All Things to All People Vol. 3 November 15, 2015 18:27
This past week I gave a little lecture / Q&A for an Intro to the Music Industry course at NC State, the college where I teach. I'd actually done this before; I met the professor because Jeff took the class last semester (not that I think Jeff wants to be part of the "music industry" as such, but hey, you gotta take something, right?), and when he heard Jeff worked at a record store he asked me to come speak. It's a weird thing to do, for a number of reasons. First of all, to say that I'm involved in the "music industry" is pretty laughable. I don't make any portion of my income off of music, I have no connections to people who are in the "music industry," and my pathway to where I actually am is so idiosyncratic that I doubt anyone could learn anything useful from it. I decided to structure my talk around the changing place of physical media in the music industry, so I brought a bunch of Sorry State releases to show to the class and talk about how our approaches to packaging and the way we think about physical media have changed in general since we started. When I gave the talk to Jeff's class it went pretty well, but the talk I gave the other day was pretty wretched. The students clearly didn't give a shit and a couple of them were clearly struggling to stay awake.
Anyway, the topic is interesting to me, probably because rather than actually being a part of the music industry what I am in reality is a hobbyist who has turned the corner into a full-on obsessive. I was telling the students that the word "media" is almost a misnomer nowadays. A medium is an agency or means of doing something; in the case of records, they are a means of playing recorded music. However, with relatively few exceptions people don't really use records as a means of playing music anymore. Instead, records are this weird fetish object... a symbol that stands for something they aren't, whether that's status, fandom, a relationship to a band or a lost childhood... who knows. The point is that few people are buying records because it's the best way to hear the music they want to hear. This makes the record seller's job very difficult, because rather than selling music, what we're selling is whatever it is that generates the record's symbolic value to the person who buys it. That's very difficult to figure out, because it's different for every person and even changes over time. I've often thought that if I worked as hard as I do selling records but sold something else like hardware or plumbing supplies or caskets or fucking vape juice or anything but records I'd probably be a millionaire.
This morning I watched this really cool 1978 documentary about Magazine and the Buzzcocks. I'm sure this documentary is old news to most of you, but I've never really been one for YouTube (I just don't have time for it, really) so I've only just now come across it. Unlike a lot of rips of TV programs this old, this one is top-notch quality, and also captures two of my absolute favorite bands of all time at their absolute peak. A particular highlight is at the end of the documentary where the original Buzzcocks lineup reunites to play "I Can't Control Myself." Being that these two bands are two of my favorites, I've often wondered what would have happened if Devoto had never left the Buzzcocks. The question is particularly interesting as this documentary really highlights the "two sides of the coin" relationship that Pete Shelley and Devoto seem to have. Imagining a band that combined the intellectual heft of Magazine's first three albums with the razor-sharp pop sensibilities of the early Buzzcocks singles is almost too much for me to even contemplate... if such a band had existed, surely they would have inspired world peace a la the ending of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, right?
I've been listening to a lot of Voivod lately. I don't really have anything interesting to say about Voivod other than that they are really, really good, particularly Killing Technology and Dimension Hatross. I've loved Killing Technology for years, but I never really spent much time with Hatross. I just picked up an original, copy, though, and I'm remedying that situation post-haste.
And since Voivod always makes me think of Die Kreuzen, I'll post the above video as well. If you've never watched this before, stop what you're doing and devote your undivided attention to this video right now. These 13 minutes may actually be the peak moment of the entire history of human culture on the planet earth. These men are gods. If anyone wants to start a religion based on early Die Kreuzen HMU.
Sorry this is kind of a short one, but I'll have to end there. My brain is fried this week from too much work, too many record descriptions, and not enough real excitement. Now, I'm off to see Priests and Shopping in Durham... should be a good one!