All Songs Intern Rips the Idea of Buying Records?

"Don't want to buy limited edition green vinyl on Record Store Day? You are just the worst kind of person..."

This week, one of the topics being avidly discussed on the blogosphere is a  post written on the All Songs Considered blog by NPR intern Emily White (read here).  There have been a number of passionate replies to her suggestion that those in her age group simply are not buying music: they’re too accustomed to “appropriating” it. David Lowery (of the band Camper Van Beethoven) provided an in depth and thoughtful response (a must read at the Trichordist here).  One can also read Ben Sisario’s article for the NY Times here and Jonathan Coulton’s blog post here.

All caught up? Good.

I won’t go through all of the merits and moral quandaries associated with file-sharing and streaming services. Full disclosure: I use NML regularly in my work (we subscribe at Westminster Choir College) and also have a paid Spotify subscription. While I’m a big proponent of physical media, and also feel that streaming services must work to do a better job to compensate artists, I am pleased that these technological options are available, as they are invaluable references for scholars and music lovers.

Thus, I’m certainly not interested in piling on or, goodness forbid, admonishing Emily White. In some ways, I feel sorry for her: a DJ and station manager who doesn’t have a record collection strikes me as someone who’s missed out on a very fun part of that gig. Instead, let’s zero in on those records. In the various posts on the subject of apathetic interns there is an almost unmentioned other segment of the populace that should be introduced into this conversation about purchasing music: young people who, you know, purchase music.

I support lots of artists by buying their music, often in physical, sometimes esoteric, formats. I feel about LPs the way that former Senator Phil Gramm feels about firearms, about which he famously said, “I have more of ‘em than I need and less of ‘em than I want.”

But I’m not the only one with this penchant for owning a physical artifact instead of ripping a friend’s CD. Why is it whenever I go to a record store I’m surrounded by people, many approximately Emily White’s age, who are digging through the bins and buying vinyl? New vinyl – nice 180 gram pressings of current albums. That’s a lot of latte money!

Maybe, in the midst of all of the doom and gloom about the decline of CDs as a distribution model, we are overgeneralizing by taking the casual listener as the barometer for future music sales. The casual listener has long “stolen” or, at the very least, freely acquired, music: well before the advent of file sharing and mp3s. Mix tapes, listening to the radio in a restaurant that doesn’t pay royalties, borrowing music from libraries, friends, etc.

Yes, the arguments regarding “fair use” settled some of these issues, but it took lengthy court battles to do so. At the time, most teens remained blithely oblivious of the issues at hand, continuing to dupe their friends’ copies of whatever they couldn’t afford that week at Sam Goody. What’s sad is that Emily seems to fall into this group of casual consumers: one might hope that NPR would attract folks who get the point of supporting those who entertain, educate, and even move them.

Physical product continues to be viable in the digital age, even if it proves to be a more modest stream of revenue than it was for artists during the boom years of the CD era. The physical product that seems to be on the rise at the moment is the LP, with good reason: it’s a very fine artifact. The bigger format helps – you can actually read the liner notes and the artwork can better be appreciated. Many audiophiles (myself included) love ‘em.

That said, the industry should continue to explore other modes of distribution, new platforms that will help to keep them in business and recoup at least some of artists’ lost royalties. In no way am I suggesting that streaming media isn’t going to be the prevailing method of experiencing recorded music in the future. From an archival standpoint and one of accessibility, this is an exciting thing indeed. However, I can’t help but think that the lack of engagement with a record collection, except in the digital domain, divests the listening experience of some of its vitality.

Readers: what do you think? The comments section is open for civil discourse.

Experimedia’s June 1 Playlist

For out music aficionados, whenever distro/label  Experimedia releases a new playlist on SoundCloud,  it’s a “kid in a candy store” kind of experience. Check out their list of new arrivals, posted today, via the embed below. But be warned: you may be grabbing your wallet and placing an order before you know it!

Happy Record Store Day!

Record Store Day is upon us! That’s right, today (Saturday, April 17) record sellers throughout the country celebrate the continued vitality of the independent record store. A number of in store performances, limited releases, and freebies are on offer!

Go to the RSD site here to find a record store near you that’s taking part of the celebration.

Our friends at Sub Pop have created a Record Store Day mix (below) to get you in the mood to go out hunting for limited 7″ vinyl and live CDs.

