Can You Hear Me?

High Fidelity was on cable the other night. It’s a real period piece, not because of the clothes or the time (late 90’s), or even the music. What dates it is that it takes place when finding a wide variety of different and sometimes obscure music was actual work. For example, one of the record nerd characters impresses a woman by pointing out the influences of one of her favorite bands. A little over ten years ago, finding out that information was a trip to the record store and a discussion with some geek, or consultation with some fanzine. Now it’s a couple of clicks on Wikipedia. Another example: I wanted to listen to the High Fidelity soundtrack, but instead on Spotify I found a playlist of every single song mentioned in the movie. Compiling something like that in the late 90’s would have been a herculean task.

Obviously this isn’t all good news, especially for independent record stores like the one portrayed in the movie (though there are still a few indy survivors around in my town, while the big chain stores have all left the scene). That said, the whole process of music discovery has become incredibly easy compared to what it was.

I’ve embedded another example: I wanted the original video of Elvis Costello’s “High Fidelity” – impossible to find a while back, now it’s just a YouTube search. I realize that the jaded response to this is “duh, the Internet” but once in a while it’s worth a reminder just how much has changed so quickly.






89 replies
  1. 1
    Keith says:

    I’ve got that soundtrack, and yes, it’s on CD. I still can’t see why people knock CDs as passe. I buy music on Marketplace, but there’s no way to browse the album art, and if I’m lucky, it will include a review of the album. There’s something to be said for being able to hold an accompanying booklet in your hands and flip through the artwork and/or lyrics.

  2. 2
    Keith says:

    BTW: Is anyone causing the site to start displaying wpdb errors all over the site when they post a comment? It does it every time I post from work or home, but not when I do it from my phone. Weird…

  3. 3
    maurinsky says:

    I have that soundtrack, too.

    And I’m having some kind of problem with this page today, not an error, but it isn’t always displaying as it usually does. It just looks weird.

  4. 4
    JGabriel says:

    @Keith: The formatting errors seem to vary depending on which browser is used.

  5. 5

    My boss was only saying the other day that one of the things he used to love to do was to search for obscure musical artists and buy their work (records, then tapes, now CDs). He says that the internet (specifically youtube) has taken all the fun out of it now as you can find just about anyone now.

  6. 6
    JGabriel says:

    mistermix @ top:

    I realize that the jaded response to this is “duh, the Internet” but once in a while it’s worth a reminder just how much has changed so quickly.

    Seriously. I wish I had the internet when I growing up. And I’m not even old yet, just middle-aged.

    Kids these days don’t know how good they have it, how lucky they are,” said the fat, balding, old coot. “Why I remember when we only had 4 tv stations that you got over an antenna, and how — when you wanted to learn something — you had to look it up in an encyclopedia at the library, ’cause they were too expensive to have at home.”

    Oh damn, I’ve turned into my great-grandfather.

    .

  7. 7
    dedc79 says:

    And the movie reset the book from England to Chicago and may also (i’m not sure) have updated the musical references accordingly.

    I will always love that movie for the scene where cusack puts on the Beta Band and everyone in the store starts responding to it. I went out and bought their cd (The Three EPs) and it is phenomenal.

  8. 8
    burnspbesq says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but I never had to pay $9.99 a month to listen to WNEW-FM.

  9. 9
    gene108 says:

    One side effect, I think of this ease of access to music (from my anecdotal observations of today’s teenagers), is that social cliques in high school are no longer including music tastes as basis of being included/rejected from a clique.

    You don’t have splits between disco and rock music lovers, like you had in the 1970’s or rap/country/heavy metal music lovers in the 1980’s.

    I think that’s a pretty profound shift in how kids socialize these days, if I’m right about cliques not including music tastes.

  10. 10
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Obviously this isn’t all good news

    I know you didn’t mean it in a bad way, but I equate this with someone talking about Gutenberg and ending the Church’s dominance over knowledge.

    @Keith:
    @maurinsky:
    WordPress did an update that affects everything. It’s all over the internet, not just BJ. Must not be affecting mobile versions, though.

  11. 11
    KG says:

    There’s a lot of 90s movies that I absolutely love (graduated high school in 96, undergrad in 2000), but every time I watch them, I’m reminded how totally different things are. Scenes like where a guy has to stop at a payphone are always ones that jump out, since most places now only have “that spot where payphones use to be.”

    On that note…

    once in a while it’s worth a reminder just how much has changed so quickly.

    I’ve been saying this for a while when it comes to the political actions of a certain party. Some people don’t deal well with change, and drastic change in such a relatively short period can be traumatic.

  12. 12
    c u n d gulag says:

    @burnspbesq:
    Ah, the greatest rock station, EVAH!!!

    Remember Allison Steele, “The Nightbird?”
    Sexiest voice, EVAH!!!

  13. 13
    piratedan says:

    still a great film that encapsulates how many of us emotionally stilted fellows tried to use the words and music crafted by other artists in the form of a mix tape to tell a women who we are and how they make us feel.

    thought the attention paid to the soundtrack was reminiscent of all of the other works that Cusack’s team have done, makes me think that they took their queues from John Hughes.

  14. 14
    raven says:

    Wuxtry, where Bill Berry from REM worked, is hanging on somehow.

  15. 15
    mistermix says:

    @burnspbesq: Spotify is free if you don’t mind the ads. Same as WNEW.

  16. 16
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    I wish the High Fidelity soundtrack included Lisa Bonet singing Baby, I Love Your Way.

  17. 17
    BGinCHI says:

    @raven: I’m glad it’s still going.

    Still own a few Vic Chesnutt cassette tapes I bought there.

    I think I also bought the cassette to Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend.” An early 90s classic.

  18. 18
    cosima says:

    I absolutely love the book High Fidelity, and never watched the movie because I figured it could never even come close to the book. An American High Fidelity just doesn’t seem to resonate.

