Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can you get me a CD of Armenian death metal? 

Tyler Cowen calls it the extent of the market. Chris Anderson calls it the Long Tail. Tyler points to music as an example, citing Brian Eno.
...go into a record shop and look at the dividers used to separate music into different categories. There used to be about a dozen: rock, jazz, ethnic, and so on. Now there are almost as many dividers as there are records, and they keep proliferating. The category I had a hand in starting�ambient music�has split into a host of subcategories called things like �black ambient,� �ambient dub,� �ambient industrial,� �organic ambient� and 20 others last time I looked. A similar bifurcation has been happening in every other living musical genre (except for �classical� which remains, so far, simply �classical�), and it�s going on in painting, sculpture, cinema and dance.

...As people become increasingly comfortable with drawing their culture from a rich range of sources�cherry-picking whatever makes sense to them�it becomes more natural to do the same thing with their social, political and other cultural ideas.
Glad they still call them 'record shops', but honestly I don't go to them much any more (sad about this since I still like the people at Electric Fetus and miss their selections sometimes.) I did back then, and the joy of finding Here Come the Warm Jets filed right behind Emerson Lake and Palmer is now replaced by Genius lists on iTunes and a podcast of Irish rock I discovered after watching the movie Once. (If you've not used this movie for a night with your one true love, you have an opportunity knocking.)

When I asked Littlest who she's listening to the other night, she gives me a name I never heard of and calls it a "screamo band". What's screamo, I ask? Is it like emo? "Oh Dad, nothing like that." And the arguments over who gets the label are hilarious (I did a Google search for bands that are screamo, and the discussion is entertaining.) So we can expect more and more labels. #1 Son, when consulted, simply said "You've listened to Slayer -- she'd probably like that." He was wrong. My guess is, we'll simply divide the market further.

This goes further and further. Mrs. S asked this morning about personalized trains. Now I remember personal train cars from The Wild Wild West and the Atlas Shrugged, but a whole personal train? I said, this is why we have cars. Panera, not a coffee shop, still manages to have four flavors of coffee (light, dark, flavored, decaf), and we kvetch when the one we want isn't there. But what Eno is describing is that music that we missed out on because Rhino or the Fetus didn't have it -- and you thought they had everything! -- is now ubiquitous. I want to try out for a musical, I want to hear the soundtrack. But not just any soundtrack -- I want the one where so-and-so sang that part. Ten minutes later it's on my iPod, and in 15 I'm humming along and trying to learn the words. And it pretty much doesn't matter which musical I'm describing. I want some Armenian death metal? If I don't know any and there isn't a category, I start with someone nearby like System of a Down and seek similar bands via Pandora. Within an hour, I'd find something close. (note: I do not like metal. Just an example. But I did discover Visa the other night using SoaD, Gogol Bordello and some Armenian folk rock. I'm already addicted.)

Need to grade. I'll have some Bernanke thoughts this evening, please stand by.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Private channel to Chad 

The Tubes were always about sarcastic lyrics. She's a Beauty is off a later album in 1983, eight years after their eponymous The Tubes album. That one includes one of my unheralded greatest hits collection, White Punks on Dope, in which the singer says he would commit suicide if only he could afford the rope. And of course, What Do You Want from Life, which proves just that the Seventies contained the same solipsistic teens as come to my freshman classes today. Here's the finale:
What do you want from life
Someone to love
and somebody that you can trust
What do you want from life
To try and be happy
while you do the nasty things you must

Well, you can't have that, but if you're an American citizen you are entitled to:
  • a heated kidney shaped pool,
  • a microwave oven--don't watch the food cook,
  • a Dyna-Gym--I'll personally demonstrate it in the privacy of your own home,
  • a king-size Titanic unsinkable Molly Brown waterbed with polybendum,
  • a foolproof plan and an airtight alibi,
  • real simulated Indian jewelry,
  • a Gucci shoetree,
  • a year's supply of antibiotics,
  • a personally autographed picture of Randy Mantooth
  • and Bob Dylan's new unlisted phone number,
  • a beautifully restored 3rd Reich swizzle stick,
  • Rosemary's baby,
  • a dream date in kneepads with Paul Williams,
  • a new Matador, a new mastodon,
  • a Maverick, a Mustang, a Montego,
  • a Merc Montclair, a Mark IV, a meteor,
  • a Mercedes, an MG, or a Malibu,
  • a Mort Moriarty, a Maserati, a Mac truck,
  • a Mazda, a new Monza, or a moped,
  • a Winnebago--Hell, a herd of Winnebago's we're giving 'em away, or how about
  • a McCulloch chainsaw,
  • a Las Vegas wedding,
  • a Mexican divorce,
  • a solid gold Kama Sutra coffee pot,
  • or a baby's arm holding an apple?
I'll bet I played that nightly for my first semester in grad school. I have no idea why.

You're right, Chad, She's A Beauty is horrible. It's a good reason not to see the band, which still tours. But at least one Tuber redeemed himself when Fee Waybill brought Rocky Horror to stage.

