A couple of weeks ago, I responded to an interview request from London-based Record Of The Day. They publish a digest of music industry news, in PDF format. These weekly newsletters go out to paid subscribers only- not casual jerkoffs, but industry insiders who have a tangible interest in the content. It was an email interview, so I considered it a perfect opportunity to voice my opinions on (and concern for) the music industry in a greater depth than I’ve done so far here, and be sure that it would make it into the ears of the people who might actually be able to do something constructive with the insight.
What I’m posting here today is the uncut version, as I delivered it. I find it interesting that a particularly damning paragraph- on how a certain major record distribution company dropped the ball- was cut from the published version. I put a little red box around it. There was a large amount of dead, blank space after my interview, so I can’t imagine it was to save paper.
UPDATE 7/9: Record Of The Day dropped me a line this morning, and stated that the “censored” paragraph simply “went on too long and sounded like it was an ad for [my] company,” in their opinion.
I purposely avoided mentioning the company I work for by name to avoid that; furthermore, I’m simply a salaried employee and would have nothing to gain or lose either way. But I understand their position.
Record Of The Day also stated for the record: “In no way was it censorship, in support of major labels. We are a fiercely independent company and our only allegiance is to ourselves. We pride ourselves, in fact, on being neutral towards the industry here, only offering up comment when we feel there’s a strong need.”
First journalism / music-related job:
Not that it counts, but when I was 18 or so, I started a “record label” with a friend in Philadelphia. We knew very little about running any sort of business at all, let alone running a record label. But we helped a few local electronic / dance acts record and release some albums, and we would go around to the high schools collecting email addresses to send updates out to. We never had a chance of even starting to earn any kind of return on our many capricious investments, but we did have a pretty advanced website, and this was 1998 or 1999.
My first (and surely last) “real” gig in the major label music industry was with Universal Music & Video Distribution, where I did graphic design for their new media department. I was grossly underpaid, but I loved the environment and the people I worked with.
Do you still go to record stores and buy vinyl / CDs?
I go to Amoeba Records in Hollywood a lot. I’ll spend $200 or $300 each visit, easy. Always vinyl though, only vinyl. It’s not that I’m an analog snob, but you just can’t download a record. CDs are digital, thus 100% transmittable without quality loss. The only real value left in CDs is in the packaging and sentimentalism. And vinyl not only has better, more substantial packaging, but it’s cheaper- and rarer- than CD. CDs are the worst of both worlds. Which brings me directly to the next question:
A recent trend which I’ve been enjoying is:
Artists doing more with existing formats. Packaging DVDs with CDs. Trent Reznor providing the multi-track files for his songs so fans can remix them. Embracing new ideas. Physical albums don’t have to die, if they can evolve.
A trend I have less time for is:
That unholy warbling auto-tune side-effect in all the hit hip-hop & pop singles!
The music that’s exciting me at the moment is:
Monday I saw a clip of Nine Inch Nails doing the song 1,000,000, live at rehearsal. You can check it out on Antiquiet. I was already casually acquainted with the song, but this performance was intense. That definitely excited me. The newest Electric Six album, entitled I Will Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master, is pretty damn exciting. We interviewed Dick Valentine in February- for Valentine’s Day. Him, and Tera Patrick. That was fun.
There’s a relatively unknown band called The Builders And The Butchers that I love. Let’s say Bob Dylan and Grace Slick had a child. Who was then raised by Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn. Who then picked a band off a street corner in Mexico. In 1929. Well, they would probably sound something like The Builders And The Butchers. We’re interviewing them today.
The best thing about my job is:
I’m nobody. I have nothing to lose. I don’t have to worry about not covering my bottom line and losing my job. I can take risks, and explore new opportunities the internet provides almost daily. I don’t know what the future holds. But I know I’ll be there.
The best interview we did recently was:
Johnny Firecloud, our head writer, did an interview with Joe Purdy. He’s an independent, unsigned artist here in Los Angeles. It was the first in-depth one Joe had ever done, and his camp has been passing the link around like crazy, using it as a bio of sorts.
Johnny said Joe was the coolest, most down to earth guy he ever talked to.
“To date, he’s sold more than half a million single paid downloads, and his song Can’t Get It Right Today has likely been all over your TV in Kia ads and on Grey’s Anatomy.
The reception has been huge, and the labels are foaming at the mouth to cash in on this would-be-could-be superstar, but Joe’s flatly turned down every offer that’s been made. He releases the records only the way he wants to, and has lucked out like a Vegas champion in the press.”
My worst interview nightmare was:
Oh man, this is an easy one. I did an interview with Page Hamilton of Helmet, when they were doing press for Size Matters. I don’t usually do interviews myself, but my go-to guy bailed at the last second, and I was (and am) too huge of a fan to let the opportunity slip by. But I was completely unprepared. I didn’t even have a tape recorder. It was over the phone and I’m not very good at multitasking, so I was frantically jotting down indecipherable notes by hand while missing half of what he was saying. I’m pretty sure I mixed up song and album names. I choked, hard. He must have thought I was a complete idiot. I had backstage passes at a Helmet show a week or two later, but I snuck out after their set, alone. I was just too embarrassed.
I predict that within five years’ time:
More music will be free. DRM will be dead. Terrestrial radio will be dead. Marketing firms will be starting to look like the new record labels. We’ll see some more experiments: Maybe we’ll have a sponsored album release, with ads printed in the booklets. Maybe free CD advances with audible ads between the tracks. Some experiments will fail miserably. Some won’t. Here’s more.
If I didn’t do this job, I’d…
Be serving Pizza at Lorenzo & Sons at 3rd & South in Philadelphia.
Where are you based?
The Culver City area of Los Angeles. I share an apartment with an amazing woman much too hot for an internet nerd.
What made you start a music website?
I knew I’d ultimately fail at anything I was less passionate about.
Anything to add about your policy for posting music?
My reputation may proceed me. But the bottom line for me is this: I live and breathe marketing by day, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that the best promotion an artist can ever hope to get is a friend or trusted source simply handing a good song or album to someone whom they suspect would be a fan. I take the rise of “illegal” distribution at face value: more people are listening to more music. Meanwhile, dwindling CD sales represents nothing more to me than an obsolete technology losing ground among consumers.