    Mix tapes. So many mix tapes to show love (or lust, or burgeoning affection). An English admirer once sent me a bright red A-Ha (because I liked them, he hated them, what can I say, it was the 80s, and those Norwegian guys were adorable) LP special edition. As I said, an American version of High Fidelity just could not capture what music was in the UK in the 80s. My ex-husband used to make many mix tapes for me back in the day. Post-divorce when he was trying to woo me back it was a mix CD, which was more or less a good representation of where he was at, the technology had evolved and he hadn’t. He was heading for 40, and I was in my early 30s.

    Last year I bought my husband the Stereophonics’ “Long Way Around” on CD for over $100 for xmas. He loves that song, and of course it was a special release. I felt quite proud of myself for tracking it down and paying a fortune to make him happy. Our daughter was home for xmas and said “wow cool song, what is it?” punches it in on her phone, uses some app, and voila, there it was on her phone. For free.

    And I used to listen to (and support) KCRW many moons ago before they were easy to listen to (getting yelled at by our IT guys for using up too much whatever), and bought every Rare on Air CD for years & years. Now many people listen to them, and there isn’t much that is considered “Rare” on the air.

  19. 19
    Alexandra says:

    Speaking of the late 90s, in a similar vein, I’ve been working through the last three seasons of Seinfeld recently, which I never saw when it first aired and it’s striking how nobody has a cellphone, how they’re often calling their message services from landlines, visiting the video store to rent tapes… and occasionally dropping films off to get developed.

    Only fifteen or so years ago. But I don’t miss any of it.

  20. 20
    j says:

    A small local used/new record store around here is falling on hard times. It was in the same place for 34 years and lost its lease because the landlord sold the block to a condo developer. The record store moved a few miles away and is trying to hang on. Local bands are holding a fundraiser/concert to help it survive. The owner Val is in her 70’s now, and the store is all she has.

    The place, “Val’s Halla” is legendary, as is her encyclopedic knowledge of all things music.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/.....5131.story

    Here’s her website:

    http://valshallarecords.com/

    I’ve spent a LOT of time and cash there over the last 30 years or so. Hate to see it go.

  21. 21
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    There’s something to be said for being able to hold an accompanying booklet in your hands and flip through the artwork and/or lyrics.

    @Keith: Hilarious. This used to be the main objection to CDs. They were too small, you couldn’t see the artwork and most of the art that had been on the LP had been removed.

    The more things change…

  22. 22
    DougJ says:

    When Nick Hornby did a book reading down the street from me, I asked my roommate to go (I had to teach) and have Nick sign my copy of High Fidelity “some things you never get used to, Nick” but my roommate wouldn’t do it.

  23. 23
    lonesomerobot says:

    Interestingly, I had high hopes for that film, and came away underwhelmed by the very pedestrian music choices. Not that it needed to push the envelope, but the film didn’t so much as dip a toe into obscurity.

    I mean, “Walking On Sunshine”? Really?

  24. 24
    Roger Moore says:

    I realize that the jaded response to this is “duh, the Internet” but once in a while it’s worth a reminder just how much has changed so quickly.

    If you really want an experience, try explaining a card catalog to someone who never had to use one. They’ll look at you like you’re from another planet.

  25. 25
    eric says:

    considering pron, music sources, wikipedia and webmd, worldwide sports live (ask futbol fans), the internet is a magical place

  26. 26
    lonesomerobot says:

    Uh oh, looks like FYWP is missing argument 2! Better get that fixed.

  27. 27
    MikeJ says:

    @cosima: The movie is different, but good. You get the impression the producers, director, writers, and actors had all actually read and enjoyed the book. Even when changes are made, the spirit is retained.

    Funny how everybody points to the switch to the US, which is actually trivial[1], when there are other more interesting changes. The star who our hero becomes enamoured of is not just a star, she’s cool in a way he can’t aspire to. In the book she’s American, in the movie she’s black.

    [1] The subculture in which the story takes place was pretty universal pre internet, so the physical location is irrelevant. The networks of people that existed back then, swapping tapes and importing records back and forth, was like a very slow primitive internet on its own.

  28. 28
    catclub says:

    @mistermix: Spotify seems to not work on linux, last I tried.

  29. 29

    Weird, I have this on DVD somewhere (and the soundtrack CD– at the very least the movie gets credit for introducing me to The Beta Band) and have been thinking it was time for a rewatch.

    Regarding CDs, I had ripped 200+ of them to AAC back in 2003 and put them all in an old-fashioned foot locker for storage. For whatever reason, earlier this year I found myself unpacking them and going back to CDs. (Compression artifacts are like tinnitus– once you learn out how to hear them, you can’t un-hear them).

    Also bought a cheap turntable, originally for sampling, but soon found out by accident that I live within walking distance of this place. (Folks old enough to remember who Barrence Whitfield is will be amused to find out he works there).

    This is probably how it starts…

  30. 30
    raven says:

    @BGinCHI: I played hoops with the owner for years at Stegman. Great guy off the court, total crybaby on it.

  31. 31
    burnspbesq says:

    @mistermix:

    Spotify’s audio quality can’t hold a candle to MOG. And if I want MOG on my iPad and iPhone, I have to pay.

    Try again.

  32. 32
    Fwiffo says:

    Some of the artifacts from the pre-Internet age are actually staggering in retrospect. I mean, they still deliver phone books. Before the Internet, how did you find somebody’s address or phone number? The phone company printed out a huge book and delivered a copy to every single person. And it only had local people and businesses.

    Or how about freaking card catalogs? Or any other giant cabinet of paper records that you actually had to go visit to find out information?

    I know for some kinds of research, you still need to go somewhere and find physical records, but it’s amazing how inefficient it really is compared to the Google.

  33. 33
    Roger Moore says:

    @Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God:

    Regarding CDs, I had ripped 200+ of them to AAC back in 2003 and put them all in an old-fashioned foot locker for storage. For whatever reason, earlier this year I found myself unpacking them and going back to CDs. (Compression artifacts are like tinnitus—once you learn out how to hear them, you can’t un-hear them).

    Time to re-rip them as FLACs. Save space and get them onto your favorite device without artifacts.

  34. 34
    donnah says:

    I used to listen to WOXY, BAM! The Future of Rock and Roll, which broadcast from outside Oxford, Ohio. It was THE place for modern rock, indie rock, new artists and great bands. I found bands there that I had never heard of before. And every Memorial Day, they would do a weekend countdown of the best songs they ever played. I would sit and write down the songs I liked and then go buy the albums.

    Sadly, the owners sold the station and new owners tried to keep it going. They went online and struggled with that for a while. I was on their website until the very end, and people were still sharing music reviews and making recommendations, but that shut down last spring. It hasn’t been the same looking for new tunes since.

  35. 35
    Walker says:

    @Keith:

    iTunes sells with album art. Yeah, it is on a phone or iPad, but it feels the same as a CD pamphlet to me. It is not like it competes with LP art. Indeed, that is part if the reason for the LP resurgence.

  36. 36
    burnspbesq says:

    @Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God:

    Rip CDs to Apple Lossless if you use iTunes as your music player, otherwise rip to FLAC.

    For me, the re-entry into vinyl came when I went through one of the boxes of vinyl that had been in storage for the better part of 15 years, and realized how many records I had that had never been reissued on CD.

  37. 37
    JGabriel says:

    __
    __
    lonesomerobot:

    Uh oh, looks like FYWP is missing argument 2! Better get that fixed.

    Argument 2 is just FYWP coming back after Argument 1 to shout, “And another thing …”

    .

  38. 38
    JGabriel says:

    __
    __
    lonesomerobot:

    Uh oh, looks like FYWP is missing argument 2! Better get that fixed.

    Argument 2 is just FYWP coming back after Argument 1 to shout, “And another thing …”

    .

  39. 39
    JGabriel says:

    __
    __
    lonesomerobot:

    Uh oh, looks like FYWP is missing argument 2! Better get that fixed.

    Argument 2 is just FYWP coming back after Argument 1 to shout, “And another thing …”

    .

  40. 40
    Jamey says:

    @lonesomerobot: Shitty movie that butt-violated a terrific book. Also, Jack Black. There, I said it. Sorry for being a dick.

  41. 41
    maurinsky says:

    I took a Communications class last semester, and we got on the subject of downloading music, and it was distressing but not unexpected to see how all these kids saw absolutely nothing wrong with stealing music. I made the argument that someone took time and effort and used their knowledge and passion to create that music. Deaf ears. They thought that if you loved doing something, than you shouldn’t get paid for it, for some reason.

    I may be the only person on the internet who has never illegally downloaded anything. I do still look for music on my own. I discovered The Bird and the Bee when I had a free download from Amazon and I got their EP Would You Please Clap Your Hands, and now I own pretty much everything they recorded. I still find pleasure in finding stuff I like without any guide.

  42. 42
    gene108 says:

    @Roger Moore:

    If you really want an experience, try explaining a card catalog to someone who never had to use one.

    I’m actually resentful of all my teachers, who kept teaching us the best ways to use the card catalog in school now.

    My senior high school English teacher had us do a paper and graded us, in part, on our use of index cards to track what what we were getting from the card catalogs, as a way to prep us for doing research college. I sort of liked to find my own way to handle keep track of stuff, so I really resented her declaration that this method was all that and a bag of chips and was super important to learn for the rest of our lives.

    I just finished a Master’s degree and I can verify that all that toil is now 100% useless.

  43. 43
    Raven says:

    @maurinsky: In the days of napster I downloaded tuns of music that I already paid for when I bought the records.

  44. 44
    MikeJ says:

    @Alexandra:

    visiting the video store to rent tapes

    That I do miss, merely because of back catalog. For new releases streaming is more convenient, but it was nice being able to wander around and browse and get something that wasn’t originally a comic book.

    I wouldn’t want Blockbuster to be the only option for watching movies, but I wish there were more video stores around. Redbox doesn’t count. It has the convenience of video stores with the selection of streaming.

  45. 45
    mistermix says:

    @burnspbesq: On the Spotify mobile app, you can choose extreme quality and get the same 320 kbps stream that you get in MOG.

  46. 46
    gene108 says:

    @maurinsky:

    As a child of the 80’s, we often shared music.

    The best “score” was, when somebody bought an LP and made a tape of it for you.

    Much better quality than tape to tape copies of albums.

    Still have a bunch of copied tapes of albums.

    I view Napster and other music sharing sites as this sort of thing gone truly wild, but it had always existed once people got the technology to copy music from devise to device.

  47. 47
    Violet says:

    @Jamey: “High Fidelity” was the first film I ever saw Jack Black in. I thought he did a good job of capturing a certain kind of record store guy. To an outsider like me, those record store guys were always somewhat intimidating. If you didn’t know this band or that singer or why the original press European EP was better than the second press (not that it was better, but why it was better), then you were scum who didn’t deserve to be in their store. Jack Black definitely captured that kind of guy..to me, at least.

  48. 48
    maurinsky says:

    My favorite record store memory was from a local place called The Record Breaker. I went in one day to browse, and they were setting up for a performance, so I hung around – and I got to stand about 1 foot away from Lemmy and his mole.

  49. 49
    Chris says:

    @cosima:

    I’m from Chicago, live in London (even see the Arsenal once in a while) and was profoundly affected by this book as it hit about a thousand nerves when it came out, so I think I can speak to this.

    Moving the story from Chicago to London works, oddly. I was very much dreading the film version, especially as so much of the book is about an internal voice as well. But I think Stephen Frears stayed as true to the spirit of the book as possible, and made something that worked very well. Plus it was nice to see the Double Door and the Green Mill bars on screen.

    Most of the musical references that mattered stayed the same, bar a few. You should see it.

  50. 50
    FridayNext says:

    I think the OP makes a good point. I grew up much earlier than the period in High Fidelity. My local record store introduced me to all kids of great college radio music (what Indie and Alternative music was called in the 70’s and early 80’s) From my local record store clerks I learned of The Clash, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, X, The Talking Heads, Sparks, Nash the Slash, and a lot of other bands and artists i have like forgotten etc etc.

    But then I went away to college and learned to love Jazz, Classical, and even, thanks to a prestigious department of Ethno-Musicology all types of music from around the world. I came back to that same record store and asked for something, (I want to say Don Ellis or maybe some traditional blues singer, I was into that then) and was treated like I was a complete dolt and rube and was never able to get waited on at that store again. (Similar to how Jack Black treats the customer who comes in looking for music for his daughter.) I realized how small the world of that record store really was and have noticed ever since that if you can find a record store or bookstore that shares your aesthetic, yes, they are great experiences where we can share tastes and reinforce those tastes (and prejudices). But as Peter Gabriel once asked, “How can we be in if there is no outside?” Being outside of an environment sucks, and that scene in High Fidelity wasn’t that far over the top in my personal experience.

    I hate being treated like that and I found as my tastes expanded and evolved, record or music stores had less and less to offer me, unless it was somewhere large that could afford to hire specialists in an area, and this was long before the internet replaced Tower Records (which could literally have a room full of blues.)

    So we have lost some things, but I for one do not rue the loss of the local record store. The world of music is so much more open now, and no one will treat you like shit if you want a little Leo Sayer with your Black Flag.

  51. 51
    maurinsky says:

    I get that there has always been sharing. But these kids didn’t think they should *ever* have to pay for music. It wasn’t like they were buying stuff and sharing it, they weren’t buying anything and sharing it.

  52. 52
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but I never had to pay $9.99 a month to listen to WNEW-FM.

    I’ll be getting offa your lawn momentarily, but first I just wanna say I would happily pay at least double that amount for the library Spotify offers, if the extra could get channeled back directly to the artists (I know, I know, it all gets filtered through the labels, but a unicorn can dream, no?).

    For whatever reason, when iTunes and ye olden (and mainstream-friendly rebranded) Napster where making their first big splashes, I saw the choice as binary; “Gee, would I rather pay a subscription fee to ‘rent’ tracks, or pony up the bucks to ‘own’ them. Turned out in those early iTunes days the via the miracle of DRM, I wasn’t owning nothin’, and in fact iTunes was demanding I pay many scores of extra bucks when they upgraded their library from 128kps to 256k. Then I realized that paying a modest subscription rate allowed me to scout for artists/recordings that, if I liked enough, I could then turn around and buy them to park in my hard drive. But now, with online subscription-based catalogs as ginormous as they are, I’ve come to find that buying everything I like on Spotify would wipe out the Pantload household cat-food budget.

    For point of reference, I speak as someone who found the indie music stores of the ’80s of huge value in expanding my initially thin library, and as someone who not only spent an entire weekend of doing nothing but ripping CDs when I first got iTunes, but then later spent another whole weekend re-ripping said CDs when I found that 256k was indeed appreciably better than 128k.

    ~Studly

  53. 53
    The Moar You Know says:

    I took a Communications class last semester, and we got on the subject of downloading music, and it was distressing but not unexpected to see how all these kids saw absolutely nothing wrong with stealing music. I made the argument that someone took time and effort and used their knowledge and passion to create that music.

    @maurinsky: I was a working musician for several decades. My name’s on a few obscure albums. I still record my own material. And I don’t have a problem with it at all. You want to make money as a musician these days, do it the old-fashioned way: play it live, use your recorded material as bait to get ’em in the door. You know, the way it used to be done before the “music industry” got a stranglehold on distribution and artists, and those same artists got so fucking lazy they couldn’t be bothered to go down and play a set at the corner bar.

    “Piracy” has been the greatest boon to musicians who are willing to work. Not so much for the lazy ones. And it’s been a death sentence for the parasites who’ve made money off of promoting models who pretend to play music and who can’t pull it live.

    You’ll pardon me for shedding no tears for the poor, hapless entertainment executives and those who sold their souls into bondage to those same executives.

  54. 54
    j says:

    @gene108: I had a college prof once who assigned card catalog heavy research assignments, and purposely put his own cards into the mix, some with deliberate mis-spellings and wild goose chase references. He would transpose letters in the author’s name so it would be hard to find the book, and cite works that never existed (other than in this assignment).

    It took me about 20 minutes to catch on to his little game. One of my classmate buddies was freaking out because he had 3 weeks to so the assignment and couldn’t find a damn thing in the library. I gave him a hint about the “game’ and he finished the work 2 days before it was due.

    The lesson everybody learned was that people will BS book reports about books that don’t exist (and get an F for BSing their way through class). He also found out which frat rats paid underclassmen to do their assignments for them ala Paige Walton and her rescinded diploma.

  55. 55
    burnspbesq says:

    @Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn:

    MOG is going to end up costing me a lot more than $9.99 per month, because I’m using it primarily to check out new music and artists I’m unfamiliar with, and if I find something I like I’ll buy it, because I am one of those crazed audiophiles who thinks even 320k MP3s are a barely acceptable compromise.

    Re-rip your CDs again, to FLAC or Apple Lossless.

    And yes, cables matter.

  56. 56
    MikeJ says:

    @The Moar You Know: Of course now that the money is in playing live we have “360 deals”. The record weasels want to screw you out of the live take and the t-shirts on the same terms they screw you on recordings.

    Record companies can’t finish dying off quickly enough.

  57. 57
    moderateindy says:

    As a Deadhead that enjoyed collecting “bootlegs” of old shows, the internet took all the fun out of collecting. With shows readily available there was no reason to spend time cultivating new contacts as resources, or staying in contact with people that you really only knew because they were collectors as well.
    As a guitar player the internet has been the most fantastic resource ever. Basically any song you want has the lyrics and chords for it. Not always accurate but as a Dead song says , “If this ain’t the real thing, then it’s close enough to pretend”. And the amount of lessons available for free on you tube is amazing. Anyone wanting to learn the guitar these days is so much luckier. I suppose it cuts in to sales of sheet music, although personally I doubt there are many tunes that I yank off the net that I would actually have spent money on. And I still buy the occasional book filled with sheet music, either compilations, or artist specific, but I doubt that any kids these days ever do anything but grab the off the net.