Let's see if producer Tommy plays this on Saturday.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Why I never watch rock concerts 

...older artists are more likely to price discriminate than their younger peers. Older artists perform in front of more diverse audiences. Young artists, singing to young crowds, acquire a fan base that then follows them throughout their career. Over time, the artist�s audience grows wealthier, and their variability in earnings also increases. In addition, young artists generally do not appeal to older generations, while older artists can appeal to young and old alike. Older artists are more likely to play for a heterogeneous audience and take advantage of this fact by offering more seating categories.
Since you are more able to price discriminate in a larger arena, older acts play the bigger venues. It is my preference to see bands in small (<1000 seat; I am very fond of the Fine Line in Minneapolis or the Paramount here in St. Cloud, for example) places for which I would pay a premium price, but the small arena is going to be all one price, so I won't see them there. There's a period, if you catch them early enough, where you get the cozier venue, but being over 50, I don't hear those new bands I like early enough.

I'm interested: Do my readers like larger venues? If your favorite band is in town, are you deterred by a place that is larger? Bad acoustics? If I can't hear Coldplay well because they're in that crappy cavern called the Target Center, I don't go. Being closer doesn't help the sound, just the sight, and that's not what I'm there for. How about you?

Exit thought: Your opinion on outdoor venues? The Minnesota Zoo has a nice summer concert series where I last saw Susan Tedeschi and the Blind Boys of Alabama. It was exquisite.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Radiohead and music of the year 

I bought my first iPod this past year and started using iTunes. I notice this has changed my buying habits for music. One of my first ventures was to get the Radiohead download of In Rainbows -- for which I paid, and apparently more than the median price they received. Can't say as I'm sorry, as I have to make it my favorite album of 2007. Apparently many people are now buying it in stores, and it's the top CD sale of last week according to the New York Times, reports Jeffrey Tucker. In fact, 122,000 of the CDs sold, says New York magazine.

Why favorite? I'm not sure. Perhaps Thom Yorke got some of his electronica jones from his solo "The Eraser" last year. (If you have iTunes, go get Skip Divided and The Clock. If you like them, buy the rest. My guess is you won't.) "In Rainbows" is really rock, not that anyone who isn't a fan of the band will give a damn about this.

Other CDs issued in 2007 that I liked plenty (no particular order):

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How to die happy 

Chatting with someone last night, we made one of those Man Law things: No watching bands that have tribute bands. For him it was Journey. For me, an old prog-rocker, it was Yes. Not too hard given most of the music had gone downhill the last fifteen years. But I thought, who has a Yes tribute band?

What a story this is. Not only is there one, but they end up getting to play with Steve Howe.
Following the recent highly successful tour of the UK, Belgium and Holland with Steve Howe of Yes, the founder members of Fragile have taken the decision to call time on any band activities for the immediate future. Steve Carney, Jon Bastable, Mitch Harwood and Tom Dawe (who established Fragile in 1998) intend to explore other musical ventures,...

�We view Fragile as a job done. Our recent tour with Steve Howe was a seminal moment that convinced each of us that anything after the tour with Steve would probably fall prey to the law of diminishing returns. We have nothing left to prove and the last show in Holland was a truly defining moment. We would like to extend our genuine thanks and best wishes to everyone who has supported Fragile over the last decade. ...
I'd like to know of other examples of this. They didn't just do it once, they played four shows with Howe, who hasn't been exactly lazing about. As I said to my friend, if you are in a tribute band and the guy you're tributing comes to play with you, isn't that like Costner in For the Love of the Game? Don't you just send the ball to the owner's box and ride off with Kelly Preston now?

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Is there still a use for albums? 

Mitch writes about record stores.
I used to love the feeling you�d get when you�d talk the totally-wasted stoner behind the counter into playing some sample on the house stereo; sliding the record out, dropping the needle, the anticipation as the record rolled toward the start�
I don't even remember the name of the place in Manchester, NH, where I did this, but the manager of the place, who also became the first lead guitarist I played with in a band (first song on stage: "Just What I Needed" by The Cars; God his solo rift was perfect!), probably was the single most responsible person for broadening my horizons of music. Just in the C's besides the Cars I got to listen to the first Elvis Costello album and Chick Corea (why he wasn't sorted into jazz is beyond me), and the Clash.

And it avoided the one-hit wonders; we didn't even make it through the third song of "Get the Knack." Am I better off now for being able to buy My Sharona and nothing else? Well, that's a bad analogy because that song had a half-life about as long as the Vikings' Super Bowl hopes, but I think some bands need time to grow from one song to an album, and if they can sell a song or two on iTunes or promote band dates on MySpace, it may give them the time and finances to see if there's really a band there.

Not that I dislike record stores or albums. The concept album has died, but some albums just seem to flow from song to song, perhaps why I still prefer prog-rock later in my evenings. In economics dissertations the preference is now that everybody writes a set of essays, which become three separate journal articles sometimes even before the dissertation is completed. I think something is lost when a scholar does not connect the chapters of a dissertation into a single thesis, and I think disjointed songs on an album suffer the same fate.

And that is very hard to do. Thus the democratization of recording music -- which is the upshot of the digitization Mitch discusses -- means more and more people producing single songs that work but do not create a line of thought from song to song.

I'm quite devoted still to the Fetus, not least of which for the guy who's worked there forever who seems to talk any genre I'm interested that day. Is it as good as the cut-out and used bins at the Rhino Records in Claremont back in my grad school (and KSPC) days? No, not quite, but close, and that's still very good. And yes, they play samples.

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