Wednesday, April 11, 2007


isn't this debate a little moot? there just isn't enough vinyl-heads around anymore to keep up the necessary demand.

I honestly do not think that the point is moot: if you've been to a club, they're still mixing vinyl on the ones and twos. I used to think that turntables were obsolete and had no purpose, but when bsto brought his tables this year, I really got into buying records. the sound is incredibly different from mp3--i'm not going to be some snob and say it's better, but it's different.

And looking at the type of vinyl collection someone has really gives insight on said person. it's easy to amass a harddrive of stuff, but what someone is willing to track down on vinyl says a lot about what music that they believe is important and worth seeking. I recently dug for a few hours and found elvis costello's "my aim is true" and the beatles' "let it be"--it's one thing to go to a record store and pick these up or download these records, but it's totally another to go around a city and look for them.

And when bsto or I pull out a certain record when we have someone over and someone reacts, it's a lot bigger of a response than when you just play an mp3 on a computer. There's genuine excitement produced when madonna's "holiday" get's thrown on the jj tables--as opposed to when someone sets up their laptop in our living room and plays "borderline". There's a connection made--the DJ is saying this song is important to him, and the audience responds to this when it is a song that is also meaningful or dear to them.


Beyond this, though, it really isn't just about "vinyl heads". My argument was also about the rights that stores like Best Buy have on new releases put out by some indie labels--even when these albums are released on compact disc. The problem with vinyl is indicative of the problem that exists with the music business period. Again, I understand economics and efficiency come into play, but when a store like Tower is forced to declare bankruptcy and liquidate their assets, there is a much bigger problem. Tower was not a mom-and-pop store: Tower was a behemoth. When a juggernaut falls, it's a bad sign for the underlings.

Labels are making deals with big stores in order to keep the box stores happy--they are "feeding the beast". They see that small stores are closing and are clinging on to hope wherever they can. What they don't realize, though, is that they are expediting the process of closing mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar shops. These places are monumental in their scenes: ask any semi "in the know" rock music fan about Crooked Beat, and they'll be able to tell you that they have always been very influential in the "indie rock" scene.

I'm not just talking about vinyl. Crooked Beat had a hard time getting copies of the new Arcade Fire album in stock. Arguably, the Arcade Fire are the biggest band in indie rock, and no one should be okay with the fact that one of the world's biggest indie shops was not able to stock the album. I'm advocating for indie shops to have exclusive rights to sell albums within their first two weeks of release. This will make the big box stores mad, but what will they do? Stop selling records? No way. They'll realize that would be a terrible move. And it's not like they would lose a ton of profit--most of these indie releases just sit on the shelves at places like Best Buy and eventually get sent back to the label. As I said before, soundscan/Billboard sales numbers are not done based on units sold. Instead, these figures are done according to units shipped. The Shins had a great spot upon release of "Wincing the Night Away" a few months back, but that has more to do with Sub Pop pushing the record into stores than anything--it has nothing to do with the number of albums that the band actually sold.

Indie labels need to show solidarity with their label brothers. For the longest time, these small shops were the only places that would put out these records. I just cannot believe that they'd so easily turn their backs on the only places that, for the longest time, were the only places that would stock their records. Bands and labels so often talk about ethics and "not selling out"--they're not doing a very good job.

The indie labels running to the arms of big box stores is what is bringing down the sales of music. This took albums out of independent shops and gave the kids nowhere to go. Of course, online infrastructure changed and enabled them to get their music more easily. If it were easier to go out to the store to buy an album, you could bet that people would do it. There used to be a dearth of places that I could go and get the latest new release. Now, though, there is only Borders, Best Buy and Barnes and Noble (I can't even get an uncensored record at Wal Mart). We call this progress?

Indie labels turned their backs on their fans and their biggest backers--the independent stores. It's bigger than vinyl and "vinyl heads". Sure, I'm frustrated that I can't get vinyl--but it's a sign of bigger things to come. Less stores means that less albums get sold--and that labels are less profitable. This means that they'll take on less bands in the future and will only sign ones that they see as being profitable at some point. This means that safe bands are going to be signed, and creativity in the music industry could very well stagnate and become much worse than it is now.

If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

(again, keep the comments coming)