Thursday, March 4, 2010


Just spent ten minutes wandering around the local Borders store. To the casual eye the place looked okay, but to me it seemed ever-more like a slow motion train ride to oblivion.

I was there looking for the new Tammy Wynette biography, 'Tragic Country Queen.' It came out Tuesday and has been heavily reviewed, but was not on the shelves or in the store computer as having been received. On hold with the publisher? In an unopened box in the back room? Who knows? A helpful store assistant did offer to order one for me.

As music-related books were located near the CDs, I had a look at what remains of those: a couple of short rows of half-full racks, with no rhyme or reason to the stock. Why do they bother? Again: they could have gone in with a dozen or so listening posts stocked only with titles chosen by on-staff music lovers and been a go-to tastemaker. I'm assuming the CDs that do remain are there because there is already too much open floor space and not enough unstocked good-selling book titles remaining to bring in. Or they simply can't return any more CDs to music suppliers they no longer deal with.

Finally, a walk toward the exit brought me to a stock cart holding ten copies of the 2010 Baseball Prospectus, which was not yet on the sports section shelves. This book dropped ten days ago; I had mine in hand the next day. A title like that sells to fanatics who know exactly when it hits; the sales window is approximately street date to Tax day. 20% of that window is gone.

The death spiral accelerates.


Since the Cedar blog's intramural scrum over the value of music and the state of its digital commerce landscape, I've come to revise one opinion a bit: free is an unworkable model.

The recent announcement that Warner Music would no longer license its content to free ad-supported streamers actually seemed like a bit of sanity, coming though it does from such an unlikely source.

On the heels of that arrived this story out of the Digital Music Forum East conference, in which a market analyst declared that while customizable radio services like Pandora do help sales, free all-you-can-eat music buffets are a sales hindrance.

So while my heart was a bit tugged by the announcement that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report would no longer be available on Hulu's free streaming service, I sorta shrugged and got the message.

I'll continue to beat the drum for paid on-demand subscription services, though. People who will pony up $10-15 per month are, by and large, more serious about their music...and if my habits are any indication, that seriousness still translates to actual purchases.


My latest needle-dropping jag brought an unusually high hit rate. I could go on about the silly-good retro fun of King Khan & BBQ Show, the solid pop craft of My Robot Friend's star-studded latest, the sweetly sad Dakota Suite, or the unexpected Primal Scream-esque brilliance of The Brian Jonestown Massacre's new one...

For Cedar devotees, though, I'd choose Holly Miranda. She sang in a Brooklyn outfit called The Jealous Girlfriends (and am I alone in wondering just how many bohemian lofts there are per capita in that borough?) and has just released an album called 'The Magician's Private Library.' Singer-songwriter albums are so ubiquitous that special qualities are of the utmost necessity. They're here: atmospheric, often delicate arrangements which suit her voice particularly well, unobtrusive but imaginative production flourishes by Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), and accessible but somehow inscrutable lyrics and vocals.

Here is a bit of Holly Miranda; more songs from the album can be found here.


Then again, maybe nothing will do but eight minutes of propulsive Spacemen 3-style fuzz. Mash on Moon Duo's 'Motorcycle, I Love You.' You've been warned. Cheers.

No comments: