Regarding Lou Levy’s Lunarcy CD reviewed on March 5 (scroll down), a Rifftides reader who identifies himself as Fergus wrote:
You might ask Universal why Lunarcy isn’t available on iTunes in the US as it is elsewhere.
The Rifftides staff passed that suggestion on to Universal publicist Regina Joskow. She said that she, in turn, would relay it to the appropriate folks at the record company. I added a suggestion that Universal, which encompasses Verve, also reissue the Levy CD. Ms. Joskow’s reply encapsulates the dilemma that faces record companies and, therefore, listeners unable or unwilling to substitute digital downloads for compact discs.
As you can imagine, it becomes far more challenging to release something physically as there are minimum quantities that have to be manufactured. Sadly, fewer and fewer music retailers exist, ESPECIALLY ones that care about jazz. The demise of Tower Records was a huge blow to the jazz industry as it accounted for such a huge portion of our business. Now that Circuit City is gone and Virgin is on its way out, things are looking even more grim. While Borders and Barnes & Noble still sell music, Borders is not doing well and it looks as though they’re going back to their core business of book selling. Amazon is a wonderful account, but one usually shops on Amazon with a particular title in mind. It’s so sad. My record collection is largely built on spur-of-the-moment purchases that took place in the aisles of Tower. “Oh, Bobby Timmons? I really like his work with Art Blakey…maybe I should check out this album…” and so on. I’m sure you’re more than familiar with the phenom. And suddenly, your house is taken over by records.
I know I probably sound like a curmudgeon, but it bothers me that my kids’ experience of obtaining music is largely relegated to shopping on iTunes. In truth, they do borrow liberally from my music library, but I remember those days of lying on the living room floor, reading liner notes, memorizing lyrics, and just staring at beautiful album covers. I’m sorry my kids won’t replicate that experience, but I guess I shouldn’t impose my values on them. It all just makes me a little sad.
Eric Hines says
Nothing wrong with a little nostalgia, but wouldn’t a bit of brainstorming on what can be done to improve the online business be a bit more to the point. Certainly we can’t depend on the record companies for that. The online music business as we know it today was defined by . . . a computer company!
Why’d that happen–because everyone in the music biz waxed nostalgic or bitched while someone else changed the world.
Art? Context? Biographical info? All these things are MORE available now, not less. And yes, you have to go out to get them, but you had to actually read the liner notes, as well.
The browsing experience is hard to duplicate, but I think a pretty decent analogue should have been developed by now . . . if more resources were dedicated to earnestly working on the problem.
I find that music fans today are about as well informed about the artists they care about as my friends and I were once upon a time. And certainly a young music fans today have a FAR broader palate than I did as a youngster.
One thing that I think has happened over the years is that music is no longer the central medium for young folks cultural experience. In the 1960s music defined people’s identities. No other medium was remotely as important. And so a lot of people who were only casually in music qua music became huge fans of music as a vehicle for counter-cultural identity.
Today, there seems to be an element of the hip-hop world that places an equal cultural emphasis on music, but for the most part music is just a branch of show biz, today. Movies seem to be the most important medium these days.
The 25 years or so after WWII were a high point in music’s cultural influence, not a benchmark. Kind of like comparing the 1930s to the 1920s.
So, while part of the music biz’s woes are due to historical changes beyond its control, they’ve done an extremely poor job of recognizing the transition and responding to it.
Things needn’t be as bad as they are today, if only the business had thought hard about both the change in medium and the change in status (most people today simply don’t care enough about music to pay very much for it).
I should have introduced myself properly: Fergus Barrowman, of Wellington, New Zealand. By trade I’m a book publisher, so I know all about the difficulties of producing modest runs in a world in which more and more books are being published and selling fewer and fewer copies (except for the few that sell more than ever). As a jazz fan, I’m lucky that we’ve had three CD stores with good jazz sections (Parsons Books & Music, Slow Boat and Real Groovy, for anyone passing through), but even at their best they can offer only a tiny slice of what’s potentially available, so I’m loving legal downloads. The Net offers very acceptable versions of browsing, too: I can read about Lunarcy on Rifftides and be listening to it 10 minutes later. There’s still a frustration with territorial restrictions, of course.