Whether George is interviewing a musician, encouraging you Drop a Disc, mentioning a great new band or reveling in the talent of a pioneer of the Delta blues like David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards - music and the joy in the discovery, celebration and sharing the love of music is an ever present force. Of course, not only on The Hour, but each Sunday night on the Strombo Show.
The most resonant discussions are often those that focus not as much on the musician’s art, how they express their passion in song or even what informs their process. It’s often the unexpected conversation about family and their passions outside of music – especially humanitarian efforts. Raine and Chantal’s WarChild experiences, RZA’s commitment to becoming a Chess Grand Master or perhaps Dave Grohl’s effusive conversations about fatherhood that are most compelling.
Interviews this week past featuring Sheryl Crowe, John Cusack and George's plug for a very cool CBC Radio3 initiative triggered this post. I also rewatched High Fidelity - John Cusack’s amazing 2000 film based on the Nick Hornby novel.
In a candid moment on Monday, Sheryl spoke to the question of censorship of art and addressed her battle with Walmart. The retailer refused to carry her self titled disc based on their objection to lyrics critical of their liberal gun sale policies "Watch our children as they kill each other with a gun they bought at Wal-Mart discount stores." She refused to compromise and they didn’t carry the album – forfeiting countless sales. Years ago Nirvana changed a song title on ‘In Utero’ from “Rape Me" to "Waif Me" for their Wal-Mart version. A big deal? Yes. Sadly, the Big Box influence is massive.
So to John Cusack and High Fidelity…a flick centred on a 30 something indie record store owner with an eclectic clientele and quirky/rude/musically elitist employees. Who didn’t love this exchange between Barry (Jack Black’s character) and an unsuspecting customer?
Customer: Hi, do you have the song “I Just Called to Say I Love You?” It’s for my daughter’s birthday.
Barry: Yeah, we have it.
Customer: Great, great – can I have it?
Barry: No, no – you can’t.
Customer: Why not?
Barry: Well, it’s sentimental tacky crap. Do we look like the kind of store that sells I Just Called to Say I Love You? Go to the Mall.”
Yes.. a shameless segue to tell you about a competition on CBC Radio 3. Through ‘Searchlight’ they are on a quest to find the best independent record store in Canada. Click HERE to see if your local shop is on the top 10 and vote. On April 9th the top 5 vote getters will be announced and will battle it out until International Record Store Day on Saturday, April 19th.
You may be thinking… International Record Store Day? Who buys records anymore? Why should I care? I download all my music. Might I suggest that YOU are missing out. Check out the website for events and participating retailers in your area.
I still choose to buy CD's. I love the tangible nature, the sound quality is superior to downloads, they often have great art and my favourite thing ever - liner notes. I am a liner note fanatic. I also choose to pay for my music through retail or from the numerous merch tables I've haunted over the years. With friends and family who make their living from music I do my part by going to live shows and buying discs - particularly those of emerging artists who may just be getting started. It's critical to pay for music from artists you truly love who may have been around but haven't achieved the mainstream commercial success they deserve.
Once a week, I receive an e-newsletter from friends who own a great indie music store called Cheeky Monkey in Sarnia Ontario. The newsletter is put together with great care and love... it tells me who's releasing new stuff, who's playing live across Ontario and Michigan. Indie stores also have some amazing in store events that you should check out. Cheeky Monkey has a great mutimedia event with acclaimed photojournalist Larry Towell coming up on April 25th. I bet YOUR local store always has something amazing going on!
Cheeky Monkey’s owners are a great couple - passionate, supportive of emerging artists and above all - they KNOW music. They care if you like what you buy unlike people at chains where the person behind the counter couldn't tell you shit unless they can 'find it on the computer'. If the artist or music isn't listed on the magical computer it must not be worthy of your time. NOT the case as a true music lover can tell you... the joy is in the discovery of something new or different. Something real. Something truly inspired.
You can decompress by having a wander through your local indie shop, have a passionate debate or dialogue about music, compare notes on what shows you’ve just seen and what shows you're off to next. It's a community within a community.
Electronic distribution of music is the new normal and I do find new faves online. Friends from around the world turn me on to new sounds via Myspace and Facebook. Still, I can't think of a better way to spend some rare free moments than by browsing around a real record store.
Big box stores are increasingly getting involved in exclusive marketing deals with big name artists. This move hurts indie stores and the bottom line of their businesses - the very people who've promoted and pushed their merchandise for decades. They also make it tougher for smaller artists to make their mark and deprive people who crave something other than the mainstream. One such deal with The Eagles' last release where independent stores could not carry the disc for a year was a perfect example. The realities of retail – especially for indie stores is they do have to carry and move some mainstream stuff that is perhaps not their cup of tea.
So – check out and buy from your local indie shops and support live music… get off your laptops for a while - It’s worth the effort.
Nick Hornby - Author of High Fidelity says it so well...
I couldn’t agree more. How about YOU? What new discoveries have you made at your local shop lately? Is buying music passé? Share your thoughts …and don’t stop sharing your love of music.
"Yes, yes, I know. It's easier to download music, and probably cheaper. But what's playing on your favourite download store when you walk into it? Nothing, that's what. Who are you going to meet in there? Nobody. Where are the notice boards offering flatshares and vacant slots in bands destined for superstardom? Who's going to tell you to stop listening to that and start listening to this? Go ahead and save yourself a couple of quid. The saving will cost you a career, a set of cool friends, musical taste and, eventually, your soul. Record stores can't save your life. But they can give you a better one."