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!

Jherek Bischoff: RSD 7″

Happy Record Story Day!

Like 170 or so other recording artists, Jherek Bischoff is in the mood for Record Store Day’s fifth anniversary celebration. Brassland is releasing a limited 7″ vinyl single featuring collaborations between Bischof and David Byrne, Zac Pennington, and Soko.

Experimedia’s April 18 Playlist

The folks at Experimedia, one of our favorite mail order record sellers, share so many cool teaser tracks via Soundcloud

Speaking of record sellers, don’t forget your brick and mortar vendors this Saturday – Record Store Day. Lots of in store performances, signings, swag, and limited edition releases!

Girls does first Nationwide Instore at Grimey’s

Girls released their third LP this past Tuesday. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (True Panther) is probably the strongest heavy rock record to date in 2011. F,S, & HG is filled with hazy neo-psych touches such as wafts of organ harmony and blurred rhythm guitars; material that would be equally at home in the early 1970s but is so sincerely delivered that it reads sincere rather than self-consciously retro. But it’s Christopher Owens’ understated delivery juxtaposed against roaring guitar solos that make the album an out-of-the-park homerun. Even songs as unpleasantly titled as  the seven minute long epic “Vomit”  and its companion rocker “Die” will win you over with their incredibly solid arrangements and unerring pacing.

Girls. Photo: Sandy Kim.

To celebrate the album’s release, Girls is on tour (see dates below). They are also making a high profile stop at Grimey’s in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday, September 16 at 5 PM. Billed as a “Nationwide Instore,” Girls’ performance will be broadcast live to over 75 independent record stores nationwide. What a great way to support local record retailers. If you can’t find a store that’s participating in your area (or you just need to be a couch potato at the end of the work week) you can even check out the show from your computer, via a live stream on Facebook.


Sep 14 Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse

Sep 15 Asheville, NC – Orange Peel

Sep 16 Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge

Sep 17 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle

Sep 19 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club

Sep 20 Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts

Sep 22 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom

Sep 23 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom

Sep 24 Boston, MA – Paramount Center

Sep 25 Montreal, QC – Corona Cabaret (POP Montreal Festival)

Sep 27 Toronto, ONT – Mod Club Theatre

Sep 29 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall

Sep 30 Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre

Oct 01 Minneapolis, MN – First Ave Nightclub

Oct 04 Vancouver, BC – Biltmore Cabaret

Oct 05 Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre

Oct 06 Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom

Oct 08 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall

Oct 09 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall

Heavenly States: Rejuvenating the EP

Heavenly States
Oui Camera Oui
Hippies are Dead

“We started thinking about the death of the record,” says Heavenly States’ singer/guitarist Ted Nesseth. “People are broke, their attention spans are waning. We have all these ideas so we thought, let’s just rock out five or six songs, give the EP a rebirth.”

This past Saturday, one could witness throngs of people on line at record sellers throughout the US, clutching piles of treasure: records. They were celebrating National Record Story Day by conspicuously consuming vinyl discs, flouting the conventions of latter day digital distribution in favor of physical artifacts. Many of these record buffs engaged in a scavenger hunt of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory proportions, going from store to store to seek out RSD special releases, many of them limited edition 7″ or 10″ EPs.

But collecting is only a part of RSD’s charm; its also about the coalescing of a community around shared love of music. Thus, customers at the shops engaged in banter about their favorite bands, assessed the quality of used vinyl by eye on the fly, and gave pointers to rookies looking to start a music collection based on quality, not hipster street cred.

As the musicians of Heavenly States point out, the EP may be an ideal format for these times, one that works against the grain of digital distro’s single track mentality, but also avoids the loquacity of overstuffed CDs of the 90s era. Instead, the audio equivalent of a novella: the EP. And despite its relative pith, Oui Camera Oui includes plenty of variety. It even shares a bit of humor at its own expense, in the shape of a comedy routine by Eugene Mirman that riffs and expounds on quotes from the bad reviews of the band’s previous work.

But the release’s primary focus is rocking out, which Heavenly States does handily; check out a download of “Model Son” below for confirmation. Here’s hoping there are more EP novellas in the offing from Heavenly States; it’s a format that suits both them and the vinyl-rapprochement of the times in which we live.
MP3: Heavenly States Model Son

Princeton Record Exchange prices a rare jazz LP

Princeton Record Exchange has posted this video clip showing their process for evaluating a pricing a rare Hank Mobley jazz LP. True, $1800 is out of the price range of most – even enthusiasts – but it’s fun to see how rarities are assessed. Consider it an “Antiques Road Show” episode for record geeks!

Oh, and here’s what it sounds like: