Monday, December 29, 2008

Old Rare New: The Independent Record Shop

Just finished reading Old Rare New: The Independent Record Shop... absolutely great read. I highly recommend it. Edited by Emma Pettit, it's a collection of essays and interviews on the Vinyl record format, the state (and possible fate) of the independent record store, and most importantly I think, the love of music that's wrapped up in both.

The book focuses on primarily the U.S. and U.K. and contains a wide range of voices, including an absolutely (and, I think, unintentionally) hilarious essay by Byron Coley that would make Comic Book Guy of the Simpsons blush with the depth of its snootiness. However, the overriding sentiment is that of the music lover, as opposed to the object fetishist. It's worth noting that these two can co-exist quite nicely in the same collector!

The book also contains a fabulous collection of images of the independent shop in all its glory, a great thing as I wonder how many will be "RIP" in a few years. A fair number of these images are from Chicago's own Jazz Record Mart (Chi Town Represent!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nice one, Columbia College

Damn! was my last post really in August? No matter... a few weeks back I went to a talk given Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of the Sound Opinions rock & roll talk show (my hometown Chicago seems to love, and be successful with, the dueling critic format... Siskel & Ebert anyone?)

Greg and Jim gave a very entertaining talk... they only had an hour, something about needing to write about the grammy nominations in time for their respective newspapers' deadlines. They didn't present themselves as experts... who the hell knows what the "Future of music" will be! And honestly, there won't be a single "future" any more than there is a single thing we can call music today. As Greg put it, "Questions are free, answers you pay for!"

Here are some tidbits I found noteworthy:

Industry Statistics from Greg

* Unpaid downloads outnumber paid downloads 40 to 1

* Major label revenue continues to fall
(Greg provided 1999 & 2008 figures... I used them to construct the graph below, 2005 datapoint is from Yankee Group, forecast is mine using simple linear regression, again, who the hell knows!)

I think that my key takeaway was Greg's comment that this shift represents a "staggering opportunity to reinvent the way things are done" in the industry. The revenue that majors will apparently continue to lose can be recovered by others... I dunno, by artists perhaps?

Jim talked a bit about the concept of the musical middle class and that the "future of music" might be the possibility for lots more artists to make a living with their music.

Funny question from the audience: How do I get noticed as an Artist
Answer (from Greg): Get good!

This elicited a laugh from the crowd, but Jim went on to discuss the necessary step of "being bad" before you "get good" (echoing something Chuck D said earlier in the year...)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Notes from the Public Enemy Pitchfork Panel

This post is way overdue...

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion with Public Enemy (minus Flav and Terminator X) commemorating the 1988 release of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us back...
I say this with the full recognition that I'm a "hip-hop old fogey" but it feels like hip-hop was better then... I guess more accurately, hip-hop with political content was able to be commercially successful. Either way, It Takes a Nation... and the followup Fear of a Black Planet stand for me as high-water marks of hip-hop-with-a-message.

It was great to be a part of the audience. The members of PE were very open... it felt like we were all sitting in one of them's living room as they reminisced. I listened for a good 30 minutes before I realized I should probably take notes... (my comments in blue)

Hank Shocklee: Learned music by cataloging their dad's collection of 10,000 records
Hank Shocklee: Their dad wired their house for sound
Hank Shocklee: Worked in a record store

The PE "Man in cross-hairs" logo was lifted from Iron Maiden.

Chuck D: Yo Bum Rush the Show waited over a year for Def Jam to release it. (They were in line behind Run DMC and the Beastie Boys)

Chuck D/Hank Shocklee: They ran to the gate of the airport to get Russell Simmons to approve rebel without a pause. LONS previewed rebel w/o a pause. Great story of how Chuck chillout broke rebel... Chuck and Flav begging security guard to get record to Chuck Chillout, them getting back to their car and turning on the radio to hear the DJ playing the record!

Yo Bum Rush the Show, album speaks for itself
Chuck and Hank exemplify the artists vision at it's most razor-sharp (such as standing up to Rick Rubin to make sure Bring the Noise & Rebel w/o a Pause made it onto Nation of Millions)

Chuck D: "You gotta be wack to get good"

Hank Schocklee: "Cats (today) got too much studio time" His point was that constraints can sharpen one's art.

Harry Allen: PE's DJ roots informed their approach to making music

Hank Shocklee: 2 types of genious: 1) bring you something totally new 2) take the everyday and make you look at it in a completely different light

Lastly, the highlight for me was that I got to thank them directly for setting those high-water marks (I even got mentioned in New City's write-up of the panel... fun).

So, what's all this, then?

Well, not to be too precious about it, but it's about enlightenment... not yours, but mine.

zen maxim:
Before enlightenment chop wood carry water
After enlightenment chop wood carry water

Seems simple enough.