  58. 58
    FridayNext says:

    This whole thread has dredged up sublimated memories.

    To illustrate the superiority of the internet and how much I don’t miss local music stores:

    When Genghis Blues came out in (1999? 2000?) I was in a music store and in a conversation with the clerk and I mentioned Tuvan Throat singing. I figured they’ed be into it since the store kinda/sorta doubled as a head shop and had various types of music enjoyed by the pharmacologically adventurous, including sitar music (RIP Ravi) and other music with Asian influences. Not only had they not heard of it (understandable) but they scoffed at it and were pretty racist about it. Ironically, Steve Miller was playing in the background. That’s ironic, because Genghis Blues is about American bluesman Paul Pena’s experience learning throat singing and playing in Tuva to cheering crowds. Paul Pena wrote and originally performed Jet Airliner, which was a hit by Steve Miller.

    I learned that later on the internet. The racist douchebags at the music store probably still don’t know, but I bet they impress their friends with the discovery of some obscure garage band.

  59. 59
    Brachiator says:

    @mistermix:

    Spotify is free if you don’t mind the ads. Same as WNEW.

    It’s free on the desktop and laptop, but not on mobile devices. And presently, Spotify, Pandora and similar services cheat artists even more egregiously than the old industry models.

    That said, the whole process of music discovery has become incredibly easy compared to what it was.

    The other side of this is that music discovery is largely becoming irrelevant. More and more, people listen to the same crappy music, champion the same crappy “indie” bands, and avoid like the plague anything that is other than a narrow band of pop and rock music.

    In my area, the two biggest chain stores, Tower and The Wherehouse, had huge sections of their stores devoted to classical, jazz and world music. You didn’t have to search for this music, you only had to wander into that area of the store and you could not only find a wealth of music, but also people who knew the music and could speak knowledgeably and passionately about it. And, in LA and NY particularly, it wasn’t unusual to find that the person talking to you about a great LA Phil CD was a member of the orchestra.

    The Internets offers tremendous ways for people to look for music, but it also makes it easier for people to be as ignorant about other music as they want to be.

    And, giving the Internets credit, it is ridiculous that the entertainment industry makes discovery harder by taking down performances on YouTube and elsewhere. This should be a freaking universal library of performance.

  60. 60
    scav says:

    @gene108: you may not have needed to learn about the importence of systematic research and documentation of same, but others very likely needed to pick it up. Prof shouldn’t have got hung up on the media involved in the process but the skill is transferable. For a good while, there was a blindingly obvious gap of research quality between people who only used digital library references and those that knew how to work the card catalogues for older, basic references. Could almost track the efforts of the librarians to roll their systems over.

  61. 61
    Biff Longbotham says:

    This whole issue is not intangentially related to the WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning issue. There was a time, not long ago, when an intelligence analyst would have had to page through stacks of documents, construct arcanely devised search queries in user unfriendly, text only, mainframe housed databases. Or, worse yet, travel to some distant secured workplace (CIA, DIA, NSA, etc) and physically rummage through locked filing cabinets and safes to find the material that was relevant to their analytic studies!! Now, with a few clicks of the mouse, spooks can get the information they’re looking for, whether it be on the government’s ‘secured’ offshoot of the internet, or the open source one that BJers and everybody else gets to play with.

  62. 62
    The Moar You Know says:

    The racist douchebags at the music store probably still don’t know, but I bet they impress their friends with the discovery of some obscure garage band.

    @FridayNext: Record stores are a great place to find obscure white people who are into music by other obscure white people.

    Not so much if you’re looking for Aboriginal field recordings, as I found out a long time ago. Or anything done by non-whites if white people haven’t deemed it sufficiently “cool”.

  63. 63
    Brachiator says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I was a working musician for several decades. My name’s on a few obscure albums. I still record my own material. And I don’t have a problem with it at all. You want to make money as a musician these days, do it the old-fashioned way: play it live, use your recorded material as bait to get ‘em in the door. You know, the way it used to be done before the “music industry” got a stranglehold on distribution and artists, and those same artists got so fucking lazy they couldn’t be bothered to go down and play a set at the corner bar.

    I am always interested when I run across an artist who is happy to be little more than a street musician begging the public for a few coins thrown into a hat. And I guess it is a good thing that technology lets you record music without those other leeches such as producers, engineers, even other musicians horning in on your creativity. And let’s not forget agents, managers, booking agents, and other people who might be necessary to get you into halls where you can play live. All these people are obviously unnecessary to an itinerant musician who should just be able to go door-to-door asking for a place to perform.

    The new model also kills the idea of royalties, publishing rights and copyrights. If you are giving your music away, it has no value, and there is little point in anybody paying for anything other than live performance.

    And artists like Kate Bush or even the Beatles, whose best music came from the freedom to experiment and create within a studio, well, to hell with them. The Fab Four should never have crawled out of The Cavern and should have been happy to just be a cool live band.

    I think I understand in part where you are coming from, but I wonder whether your ideal model does more than trade one master (evil record company execs) for another (a fickle and rapacious public who don’t care whether an artist starves as long as fans can be kept satisfied and happy).

  64. 64
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    @burnspbesq: I get where you’re coming from, but there does have to be some balance between sound fidelity and just enjoying your library. Another ripping marathon sounds as fun to me as bathing in a pool of fire ants.

    Not to mention, I just listen through my PC with its stock sound card, using a $120 pair of punchy DJ headphones. There is no earthly excuse for ripping over 256k in iTunes for that kind of set up. (Although, in fact [just to horrify you for kicks], I do my listening using SRS Labs’ Audio Essentials [well, OK, I have a very specific reason for especially enjoying SRS – I’m 70% deaf in one ear (childhood disease, has nothing to do with subsequent headphone experiences), and the psychoacoustics SRS employs delivers expanded information to both my ears, allowing my brain to reconstitute a full stereo sound experience much more completely than I could ever get without it]).

  65. 65
    cosima says:

    @Chris & @ MikeJ

    Yes, I could watch it, and probably not be too horrified. Although I don’t think I’ve liked John Cusack in anything besides The Grifters and I haven’t liked Jack Black in anything.

    I think — at least in my minimal experience — that while there may have been similarities on both sides of the pond between the music-obsessed people, talking about obscure bands, swapping music, etc., that here in the U.S. that was not at all mainstream. I didn’t know anyone who was that music-crazy in the U.S., but it was fairly rampant in the U.K. amongst teens & early-20s guys (at least the ones that I hung out with & got to know). They were on a mission.

    I’m sort of a music obsessive, and always have been, searching out new bands, collecting music, so add that to the angsty relationship drama, and High Fidelity really resonated with me. I loved that book. I recommended it to dozens of people, and bought several copies as gifts back then for my fellow music-obsessed friends. I suspect that it will never be a movie that I see — though of course one should never say never. I recently did a massive book-purge prior to our move back to the UK, two Hornby books left (Julia, Naked and About a Boy), but High Fidelity stayed.

  66. 66
    The Moar You Know says:

    @Brachiator: Nice piece of trolling. And it is trolling, because anyone with a working brain knows that the digital revolution touched a lot more than the ability to download from one’s favorite torrent site.

    But I don’t want anyone coming away from your post with the impression that you understand the industry at all, so let’s address your trolling as though you were serious.

    I am always interested when I run across an artist who is happy to be little more than a street musician begging the public for a few coins thrown into a hat.

    Never played the streets. The downpayment for my first home came from the money generated by my musical work.

    And I guess it is a good thing that technology lets you record music without those other leeches such as producers, engineers, even other musicians horning in on your creativity.

    A producer is either the guy who fronted you money for your own project (and is called the “producer” so he gets his cut), or what should more properly be termed “head engineer”. Either way you don’t need one. Produce yourself. Such gutter acts as Rush have done so quite nicely.

    Same goes for engineering yourself.

    As for other musicians, they like working too. Never any shortage of those guys around, and I never have a problem getting them to sign on for a tour.

    And let’s not forget agents, managers, booking agents, and other people who might be necessary to get you into halls where you can play live.

    Those folks comprise, 100%, the parasite class of the music world. You can do all that yourself with a phone and a bare minimum of social skills. No venue uses exclusive agents anymore, that practice went out in the 1980s. Gave the agents too much power, you see.

    The new model also kills the idea of royalties, publishing rights and copyrights. If you are giving your music away, it has no value, and there is little point in anybody paying for anything other than live performance.

    Exactly my point. Sounds like paradise to me!

    And artists like Kate Bush or even the Beatles, whose best music came from the freedom to experiment and create within a studio, well, to hell with them. The Fab Four should never have crawled out of The Cavern and should have been happy to just be a cool live band.

    That was then, when studio time was hundreds an hour. I remember those days. This is now. Your studio is a laptop. Today’s musician can spend far more time experimenting than the Beatles or Kate ever could have, and can do so for the cost of the laptop, a microphone, and time spent.

    I think I understand in part where you are coming from

    No, I’d say you pretty much failed entirely.

    I wonder whether your ideal model does more than trade one master (evil record company execs) for another (a fickle and rapacious public who don’t care whether an artist starves as long as fans can be kept satisfied and happy).

    Under the current model, it’s not either/or. You must keep the execs AND the fickle public happy. I’ll take my chances that my decades of proven experience can keep the public demanding what I produce. So far my track record is quite good.

  67. 67
    Paula says:

    I used to have a rule — if I like three songs on a particular album, I’ll spend money buy the actual disc.

    There’s so much music now – including bloggers’ home-made zip file playlists – that I can’t pay attention to more than one or two songs unless I’ve made it a specific goal to listen to an artist more closely. Those one or two songs were usually not purchased — again, zip files or artists themselves making it available as a preview to the full-length.

    I still purchase music, but I make it a point to wait for sales or used copies. If I really like an artist, I’ll definitely buy a new record because when I get excited enough about something I can’t wait the year or 2 it’s gonna take for it to show up used; for used copies, I’m pretty sure I’m supporting only the brick and mortar record store where I buy them.

    Probably, my worst habit is CDs from the library. That being said, the library’s “obscure” music is kind of delimited by, say, Sleater-Kinney or Fleet Foxes. Most of time, I use the library the get classic records that I need to check out but I’m not sure whether I’ll like them — like Stones or Bowie or or Jay Z and Biggie. At that point, I cease to worry that I’m ripping off millionaire estates.

    But even then, if I really love a record, I’ll eventually have to buy my own copy (esp since something like Joy Division should be listened to in the best recording possible).

  68. 68
    handsmile says:

    @Brachiator:

    THIS! THIS! THIS! I actually shouted out loud while reading your comment. In fact, you’re reopening old wounds…

    To think of the blissful hours I spent browsing, discovering, conversing, in the classical music department of Tower Records at Broadway/67th Street or the jazz section at J&R Music in lower Manhattan…

    At Tower, I once had a conversation with pianist Peter Serkin, not more than a half-hour after hearing him perform with the NY Philharmonic. Trumpeter Dave Douglas and I saw each other so often at J&R that we began to exchange greetings. The staff at Tower varied widely in terms of musical knowledge and enthusiasm, while those at J&R were uniformly mavens.

    Since their respective closing/contractions during the past ten years, I believe I am much less informed and perhaps less inquisitive about new artists/new recordings. (Fortunately I still hear a lot of live music, but more often than not, it’s musicians I’m already familiar with.)

    I have yet to find a comparable or even adequate substitute on the Intertubes.

  69. 69
    Paula says:

    I used to have a rule — if I like three songs on a particular album, I’ll spend money buy the actual disc.

    There’s so much music now – including bloggers’ home-made playlists – that I can’t pay attention to more than one or two songs unless I’ve made it a specific goal to listen to an artist more closely. Those one or two songs were usually not purchased — again, zip files or artists themselves making it available as a preview to the full-length.

    I still purchase music, but I make it a point to wait for sales or used copies. If I really like an artist, I’ll definitely buy a new record because when I get excited enough about something I can’t wait the year or 2 it’s gonna take for it to show up used; for used copies, I’m pretty sure I’m supporting only the brick and mortar record store where I buy them.

    Probably, my worst habit is CDs from the library. That being said, the library’s “obscure” music is kind of delimited by, say, Sleater-Kinney or Fleet Foxes. Most of time, I use the library the get classic records that I need to check out but I’m not sure whether I’ll like them — like Stones or Bowie or or Jay Z and Biggie. At that point, I cease to worry that I’m ripping off millionaire estates.

    But even then, if I really love a record, I’ll eventually have to buy my own copy (esp since something like Joy Division should be listened to in the best recording possible).

  70. 70
    Paula says:

    I used to have a rule — if I like three songs on a particular album, I’ll spend money to buy the actual disc.

    There’s so much music now – including bloggers’ home-made playlists – that I can’t pay attention to more than one or two songs unless I’ve made it a specific goal to listen to an artist more closely. Those one or two songs were usually not purchased — again, zip files or artists themselves making it available as a preview to the full-length.

    I still purchase music, but I make it a point to wait for sales or used copies. If I really like an artist, I’ll definitely buy a new record because when I get excited enough about something I can’t wait the year or 2 it’s gonna take for it to show up used; for used copies, I’m pretty sure I’m supporting only the brick and mortar record store where I buy them.

    Probably, my worst habit is CDs from the library. That being said, the library’s “obscure” music is kind of delimited by, say, Sleater-Kinney or Fleet Foxes. Most of time, I use the library the get classic records that I need to check out but I’m not sure whether I’ll like them — like Stones or Bowie or Jay Z and Biggie. At that point, I cease to worry that I’m ripping off millionaire estates.

    But even then, if I really love a record, I’ll eventually have to buy my own copy (esp since something like Joy Division should be listened to in the best recording possible).

  71. 71
    different-church-lady says:

    “I’ll make you a tape” — says it all. Hand crafted flirtation device.

  72. 72
    Maude says:

    The online library catalog still uses the Dewey Decimal System. It’s easier to use.

  73. 73
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Either way you don’t need one. Produce yourself. Such gutter acts as Rush have done so quite nicely.

    This would come as quite a surprise to Terry Brown, Peter Collins, Rupert Hine and Nick Raskulinecz.

  74. 74
    Brachiator says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Re-rip your CDs again, to FLAC or Apple Lossless. And yes, cables matter.

    The impression I get from many tech podcasts is that there is a generation of folk who see owning music, even as MP3s, as hopelessly antiquated. And CDs and even vinyl are as ridiculously ancient as an old Victrola.

    They use Spotify, Rdio and other streaming services because it gives them wide access to all the music they think that they could ever want. Having the music in the cloud and available on any device, with occasional downloads,is the most important thing. They are willing to compromise on, or don’t care about, the best possible audio quality.

    BTW, you are very right when you note that, despite the huge amount of music available online, there is much great stuff (heck, even middling but good stuff) that is not available.

    @handsmile:

    Thanks much for the kind words.

    What you write about the Tower in Manhattan reminds me of the Tower on Sunset (and the separate classical annex). It was not unusual to see a musician wander in after a set at a nearby club and actually talk music with customers, not just do an ego preen or hand out an autograph.

    I’ve noticed that people will do google hangouts and similar communal get togethers involving pro and amateur photographers, but I am not sure that there is much similar over music. But even here, it is not for me as much fun as being able to walk into a music store where you know it is likely that knowledgeable and passionate music lovers will regularly be available.

  75. 75
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    @handsmile:

    I have yet to find a comparable or even adequate substitute on the Intertubes.

    I don’t get this at all.

    One of my penchants, for example, is indie psychedelica acts. Between Internet radio, subscription services, googling up CD reviews, and attending live shows, I’ve built up a healthy database of great acts no one has ever heard of that I can track online to see, say, what Group X has recently released or what those members have gone on to that I can check out. Sure, I’ve found a few acts new to me through the brick-and-mortar route, but that was never a reliable source, and I’d say I haven’t stepped out of my home to CD shop for the better part of a decade. Plus, you can freaking get in touch with any band you want to, if the artists are receptive to some fan interaction. (One of my favorite of such act, NY/NJ’s The Lost Patrol, is a band with whom I “pal around” with regularly on FB, and who knows I love them to pieces, even though I’ll never be able to see them perform unless I time a coastal visit with one of their live shows [which I ain’t ruled out, finances willing].) (ETA: Also, too, I got to help them finance their last release through Kickstarter.)

    If you possess the curiousity to know what is out there that could be of interest to you, your repertoire need never stagnate.

  76. 76
    The Moar You Know says:

    @J. Michael Neal: First album, the last several live albums (those were actually all on Lifeson’s overworked head) and Vapor Trails.

    They should have mastered Vapor Trails themselves as well, the mastering house, as you no doubt know, made an example of that album’s loudness that still stands to this day.

    Nick Raskulinecz has done a hell of a job for them, that guy can do drum sounds like few I’ve ever heard.

  77. 77
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    @Brachiator:

    They are willing to compromise on, or don’t care about, the best possible audio quality.

    320kps streaming is WAY more than adequate for the means through which most people listen to tunes, i.e., ear buds (shudder) or PCs with stock sound cards.

    That said, I’m a member of an online headphone appreciation site, and I can tell you that the digital age has hardly killed off audiophiles. There is quite a community out there willing to spend big for the best possible lossless sound experience.

    But to my ears, with the equipment I can afford, anything over 256k is overkill, the wee bit of remaining difference is just lost on me, especially as all my listening time is when I’m multitasking, working on my photos (digital photos, natch).

  78. 78
    someofparts says:

    @raven:

    not only Wuxtry but

    http://www.waxnfacts.com/

    still rolling along

  79. 79
    wasabi gasp says:

    What happened to Balloon Juice’s music blogger? Haven’t seen him post in a long time.

