Wednesday, November 04, 2009

11.5.09 LOVE ME DON'T

We got buried last week with an avalanche of WTF with regard to a proposed City of Albany ordinance that would impose a $50 tax on any establishment for every music performance, every karaoke performance, every DJ spinning, why, any time anybody even thought about music in the general proximity of a club, laundromat, restaurant, or convenience store. Or something like that.

Like there’s too much music happening in town. Like those darn lazy musicians are being paid too much. I’ve been assured by folks much smarter than me that this was all a tempest in a tea-bag, and one of these smart folks, Chet Hardin, has the whole skinny laid out for you elsewhere in this issue.

And speaking of tea-bags, all hats go way off to the fine people of the North Country. It was mildly amusing to see the idiot media getting all cranked up about the big Congressional show-down in the Adirondacks between the normal workings of democracy and the fascist far right. Why, it’s a referendum on Obama, or on the Republican Party, or socialism, or Fox News! Speak to us, NY-23! Grace us with your accumulated wisdom! A nation turns its lonely eyes to you!

Now, North Country folks are about as individualistic as they come, that is to say, they tend not to be real big on following, or doing what they are told to do by strangers. And they sure ain’t dumb. Remote? Yes. West Virginia? No. So when a gaggle of thuggish assclowns like Dick Armey, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin shoved the local Republican candidate out of the way in favor of this goofy-looking, nervous, out-of-district little nobody who parroted the Heritage Foundation’s party line, well, it was pretty clear things weren’t going to go well for the visiting team. The whole silly affair struck me as less a referendum about any national issue than the Adirondacks telling a bunch of phony would-be power brokers to get lost.

As far as Maine goes, how tragic and sad. I won’t be vacationing there anytime soon. I’ll go to the Adirondacks.

OK. MP3s have been around since, what, around 1995? For the next 10 years, MP3s were the format of choice for an overwhelming number of music fans, but unavailable for purchase anywhere, leaving this overwhelming number of music fans two choices: make your own by ripping a CD, or, even better, downloading MP3s for free from any of the P2P or torrent sites on the internet. Slowly, the major labels caught on that not selling what people really wanted wasn’t a particularly smart business model and thse days MP3s are now generally available now through iTunes, Amazon, and the like.

But there were stragglers, most notably, the entire Beatles catalog, which, along with a couple other banner collections, like those of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, have to date been unavailable in any kind of digital format. Except, of course, on CDs. Which means that all of this music has been readily available for download as free MP3s all over the internet. You just can’t buy it that way.

Well, after years of promises and speculation (I was positive that the Beatles’ digital catalog was gonna come packed into the first iPhones a few years ago. I was wrong), it looks like the Beatles are joining the real world. Sort of.

Apple Records just announced that in the first week of December it will start shipping little apple-shaped memory sticks that contain the entire remastered Beatles stereo catalog, with the songs available in the lossless FLAC format and as 320 bps MP3s. There are also a bunch of jpgs and little movies in the package.

Well, whoop-dee-freakin-doo. It’s my job to complain about things like this so let me count the ways this is wrong:

(a) It costs $280, or $20 per album. The same CD box set costs $220. And this is because?
(b) Why only the stereo albums? Any real Beatles fan will tell you that the remastered early mono mixes are the only things that really matter in these re-releases.
(c) You have to buy the whole damn thing. No single albums and certainly no single songs. Repeat after me: “Love Me Do mono torrent MP3.” Now hit search. You’re welcome.
(d) They’re only selling 30,000 of them. Selling things that are scarce is a good marketing plan. Creating ridiculously artificial and easily defeatable scarcity is not.

I’m sure you’ll have your own reasons for avoiding this, unless you’re one of those several million Beatles completists out there, who no doubt have already snapped up every single one of this pricy doo-hingies by the time you read this.

So I guess it doesn’t make any difference anyway. Sheesh.


At 10:01 AM, Blogger J. Eric Smith said...

King Crimson's is another catalog that's notably absent from the single-song digital domain, and Robert Fripp's online diary offers a great, cranky read about why he chooses to keep it that way, and why you can't take his picture.

Of greater concern to me is the absence of Iron Butterfly's seminal "Ball" album from the iTunes catalog. Sure, I can download illegal versions of these songs from the torrent of my choosing, but why is the industry suppressing this most formative album in the history of organ rock?

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You nailed the situation in the 23rd! Adirondackers have had so much hot air blown up their collective kilts they feel like the Black Watch on a Caribbean cruise. Geography doesn't dictate doctrine, and they aren't impressed by Snowmobile Barbie. Anybody who hunts out of a helicopter isn't going to connect with folks who take a bite outta whatever runs by.

At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with all but one of your comments on the election in the 23rd C.D. The Republican candidate went from poll numbers of around 30% or more until the conservatives came on strong to get rid of her. Her final vote tally was around 5%. I think there were lots of followers.

Walter J. Law

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that the Albany Live Music tax in it's current form gives licensing authority to the chief of police. Can they possibly think this would sneak by all of us unnoticed. What garbage!


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