "greener" good aside, there's something more striking about the stacks of new arrivals that line a section of Cheapos. There are quite a few new albums available. Nothing "last week," but less than a month would be more accurate. It got me thinking, that the process of buying, burning, selling, and cycling CD's like that is something that many might be doing at the moment.
If the majority of America bought CD's for the music, but now that they have everything on one MP3 device that can be taken anywhere, even the car, what's the point in hoarding all those disc, just to take up valuable space?
If this is true, why not just buy the albums digitally? Well, the influx could be for two reasons. One, is take the same idea of buying CD's, ripping them, and selling them back, but with used records. Genius right? The difference in buying used and returning used is slimmer than the cost for a new album, or a digital purchase. Two, there may be an influx just because the masses are now realizing that those CD's in their homes are going to waste sitting there, and bam, an influx of selling back.
Without theorizing too many scientific methods here, it is obvious that CD's have lost their luster. I believe vinyl is resurging because those music listeners like me are opting for an even more tangible approach to their ritual. For those who don't care about the packaging anymore, which I believe is the majority of casual listeners, the digital option is now present for them both legally, and illegally.
I say put your money into something though. Whether it's a small investment in a CD, or larger bond in vinyl, which may gain better interest. With a selection of used CD's seeming so abundant, I say, why not go discover something you wouldn't have paid half price for, or repurchase that Alanis Morissette record that your friend never gave back to you, and then moved, and you haven't seen him/her for the past 10 years except for that Facebook request the other day.
Well, who could predict the future when you live in the journalistic now. Going through the Beatles' break-up photo-journalism story over at Rolling Stone, I took more interest to what was on the Paul McCartney cover on the 11th photo.
Thought it was interesting. More on this tomorrow. Thank you all for reading...25,000 views? I mean, damn!
Forget the Justice Department backing the $1.92 millions dollar verdict this past week, all eyes are now on Radiohead, but honestly, should we care?
The band that broke the mold, and asked its audience to choose their pricing for their last album In Rainbows, is now giving away a new song for free, days after it had leaked across the Web.
Before everyone jumps on the bandwagon yet again, is the band doing anything that hasn't already been done? Well, at least they're doing it at a high bit rate this time.
One major question remains, did Radiohead intentionally leak their song to underground wires with encryption matching that of the artwork and .txt files given away yesterday with the song's download on their website? Doesn't the band know that Trent Reznor has already done that before?
Will this be the only song released as a digital preview, or leak for that matter? Will the band keep the rest of their new material under wraps until the EP or digital single "plan" Yorke admitted to a few days ago is executed?
Like the center of a Tootsie Roll pop, the world may never know.
With Radiohead obviously making a shift to shorter documents of work, is this another nail in the LP coffin that some of us fear?
Now match that with something Jason called out today on one of the forums, and I would have to ask yet another question: Are we ready to even move backwards to a single format matched to listener judgment? It would make us critical of bands based on just a handful of singles, as opposed to those who put together grand records of killer.
There are a lot of records I like that have two or three songs that are worth skipping over and around, which brings me to a feature that Pitchfork is running this week. The site is running (arguably) the top 500 tracks of the past decade. While there are a multitude of indie jams, the list also features some popular singles by mainstream artists.
The format for releasing music is changing into the next level, and could possibly mean doing away with the LP format for some artists. Is this good? For some bands, maybe. Maybe we need the mainstream to produce singles for mass, and camp, value. On the other side, I would never want to see great bands like Radiohead and Brand New stop releasing full features.
Inevitably, it is up to those who create. We, as listeners and consumers, have to just sit back and take in what is given to us. Is the new Radiohead song even good? Well, it is. But Kid A wouldn't have worked well if apart, and I'd like to see where this new song ends up in its eventual whole, if there is one.
"...sub-question: is it better to die out, or to fade away?"
I write this, mind you, while an infomercial for Monster Ballads is on the television. Maybe we just don't know what we've got, until it's gone.
Remember the entry where I shed some details on my conversation with ex-Refused drummer David Sandström? We had a small tangent of a conversation concerning the "death of the album."
