A while back I mentioned that I prefer small, curated record shops to big, expansive ones. Tara wanted to know why. Well, here you go!
This is the store front of the (almost) original Rough Trade. It’s in Kensington and is tiny. I first visited it in 2001 and was suitably gob smacked. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, and I promptly spent all my money on records to haul back to Berkeley. Thankfully they threw in a record bag because there was no way I could carry it all home with me otherwise.
Despite the shop being small and cramped, everything in there was class. I felt safe buying things I wasn’t familiar with because I trusted the people who stocked the shop. This has been true for lots of other small shops I’ve grown to love – Phono Select, 1234 Go!, Mississippi Records, Vinyl Conflict, and Smash Records are but a few.
They’re not like the Amoebas or Towers (RIP), that try to be all things to all people. They stick with a small vein and go deep, which makes them more useful for my interests and collecting. I don’t want to sift through cheap copies of Phil Collins or Pete Seeger albums when I really just want 60s garage, punk, or garage punk.
This is the same reason people like special collections. My library just cares about transportation. Nothing else. We focus on the subject and make sure we have the quality material researchers want and need. We know the subject intimately well. So when people ask us about concrete, I can speak a little to it (sort of like when people ask me about synthpop), but really cannot speak from an area of expertise. Our collection is not very robust in that area. However, if you want to get into traffic flow theory, I can bring out some deep tracks.
So in short – I like curated record shops for the reasons I like special libraries. They’re cared for, there’s a lot of trust, and saves time digging through junk.
People have been saying piracy is killing the music industry. Sorry Lars, but the RIAA is killing the music industry. Remember – innovate or die. It’s just like ebooks! Here’s something new linked from ebook primer: “Does Piracy Impact Sales? Not How You Might Think!”. It discuses a new report from the European Commission Joint Research Centre, “Digital Music Consumption on the Internet: Evidence from Clickstream Data.” From the article:
In the end, the study reported “no evidence of digital music sales displacement” from piracy. If anything, there seemed to be a “rather small complementarity between these two music consumption channels.” The report explains that this comes from the theory that piracy of some music with a low perceived value that would never have been purchased anyway creates a consumer surplus that can be used to purchase music with a high perceived value. Another surprising find was that legal streaming of digital music had a “somewhat larger” impact on digital music purchases.What might this mean for our consideration of ebooks? Even though music and books are different in some aspects, they would both fall under what the report refers to as an “experience good” so I believe we can (at least cautiously) extrapolate the findings of this report to ebooks. A perennial issue in conversations with the Big Six is the displacement of sales due to library lending. At times, it even seems that the Big Six view library patrons as ebook pirates, so let us then embrace this study’s findings, which show a lack of sales displacement. In fact, libraries are much more similar to the legal music streaming services discussed in the report—and those streaming services stimulated sales.
Music streaming options have really increased the money I spend on music. So much that I am actively weeding my records. This is a real phenomenon. Trust the consumer and give them a good product, they will value it and spend money. Get on it publishers. “
I know that music streaming services like MOG have really sparked me to buy records like mad. So much so that I have to weed. Publishers, if you treat your consumers like humans and not criminals, and you make it easy for them to pay and consume, they will do it. Roadblocks and treating them like thugs really devalues your product.
Confession: I think we need to think beyond catalogs and cataloging. So I get tired when people try to get me to care about RDA but use super old school cataloging terms, talking about obstacles for their workflow and not focusing on how it’s going to impact users or why we should care. That’s not selling the message.
Listening to a lot of people, it seems like RDA will either destroy catalogs or turn them into magical rainbow fountains. It probably won’t do either. That’s fine.
So I asked my good friend and resident cataloging guru Chris Zammarelli do explain it to me like a human. He came up with the tweetable RDA rules:
I turned these in to a slap dash zine made out of old shelf-list cards.
I’ll probably give these another go when I am at home and have gauche.
You know I can stop reading and writing about the music industry. It’s sort of insnae and a decent cautionary tale for other forms of publishing, like print and scholarly. It doesn’t hurt that I love records.
One of my favourite ways to spend lunch is hanging out at Amoeba Records in Berkeley. They’re a good store (though I’m finding my tastes are trending to smaller, more curated shops… but that’s another blog post), local, and trying to survive. I dig ‘em. Recently they launched Vinyl Vaults to stream and sell old records that are out of copyright. Sounds like a cool idea, right? Yes. Except it sounds like they’re being sort of sloppy:
On the face of it, it’s a good idea, making music that might have otherwise lingered unplayed in the back room widely available and preserving it in a lossless format. As Amoeba say: “Vinyl is the ultimate expression of an artist’s work, and we’re doing our best to preserve our history!”
However, the store’s approach to the rights and profits of the Vinyl Vaults material is a more knotty issue. For the most part, Amoeba have been able to establish the rights-owners of the music; however, for those they couldn’t find, any profits from sales have been put into an escrow account, which the rights-owners can access if they approach the store.
Through putting in place the escrow system, it appears as though Amoeba have sought to establish themselves as the de-facto owners of the music. By doing so, they ignore the well-established process of re-releasing music that a host of dedicated reissue imprints have been practising for years, and are also taking profit from the sales, payment that gets shared only when and – perhaps more crucially – if the actual owners come forward.
There are labels out there who specialize in licensing and reissuing records, which isn’t really all that lucrative to begin with. Amoeba is becoming a defacto label without doing a lot of the legwork to keep it all legal.
The real question though… who’s going to sue Aomeba? They are skirting copyright law. Part of me thinks, “Good on them! The laws are nebulous and vague and hold us all back.” Another part is thinking, “Damn, that’s ballsy and dumb.”
We’ll see out it plays out.
Transportation signage is often pretty good because it has to be. People need to get from A to B without crashing or getting lost. Some agencies, like Transport for London and the New York MTA, have really made signage an art form. Here’s an old sign from Euston that’s simple and direct. Love it. (Also love this song “Euston Station” by Betty and the Werewolves.)
Recently I’ve been frustrated way too often with poor communicators. Especially myself. In my head it’s all so clear… but when I try to articulate it to others it all falls apart. It’s really hard to take thoughts from your brain and coherently assemble them for others to enjoy. It’s a skill and an art.
As such… it takes practice. Blogging, tweeting, writing meeting minutes. Whatever. You gotta work at it.
If you want to get started in blogging, read blogs. Why do you like some and not others? Do the authors actually get their point across. Why do you want to do it? I’m assuming for engagement of some kind, and probably a lot of broadcasting. But really… you’re wasting your time if you don’t at least try to reach an audience. (I think Andy Woodworth has some good tips for getting started.)
Remember, you want to make it clear to humans. Humans are ultimately supposed to digest your words and pictures, so make them want to. Don’t go out of your way to freak them out. If you’re having trouble getting your thoughts out, step back and outline or diagram. Be up front you’re struggling, but be open to questions. We’re all struggling and being human.