Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Resort Fee

Burns: And to think, Smithers, you laughed when I bought Ticketmaster. [imitating Smithers] Nobody's going to pay a hundred-percent "service charge."
Smithers: It's a policy that ensures a healthy mix of the rich and the ignorant, sir.

Good reading in the mid-August New Yorker. A feature article titled 'The Price of the Ticket' touches on several subjects: the changing economics of the music business, concert pricing logic, orgaznized scalping (euphemistically referred to as 'the secondary market'), and how Bruce Springsteen got caught up in a related mess at least partially of his own creation.

(An abstract of this article is available to non-subscribers)

Back in the day, the worst aspect of record-store work was the ticket window. One challenge was defending the usurious 'convenience charge.' The clerk had to deflect ('It's not us, it's BASS (or Ticketron)') while avoiding the obvious temptation ('Hey, Mac, if you think the spread is better uptown then please, go bet uptown'). This after having gone through eight iterations of possible view-lines for 'Disney on Ice.'

My favorite moment: opening up a record store on the Sunday morning after a Saturday night rap festival had been cancelled at the last moment due to security concerns. The ticket agency weenie in his sensory-deprivation cubicle at a distant undisclosed location suggested I give the demanding customers mail-in refund chits.



For the same issue, The New Yorker's music critic wrote a shorter and rather unfocused (but interesting) article about the emergence of CD-quality music files available for sale and download on the web. He mentioned two sites in particular: Pristine Classical and HDtracks. To this I can add a third: HDGiants. Specialty labels are doing this as well.

It's a coming standard. We'll know it's building when an aggregator comes along who offers a CD-quality-songfile search interface that returns results which redirect the searcher to the specialists who carry it. And then, someday, Apple will decide that inferior compression rates are no longer enough to maintain their stranglehold...and downloadable CD-quality songfiles will be as common as internet porn.

Admittedly, I couldn't see this from my one-year-ago vantage point. But now...heck, my plain vanilla DSL can bring in a 320kbps hour-long album in under ten minutes. I've just started using the Netflix on-demand service through the household wireless network, and am able to stream near-DVD quality movies without a hiccup to the living room big screen. The other night, I couldn't help but think, 'So THIS is why Al invented the Internet...'Spaceballs!'

Anyway, a line in the aforementioned article inspired a comical double-take: it was about the too-ready availability of more music than anyone could listen to in a lifetime. The author suggested that the mini-resurgence of the vinyl LP is partly due to 'a modest rebellion against the tyranny of instant access.'

Read. Discuss. We'll circle back in future.


Random play: Have you heard Songs of Green Pheasant? It's the nom de musique of one Duncan Sumpner, a Sheffield-based fellow who has a sound that could be placed somewhere in the psych-folk realm.

Yeah, seemingly thousands are tilling that soil. So why this guy? Atmosphere. Imagine yourself on a hike in rugged terrain when a downpour sends you scurrying for cover. Up ahead, a cave. You scamper in, shake off, and and a soft firelight are emanating from further in. You follow...

Go here. His whole first album (recorded in 2002, released three years later) is available to stream. I love the whole thing, but to get a good feel for his sound, start with the second track, 'Nightfall,' which was written for and inspired by Boris Pasternak.


Thanks to Mr. Figurehead for posting the link to info about the upcoming Beatles remaster issues. Yep, like Tommy Lee Jones, I'll be buying the White Album again. I had my appetite whetted by the 'Love' soundtrack...loved the new sparkle in the sound and yes, even the mashups. I'm ready.

The bummer: why are the mono remasters available only in their own boxed set? Presumably this will one day be rectified with individual issues, but the wait should be unnecessary. I am mightily curious about the Sgt. Pepper mono mix: those who purport to know say there is much more layering and depth to be heard that way.

'Twist and Shout' to 'Tomorrow Never Knows.' It's been said many times: that is one helluva journey to make in three years.


Finally, to those who would revive the heretofore Propofol-subdued kowbell kontroversy, I say this: 'Can't help about the shape I'm in. I can't sing, I ain't pretty, and my legs are thin...'

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