2010 Sub Pop / Record Store Day Mix by subpop

Mould's 20th anniversary solo release

Bob Mould

Life and Times

Anti CD

 Bob Mould

It’s hard to believe that Bob Mould is now fully twenty years into his solo career; it’s been thirty years since he founded Hüsker Dü! Some fans may prefer a specific style or period of Mould’s output over others; from his acoustic guitar-playing circa 1989′s Workbook to the electronica elements of 2002′s Modulate, his is indeed a varied corpus of work. But Life and Times doesn’t fit neatly at either stylistic extreme. Instead, it reminds us that Mould can still rock.

And boy, can he! Songs like “Wasted World,” with its visceral, shredding guitar solos, and the jaunty vocal snarls replete in the title track both serve as ample evidence. “City Lights (Days Go By)” features subtle layering of guitars and synths; but there’s still plenty of bite in the electric guitar solo breaks.

The whole album’s been in heavy rotation since it arrived, but one song in particular has been repeated the most. “I’m Sorry Baby, but You Can’t Stand in My Light Anymore” doesn’t pertain to my current, happy, domestic situation; but it’s a power pop ballad I’d have been glad to bring to bear during lousy adolescent dating situations. Simultaneously an expression of self-empowerment and a scathing indictment of an estranged lover, it’s easily one of the best hooks I’ve heard thus far in 2009. Anti is on a roll; in 2008, my favorite song was Billy Bragg’s “I Keep Faith!”

Record Store Day is Here!

kay and head in newark 005.JPG Record Store Day is upon us. My fiancé and I have plotted our route, and plan to visit New Jersey record stores in Princeton, Bordentown and Fords tomorrow in a self-made scavenger hunt for special releases and limited edition 7″ vinyl.
One I’ll definitely be seeking out is the exclusive EP by Magnolia Electric Company.
I’ve included the press release below, as well as info about two more in store performances by Drag City artists.
Whether you celebrate by attending an event or just listening to your favorite LP at home, I hope you take a moment to enjoy some music today.

Secretly Canadian
MAGNOLIA ELECTRIC CO. Preps Exclusive Record Store Day 7″,
Tours The West Coast With The Avett Brothers

Quite often, times of dormancy only seem so to those of us on the outside. The wheels never really stop turning. Such is the case for MAGNOLIA ELECTRIC Co., which has a string of items lined up over the next months, including its first official release since 2007′s Sojourner box set.
First for the band is an exclusive 7″ titled  It’s Made Me Cry,  which will be available first on April 18 as part of Record Store Day, an international event celebrating independently-owned record stores. Side A of the 7″ features songs recorded over a weekend in October 2008 at Bloomington’s Russian Recording. The songs serve as a lesson in the power of brevity – each a flaming arrow to the heart of some heavy emotions. Side B of  It’s Made Me Cry  is the moody, instrumental “Protection Spell,” recorded at Russian Recordings almost exactly a year prior to the other songs and featuring late bassist Evan Farrell.
The band’s proceeds from the 7″ will benefit The Evan Farrell Memorial Fund.
A list of businesses participating in Record Store Day can be found  here.
It’s Made Me Cry  will also be available digitally worldwide on May 19.
Drag City
-AZITA will be playing at Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Chicago at noon.
-Bill Callahan is playing at Other Music in NYC at 9 pm
(BTW, Other Music has great events going all day long – check out their website)

More Record Store Day Events and Treasure Hunting

Ra Ra Riot

It’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 18. This week, File Under ? has been covering events, releases and celebrations occurring on 4/18, but we’ve just scratched the surface. Some more are listed below. If you’re a North American reader and don’t find one in your area, amble on over to; chances are there’s a party in your neck of the woods too!
Barsuk Records has several artists making appearances:

  • Ra Ra Riot “” performing at Flat, Black & Circular (East Lansing, MI) at 3pm
  • Say Hi “” performing at Sonic Boom [Ballard] (Seattle, WA) at 3pm
  • Menomena “” foosball tournament (!) at M-Theory (San Diego, CA) at 6pm