Well, it would seem appropriate that the band we all love to hate to love may be putting that idea into play. Brand New, rumored, are about to take this idea into play.
But let's face it. We brought this upon ourselves. Case and point: Drew's entry that the new Thrice album has leaked three months prior to its release. This shows that the majority no longer longs for the days where we waited in anticipation for new releases, rushed to the store to grab it and flipped through the pages of the album's booklet while the first song off said album blasted out of our car stereo.
No, no...those days are gone.
Back to Sandström and mine's conversation. He believes that single will possibly make it's way back into the system. Get rid of filler, and constantly spin the killer, right?
Well, that's good and bad for artists and listeners. Artists will be able to release music instantly. Record a song, or two, release them digitally, and boom, instant gratification! Listeners will no longer have to beat the system, never have to wait impatiently again, constantly updating their MP3 players daily with new music from their favorite artists.
Win-win, or not?
Some of the best music is a full album. Ranging from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come. These records work best as a whole, argueably containing great stand-alone tracks though. The shape of music would change, and I would bet the major's would lose more money because they are shelling out less of a product. If the market is flooded already, can you imagine an increase in songs, since the new way to create art is in singles, not in albums. Well, I guess someone like Ryan Adams or Sufjan Stevens would like this idea, but there are exceptions to every rule.
To see music being created one block at a time would be tragic. By producing a full product, artists create something on a full scale to be judged as a whole, instead of incriments. Singles and demos are fine when it comes to selling and creating interest, but the idea of creating songs at a time in an already flooded market seems too much of a bad thing.
Two incredible albums are released today: Portugal. The Man's The Satanic Satanist and Rx Bandits' Mandala. Both these records would not work as separate tracks, and I'm stoked that they came together as a whole.
To Brand New, you may mean something along the lines of what I'm speaking of above, or possibly moving to a completely digital medium, since it would seem the public doesn't care about money put into tangible products of your art.
Whatever the case be me, I hope that your band and Sandström are wrong in the end.
That's not to say that there isn't room to believe that the data is wrong in any way, but I'm going to try and look on this at both ends.
Why I believe it's accurate:
For the most part, I think a number of people who download music genuinely are looking for more music because they love music that much. Like a nervous twitch, they're constantly looking for something to add to either their hobby, or for some of us, their lives.
Like someone who enjoys any type of entertainment, they don't like waiting. Movie buffs will go to midnight showings, and be the first to buy the special edition DVD the day it comes out. Music buffs will be the first to grab a leak, a way to have a digital copy in anticipation for the street date. What is a street date anyway nowadays? A way to market a record over a few weeks with radio play and music videos-- two sources that are surely becoming out of date thanks to this Internet thingy.
I'm sure there are other "business" reasons (pressings, distribution, stocking, etc.) to have weeks between mastering and physically being on the shelf, but with physical copies on the decline (except for vinyl, but that's a whole other discussion), it shouldn't be surprising that leaks and downloads will give consumers a preview before the release date. I would bet anything that a majority of offenders who downloaded X-Men: Origins are going to go see it this weekend.
What about downloading after a record has been released? There's so many channels to consume an existing record. What about those who hoard music?
Why I think the data isn't accurate:
I think leaks are the primary spike in illegal downloading over the past two years, at least. The study doesn't separate this data though. There's no difference as to whether the downloaded material is pre- or post- release dated. I think that's something that needs to be accounted for.
Also, the story says, "Researchers found that those who downloaded "free" music – whether from lawful or seedy sources – were also 10 times more likely to pay for music. This would make music pirates the industry's largest audience for digital sales."
Digital sales! What about physical sales? What if those in questioned just assumed "yes" for any type of purchase, no matter the medium?
I believe the study is accurate, because I believe that a majority of those who download are the ones putting money back into the system through concert tickets, t-shirt sales, physical copies, etc.
The study doesn't look to be without its faults. I think the approach to marketing will drastically change in the next decade, and I believe a lot of bands will rely on labels less, press less and give even more incentives to their existing fans, and new fans alike.
This year looks to be a great year for music, and some artists are doing some pretty insane pre-orders, along with sales on Amazon MP3, it's good to say the future looks bright for what we love. There's a fine line, we as consumers are riding, and I think some are making it work, unfortunately there are a few bad seeds here and there taking new technologies for granted.
Illegal downloading is illegal. There's no question on that. But making bad music and saturating the market should be illegal too.
Record Store Day was a complete success both on my part, and as a whole. While I racked up about two Benjamin's worth of wax, the whole racked up faith in the tangible medium of music, yet again.
But why is this a factor to know?
Well, unless you've been living under a rock, or part of the mass radio listeners, you know that the music industry has been digging their own grave for the past few years. This is due in part to both a flood of artists-- thanks to the Web-- and the sharp blade of torrents and illegal downloading.
But somehow while the jewel cases are sinking to the ocean's floor, vinyl sales are rocketing out the Universe. In the past few years, vinyl has been gaining ground. Labels are taking notice. Retailers (major) are taking notice. The music market is taking notice.
What does this mean for us? What does the success of this past Saturday mean?
Well, it means that even though there's less demand for the tangible medium due to MP3 sales-- there is a demand! It also means that the demand that exist would rather spend the money on a large tangible work of art that takes effort to sit down and listen to, as opposed to jewel cases that will crack and disc that will eventually get scratched. (This isn't to say that if you're not careful, you could easily damage your vinyl.)
What I did take notice to Saturday was this: Not all record companies are meeting the demand of younger vinyl consumers in a digital age. I almost bought the new Mono record, but I decided against it, mainly because it didn't come with a digital download. (Mono is awesome, and I highly recommend anything by them. I will be getting this album soon under some medium.)
I realize that labels and bands can recoup more profit this way, but it hurts the consumer. If there's a CD and a vinyl to choose from, many newer vinyl consumers may take the CD because it's mobile in either a car, or to be ripped to a computer or MP3 device.
If the medium is going to change for the consumer who enjoys tangible music, it has to change in a way that fits the consumers' needs. Kudos to those record labels and artists who are combining nostalgia and discovery, analog and digital, and appreciation and accessibility.
I'm sitting on the computer, drinking a Budweiser and listening to our President answer questions from the media. I'm wandering my mind, wondering if it's in our economy right now to produce another medium for the market to consume their music through, seeing as they aren't a) spending money on music to begin with or b) short of money because of the current economy.
Wandering Wal-Mart, a place where I would think Americans are putting most of their finances through, I, against my will, decided to look at prices for a new monitor/flat screen television. My PC monitor is broken, and I've had the same tube television since I was nine-- I'm 22 now, and it keeps fizzing in and out.
Upon my journey through Wal-Mart's "low priced?" electronics, I happen to pass the music isle to see YET another medium for music: slotMusic.
The Web site claims that the music is 320 kbps and includes a catalog from Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, SONY-BMG and EMI Music.
Now the medium is a nice idea of carrying a USB drive that holds up to a gig, and there's no specifics, but with a gig, it seems that you would be able to load even MORE music to the device to take along with you.
But what is the appeal to the product besides the the "click and go" formula that the marketing has going for it. Sure, you don't have to use the computer as a middle man before moving music to another device, but slotMusic doesn't play in a car like a CD, and doesn't work for iPods. Not to be jaded, but I would think that a large majority of MP3 player users use iPods. By this mean, it would seem that you would still have to use the middle man of the computer in the end.
Again, the numbers don't lie. Vinyl is up, CD's are down and digital music is remaining pretty steady if not positive. slotMusic just seems like another medium the industry is trying to push instead of focusing finances on how to fix the current business models and create what Michael Scott calls a "win, win, win" situation.
I'm in debt. Many of you are in debt. The economy is in debt. Though pushing for "new technology" is always great, and I would one day like to see that mini-pizza trick from Back to the Future II happen, I believe that the industry should be playing it safe right now and need to figure out new ways of using existing technologies to further the industry in a positive direction for both artists first, and the labels second.
But seriously, someone figure out that mini-pizza thing. I'd love to see that before I kick the bucket.