  80. 80
    What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us? says:

    I spent half my youth browsing indie record shops, book stores, and video rental stores. All of that is gone here in DC. My home town still has the independent record store(Vertigo Music – still great) and I visit every time I go. They say business has picked up again since people are back into vinyl. What do kids do these days to be around other kids?

  81. 81
    burnspbesq says:

    @Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn:

    Everybody’s mileage varies. I realize that not everybody can afford a $4K desktop, computer-based audio system, and some people haven’t had the life experience (in my case, playing instruments beginning at age 6) that enables them to appreciate the difference. I’d love to have you over some time and blow your mind with what can be done.

  82. 82
    different-church-lady says:

    @Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn:

    320kps streaming is WAY more than adequate for the means through which most people listen to tunes, i.e., ear buds (shudder) or PCs with stock sound cards.
    That said, I’m a member of an online headphone appreciation site, and I can tell you that the digital age has hardly killed off audiophiles.

    Bufucation was true back when the world of music listeners was divided between those with transistor radios and those with hi-fi’s, and it will probably always be true. The gap between fidelity of production and fidelity of delivery can be huge. Commercially they’re two completely separate market segments that are only linked by the fact that the same music might be reproduced on both.

  83. 83
    Brachiator says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Nice piece of trolling. And it is trolling, because anyone with a working brain knows that the digital revolution touched a lot more than the ability to download from one’s favorite torrent site.

    I never troll. Never. Ever. I got better things to do with my time.

    I have no patience for people who are afraid to think, or afraid to engage and who stupidly impugn people’s motives.

    I never mentioned anything about torrents or piracy, so I have no idea what point you think you are making. I see this as an issue, but not the heart of the dilemma facing artists and musicians.

    But I do know working musicians and composers (my brother is one), and I have done a crapton of tax work for various artists.

    On the other hand, I got no great love for the corporate music industry.

    But I mentioned Kate Bush because in a recent interview, she talked about how she would prefer to work in her studio and then release her work. For whatever reason, she greatly prefers not to make public appearances. I have no idea how much she spends on her studio or whether she has more than one laptop. But your presumed response to her, “tough cookies, do live performances or die” is not an answer for her. Might work for you, but not for her.

    And your dislike of how much of the music industry operates does seem to be in sync with the expectations of an upcoming generation of music, book and film fans (see the Screen Time podcast, Cinematic Industrial Complex, for an example of this).

    Here, the expectation, the demand, is that artists absolutely must give their work away, and make their money performing and “branding,” doing shit from selling t-shirts and other novelty items to kissing the asses of fans through personal appearances so that they feel special and connected to the artist.

    I also find it interesting how vehement some people are about wanting to pay no more than $10 a month for services like Spotify, who by their own words, note that they simply do not care whether the musicians they claim to love end up getting a sufficient amount of money from this revenue stream.

    And then you have “Internet Must Be Free” evangelists like Jeff Jarvis who happily proclaims that artists should make less money as the costs of making art declines and the number of people who can supposedly make and distribute art increases because of tech advances.

    And as I note, a side effect of this is that these music lovers actively oppose the idea that royalties or publishing rights should even exist. I find this ironic since in the bad old days, cheating musicians out of royalties and publishing kept musicians poor and music executives rich.

    And I do know this: a dear friend, her mother and her sister were able to live a better life because of song royalties that they received after their father died. But in this brave new world that some want to see, this revenue stream would simply not exist, and there would be little or nothing to replace or substitute for it.

    And the bottom line is that if artists can make a good living under the new model, then no one could rationally object. And I have noted before and in this thread how craven and stupid the entertainment industry is and continues to be. But I also see how craven “fans” can be and how their insistence that they should be entertained at little or no cost to them can work against artists.

  84. 84
    NobodySpecial says:

    @Brachiator:

    And the bottom line is that if artists can make a good living under the new model, then no one could rationally object. And I have noted before and in this thread how craven and stupid the entertainment industry is and continues to be. But I also see how craven “fans” can be and how their insistence that they should be entertained at little or no cost to them can work against artists.

    The new model, it’s true, does limit the ability to become a jet plane riding, pile of coke higher than your head rock star.

  85. 85
    the dude says:

    High Fidelity: read the book, saw the movie, bought the CD, bought the DVD, read the book again recently, thinking about watching the movie again.

    I never thought that shifting the setting from London to Chicago changed anything significant in the story, and I liked the portrayals by Rob Cusack, Jack Black, etc (although I wasn’t that fussed on the actor playing the girlfriend).

    For a book/movie set in the mid/late 90s the musical references were (generally) a bit too much ‘safe’ late 60’s and late 70s, however. Prolly reflecting the author’s taste more than the yoof of the time. “Imma start DJing again!” the hero declares, and opens a club and spins … “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison IIRC.

  86. 86
    nobadcats says:

    Another good example of a film from the early 90s which didn’t become available until just recently “Dogs in Space.” And its soundtrack is still unobtainium unless you have ways and ways of tracking those random tracks and bands down.

    Ah, the internets.

  87. 87
    Warren says:

    @Brachiator: Er…you do know that Kate Bush now makes her albums in her own home studio under her own control, thereby making The Moar You Know right and you wrong, correct?

  88. 88
    Warren says:

    @Warren: @Warren: FYWP didn’t let me edit this comment in time. I meant to say “now” in the sense that Kate has been recording primarily in a fully-equipped home studio since the days of The Dreaming, and has been recording there pretty much exclusively for the last couple decades.

  89. 89
    Warren says:

    I will say one thing about the movie that has turned out to be prescient: the two kids Rob discovers at the end of the movie, who have synthesized a wide variety of sounds that musicians of Rob’s generation wouldn’t have thought of putting together. The most interesting thing about the indie scene of the last 5-10 years is that since the concept of Out Of Print no longer exists, multiple decades and multiple styles of music are there for the plundering. Right this second, I’m listening to a download I was just sent by a band called Popstrangers. Don’t know a thing about them yet, but I know I like the fact that the singer sounds startlingly like late ’60s Ray Davies — like, exactly — in an otherwise modern indiepop context. I just find that cool.

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