Apr 20, 2013

Record Store Day - Best pop music not on the radio

With all my hipster friends and family getting in on all the vinyl deals today and all the hip folks buying limited edition CDs at their LOCAL RECORD STORE today I decided to wax a bit nostalgic.  My vinyl collection lives in two places...albums in the attic-I KNOW NOT GOOD!! Sorry.  And 45s...Yep still got 'em in my snazzy little carrying case purchased in the '70's, live in my bedroom.

Let's take a look at my library.  LPs I'm pretty progressive; Queen, Zeppelin, Ambrosia, The Beatles, Yes and Rick Wakeman, Cream, Chick Corea and Robin Trower.  The last two, all discs are imports.  I used to make regular runs to Merle's Record rack and dig through all the European releases.  Ok, so I guess I was a bit of hipster back then.  But then there's the 45s.  This stuff is all over the map.  The Carpenters, The Osmonds (don't judge), The Bee Gees, Carol King, Sir Elton John (but he wasn't a knight then), Blues Image (open Google for that one), The Beatles, Prelude (oh did I trip you up again?), Captain and Tennille, Richard Harris's version on "MacArthur Park", Michael Jackson, Chicago (of course everybody's prom song of the 70's), Guess Who, Simon & Garfunkel, Paul McCartney & Wings (Yep! more Sir Paul after the Beatles),  Patti Labelle (that song came out LONG before Moulin Rouge), Harry Chapin (kinda indie acoustic version of Nickelback-same melody just different lyrics) and Gunhill Road.  Gunhill Road.  Who the fuck are they you ask?  Ok, pretty much one-hit-wonders but we all should have at least one of those in our collections.

The other thing that I noticed as I was going through my stack was the number of labels and not imprints just single companies.  RCA was RCA and not a division of Sony. Epic also got swallowed by the Sony beheemoth.  Atlantic and Reprise were not part of Warner Music adn Island, A&M and Atco were not divisisions of Universal Music Group.  RCA absorbed Chelsea and then shelved it.   Rocket Records is now a completely different company.  Mercury moved from Chicago to the UK and became an imprint of Virgin.  RSO, MCA, and United Artists are now just memories.  Motown lost its identity when it moved to L.A. and today is just another major label juggernaut.

And what about 45s?  Do you even buy singles any more?  Ok, maybe on iTunes.  But what about hard-copy singles?  Although the cost of living has gone up, the cost of recorded music is still running about the same when you compare it to the wages (minimum) of the people who buy it.  The largest percentage of music purchased's demographic is still 14-25.  I started my record collection with babysitting money.  Then I made a buck an hour before midnight and $2 an hour after plus tips.  Albums cost $8.  A single was only a dollar and you got two songs.  Ok, most "B" sides sucked but sometimes they did make you really consider saving your money for the whole LP.  Today you still pay $1.29 for a single on iTunes but that's what you get...a single.  No more "B" sides.  I must say I do like the trend to EPs that at least get a little more music into circulation at a very reasonable price.

Finally, it seems that Record Store Day is something targeted to and participated in by the people who don't even turn on the radio any more.  There are no limited editions today from Beiber, Katy Perry, or Rhianna.  About the closest you're gonna get to mainstream is The Black Keys, Bon Jovi and Lincoln Park.  In other words, what little notice huge monopoly labels gave to RSD was still mainly to their alternative and indie listeners.  Sony, UMG and Warner are only interested in the kids that are buying at Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, FYE and digitally.  But they don't really do much to entice them to pay for anything so the prices of tickets to pop concerts just go higher to fill in the revenue gaps.

So today was Record Store Day.  I hope you went and found your local store and supported it. I hope you continue to.  I don't want to see you whining or stomping your feet if they close their doors and you're stuck with censored versions at Wally-World or having to mail order everything.  Let's see if we can put "the man" out of business.  You know...even if you shop on-line, find a mom & pop.  See how often you can avoid the big guys.  Help people create jobs for themselves and for you.  If hard-copies of music become popular again, more distribution companies will be needed, small marketing firms.  Or maybe everything does go digital.  It's still going to need to be managed, distributed.  Buy a subscription to your favorite internet radio station.  Get involved in crowdfunding for competition to labels, radio stations and promoters.  Let's all figure this out together.