Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Shins, Taxes, & The Decemberists

Today I cleaned. I was so busy cleaning that I forgot it was 12pm and time to buy Shins tickets. After inhaling a lot of bleach, I hazily turned to my watch and ran to my computer. It was 12:30, and tickets were gone. Two nights at Webster sold out. I started swearing at Zach Braff for putting them in Garden State so that every Joe now knows who they are. But then I remembered I pose as this magazine editor sometimes and put my writing skills to work emailing their publicist. It still shocks me that I manage to get press passes, but I scored big time. Also found out the next album will be out next year. Made the return of the snow (where the hell is spring) a little sunnier.

Before I get to the second band for the day, I will share my experience in my class that I had tonight. Part of the new Clive Davis Recording School at good ol NYU (did I really just link my school? oh god) is an open arts class "Constructing a Record Label." I think I'm the only one in the class not an artist or an aspiring A&R rep, but needless to say its given me a little more conversation when I interview artists. Education can be good, or so they say.

Tonight we had a guest speaker, Steve Gordon, a lawyer who worked for Sony for ten years before getting fired, who now just wrote a book about the future of the music industry. I, along with my other classmates, sat there the entire time rolling our eyes and questioning this guys sanity. He laughed at his own jokes, was beyond bitter about being fired at Sony, but somewhere in the middle of that he had some interesting things to say. While I won't bore you with a summary of the three hour chaos, he spoke in detail about the backlash of Napster. In fact, he was quite bitter about Shawn Fanning as well, calling him a "schmuck." His solution for downloading free music? Tax all computer and blank CD manufacturers so that the labels retain money and still allow for consumers to download for free. I never even thought about it, but he said that no one is downloading for free. You have to have a computer, high speed internet, and blank CDs or MP3s to carry out the process. If record labels went to Congress and asked for a tax, they can still maintain their revenue, and artists can begin to make money faster off of record sales (that can be easily tracked by number of downloads) because the distribution and production costs of selling things online is much cheaper.

This guy was crazy, but it's an interesting point. And my hero, Steve Jobs, apparently loses money off of iTunes. Gordon says he isn't in it for the music, but I don't know. I'm a geek. I watch those webcasts and he's so passionate. But I suppose he's also a smart businessman. iTunes was only the vehicle to get people to buy those iPods and send the stock flying. It all comes down to the money, don't we all know it. But it was interesting to see how the internet is really changing the music industry. We've yet to see a band have a true success story without a label and solely selling on the internet. I think it's in due time. We'll have to wait and see.

Band number two for the day is The Decemberists, another part of my iTunes binge from the other night. Unlike, say Autolux or Great Day Coming, it's organic, without hidden layers or over-production, and really focuses on it's lyrics. I read on Punk Planet that they called them "literary pop" and that sounds just about right. Their third full-length, Picaresque was released yesterday, and it's not a departure from their previous work, just an extension.

Sad news regarding the band: their trailer was stolen from outside a house in Portland last week that had practically every piece of instrumentation belonging to them. Then it was found a couple days later, but all the contents were missing. If you feel like throwing some cash out to a great band, information of where to donate is on their website as well as a stolen gear list in case you see something mysterious.

In the meantime, for your listening pleasure (right click, save as):

  • The Decemberists - The Engine Driver

  • The Decemberists will play Irving Plaza May 4 and then back to Brooklyn to play Warsaw on May 26.


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