A number of stores will be giving away special commemorative Barsuk-label Jones Soda for the celebration, including Amoeba (Los Angeles, CA), Aquarius (San Francisco, CA), Easy Street (Seattle, WA), Fingerprints (Long Beach, CA), Lou’s Records (Encinitas, CA), M-Theory (San Diego, CA), Music Millennium (Portland, OR), Silver Platters (Seattle, WA), and Sonic Boom [Ballard] (Seattle, WA).
Merge Records
-   Telekinesis will be helping Sonic Boom celebrate at their Capitol Hill location
-   Superchunk will be signing EPs at Coachella
Sub Pop Records:
-Vetiver is appearing at Sonic Boom’s Ballard location at 4 PM.
Limited edition 7″s: Blitzen Trapper “War is Placebo”, Vetiver “Wishing Well”, Obits “I Can’t Lose”, and Flight of the Conchords “Pencils in the Wind”.  
Iron and Wine will also be offering up a limited edition live CD recorded in Norfolk on June 20th, 2005. More info
Limited edition vinyl from Sonic Youth, Jay Reatard, and Pavement. More info


Arthur Russell – Love Is Overtaking Me (LP)
Camera Obscura – French Navy single (7″)
Elvis Perkins In Dearland – Lorraine Lookout (7″)

Record Store Day in Canada!

Record Store Day in Toronto

Paper Bag Records’s artists will be performing across Toronto at local record shops including Criminal Records, Sunrise, and Sonic Boom this coming Saturday, April 18th, 2009.    
Giveaways at each show.

Sunrise Records
336 Yonge Street,
Toronto, ON
1:15 pm

Sonic Boom
512 Bloor Street West,
Toronto, ON
5:30 pm

*stripped down performance
Criminal Records
493 Queen Street West,
Toronto, ON

Sonic Boom
512 Bloor Street West,
Toronto, ON
8:30 pm

Record Store Day Treasures Two: A couple more 7″s

7″ single with “Everyone is Guilty b/w Total Destruction”
Limited to 1000 copies

Everyone is Guilty”” is from Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free and “Total
Destruction” is only available here.
Black Moth Super Rainbow:  
7″ orange vinyl with “Born on a Day” b/w “Born on a Day (demo)” Limited to 500 copies.

Now in HD: Umphrey’s McGee

Now in HD: Umphrey’s McGee


While digital distribution is undeniably convenient, sonically speaking MP3s leave a lot to be desired. Several companies have been at work on audio formats that strive for the manageable size of MP3s while not compromising on sound quality. MP3HD files are currently four times the size of conventional MP3s, but are a lossless format that will be compatible with most MP3 players.

One of the first artists to embrace the upcoming MP3HD format is the jammy neo-prog outfit Umphrey’s McGeeUmphrey’s McGee. Umphrey’s made selections from their recent two-night run at the Murat Egyptian Room on March 13, 2009 available in the new format this past week at Additional recordings will be made available in the coming weeks.

“As one of the few artists who record and make available every show that is played, sound quality is paramount to the entire band.   The HDMP3 format is a welcome addition to our existing arsenal of lossless and lossy formats we make available for fans, explains Umphrey’s McGee’s audio engineer and producer Kevin Browning.” Offering a much richer sound spectrum combined with the convenience and familiarity of the MP3 format, we expect HDMP3 to be a hit with the band and fans alike.”

This past Thursday, I was in touch with Francois Thuiliere at Thompson Software about their MP3HD project. He said, “MP3HD is a lossless audio codec based on MP3. It makes a bit-exact copy of CD or wav, and its biggest advantage over similar codecs is its backward compatibility with mp3. So if you play an MP3HD file in a non-MP3HD player, it will simply play the standard mp3 file.”

“We just launched the format a couple of weeks ago and we are already seeing a lot of interest in the musician community. The fact that most of the labels have adopted mp3 (which was developed by Thomson) is very encouraging for the future adoption of mp3HD. We will have the software development toolkit (SDK) ready for our licensees in May, so you expect implementation in commercial products to start in the coming months.”

While it is far too soon to guess who will win the battle for prevailing hi-def digital audio format, the effort promises to bring better-sounding music to the ears of audiophiles in an era increasingly dominated by digital distribution.

More info: There’s a Win Amp plug-in for Windows and a demo software toolkit (available here).

It’s Touch and Go for Indie labels

 Touch and Go artists TV on the Radio

 Influential indie label Touch and Go Records announced a radical restructuring today, paring back their release schedule and closing their manufacturing and distribution arm. The imprint provided these services to a host of indie labels, including Atavistic, Merge, and Kill Rock Stars.

Touch and Go’s influence on both the direction of the Chicago music scene and the national rise of Indie rock to a place of prominence in pop culture during the 90s and 00s cannot be overstated. This is a severe blow for music lovers of many types of ‘out’ pop and avant jazz. There’s more on the story over at Pitchfork.