On the Goe: Record Store Day can restore industry soul
In ridiculous music news, have you heard about the release plans for the upcoming Wu-Tang Clan album?
For its new, secretly recorded double album “The Wu — Once Upon A Time In Shaolin,” the Staten Island rap crew has commissioned a silversmith known as Yahya to hammer out an intricate north African style silver and nickel box. This one-of-a-kind creation will contain the one and only pressing of “The Wu.”
That’s right, they’re only selling one copy, and for an unknown million-dollar sum you could own it and the glitzy box.
It’s a publicity stunt, but it’s also a desperate move designed to change the way music is perceived. The Wu-Tang Clan wants you to see its music as a culturally significant, valuable art form (like a Van Gogh original) and not what it’s been reduced to: worthless digital garbage inhabiting your hard drive.
The idea of producing and selling only one copy of an album is entertaining, but totally unsustainable and unrealistic as an adaptable model for the struggling music industry. Love or hate the Wu-Tang Clan, it is just another musical group trying to add value to an increasingly marginalized art form.
Ever since the birth of the digital era, the monetized value of music basically has been reduced to zero. In fact, since 1999 the whole process of consuming music has become less and less personal, degrading to the point where many consumers prefer to interact with a complex computer algorithm (Pandora, Spotify) than an actual human being.
The interpersonal relationship that has made people fall in love with bands and songs has been replaced by a high-speed Internet connection and gigabytes of free hard drive space, forcing musicians such as those of the Wu-Tang Clan to extreme measures just to sell an album.
The digital age era has set the music industry up for failure because it has made every interaction so impersonal. Streaming music, digital music stores, corporate radio and the touring structure all cater to the top 1 percent of pop music without giving second thought to the other 99 percent of the industry. By doing so, they’ve created a generic wasteland that discourages creativity and simply isn’t engaging for many music fans.
The sales numbers indicate that a new direction is necessary, and a radical shift needs to take place.
That radical idea is here and it is called Record Store Day.
A revelation for the music business, Record Store Day restores the soul of the industry. One day a year music fans come out in droves to comb through bins of vinyl, geek out over rare finds and celebrate the culture of music. The success of Record Store Day shows the undeniable relationship between consumers and musicians. That strength is not online or isolated between a pair of ear buds, it’s found locally at the record store or at the local music venue, anywhere people are coming together in the name of music.
“Record stores offer a place where you go to catch a vibe and experience the love of the music,” said Record Store Day Ambassador Chuck D of Public Enemy.
He’s right. It’s about the only place left to find any meaningful music connection.
On this Record Store Day, Triple Play Records will be the place to be on Saturday, April 19. You probably wont find the aforementioned Wu-Tang album there, but you can gorge on special premiums from the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Animals, Bastille, Jake Bugg, Chvrches and Tame Impala, and maybe talk to the shop owners and other customers about what they really like.
The real kicker this year is Triple Play’s official after party at Barons will feature a ton of our own local talent. Dusty Thunders, Wavebaby and Willie DeFord and Friends are all scheduled to play this gimmick-free celebration of music and community.
A record store is a place to discover something that isn’t systematically chosen for you, a place to form a meaningful relationship with fellow music fans. It’s where the future lives.
Ironic, as record stores were pronounced dead only a few years ago.