Little Clouds


local music and technology: what is the future?

I filled out a resume for the Daily Camera today. In the process of filling out the resume I looked through some old articles.

This is an article I wrote for class in December of 2007.

Colorado’s Place in the Changing Music Scene

Indian Jewelry at Rhinoceropolis l photo by Sarah Slater

Indian Jewelry at Rhinoceropolis l photo by Sarah Slater

The living room at Rhinoceropolis would be pitch black if it weren’t for the Christmas lights strung from the rafters. The venue, which acts as a home in north Denver by day, could seem baron if it weren’t for the paintings hung on the wall. The building will get drafts of cold air, however, it’s hard to notice with each room filled with art, records, instruments and ashtrays. The body heat of dozens of young people crammed in the small living room acts as a barrier to the cold ridden outside. The audience sits still, watching in awe as a young man and woman sit on stools in front of them stroking acoustic guitars.

If music is dying, like many record industry officials have said, no one informed the crowd that braved the winter air to see the show. If music is dying, then local shows are making its last grasps powerful ones. Record industry officials say that the sky is falling, however, for local musicians and fans the sky is the limit.

According to USA Today, CD sales dropped 8% from 2004 to 2006, as downloaded tracks raised by 150%. In the first quarter of 2007 CD sales plunged by 20% compared to the first quarter of 2006. The sales drops have left record industry executives shaking in their boots.

RIAA president Gary Sherman told the San Francisco Gate, “”It’s obvious we have a very serious problem. Those are the revenue streams that have financed this industry, and they are shrinking.”

The record industry has done little to embrace the digitalization of music, in fact, record executives have fought to suppress it. Co-founder of What Are Records? and Vice President of Business Development for iggli.com, a music streaming website in the works, Ted Guggenhiem, , believes that the industry’s stubbornness put major labels in the boat they are in.

“They said, ‘here’s how you listen to music’, and they spent years trying to get peer to peer shut down. They lost control.” Guggenhiem said, “They fundamentally tried to force people to listen to albums, and they lost it.”

According to Guggenhiem, record labels sinking sales aren’t the only thing record labels need to worry about. They need to worry about their role in general. Since Radiohead self released their album in a digital format, the function of record labels has been in question.

“The record industry is dead,” Guggenhiem said, “Major Labels will be gone and indies will be in a similar boat.”

Players in the local music scene have been faced with drastic changes in the industry that pays their bills. Local record labels, musicians and innovators are coming up with ways to weather the changing tide in music, to keep their businesses alive and to embrace the digital revolution.

THE INTERNET AND THE EXPLODING LOCAL MUSIC SCENE.

Inaiah Lujan has been a local musician in Pueblo, CO for years. He has traveled across the country to play music multiple times, and played everywhere from bars in Athens, GA to sidewalks in Minnesota. Lujan has a long list of musical endeavors that include his solo work , his folk band with his girlfriend Desirae Garcia and sister Chela Lujan called the Haunted Windchimes, A Poor Substitute- his punk band and an electronic project called DJ Flow Nase.

Lujan, like many other local musicians, has used the Internet to benefit his musical projects. He said that his music has reached people beyond Colorado, in part because of touring but also because of myspace.

“There are people who contact me on daily basis that I don’t know and aren’t from here,” Lujan said, “I’ll ask them how they found me, and a lot of the time it’s through myspace, because they saw me on the friends list of a band they liked or something.”

Lujan recently played a house show with A Poor Substitute that brought 100 fans out to support his music. Lujan didn’t make a physical flier for the show, he just posted a bulletin on Myspace.

Lujan does see a downside to the exposure local shows are getting via Myspace. In his eyes, it has brought a lot of people into the scene that are not in it for the right reasons.

“There are two types of people at local shows. The type that are accustomed to word of mouth and go to see good bands and the type that sit on the internet all day and read bulletins. People are there these days that do not care about the music. It’s become bubblegum in a way,” Lujan said, “But it’s helped the scene by getting more heads in the show.”

Lujan continues to get bigger audiences and at the same time get more Myspace friends.

“There are things I am weary of with the Internet.” Lujan said, “Like where my music is going to and who’s in control of it. But I know that my music will always be in the good hands of people that appreciate it.”

the haunted windchimes

the haunted windchimes

COLORADO’S RECORD LABELS VS. THE INTERNET?

Suburban Home
Local record label, Suburban Home Records is home to a multitude of local and non-regional bands. Avail front man Tim Barry, The Laymen Terms, Drag the River and Love Me Destroyer are just a few acts signed to the indie label. Suburban Home began in 1995 and acted as an outlet for Virgil Dickerson to put out ‘7 records for bands he liked. The first ‘7 inch he put out was for the Fairlanes, who are now signed to Suburban Home. Dickerson opened Bakamono, an indie record store, in the late 1990’s. At that point in time the label was mainly a hobby. However, the label was bringing in as much money as his business, so he closed Bakamono and focused solely on Suburban Home Records.

The headquarters of Suburban Home records is also the Edgewater, CO home of Dickerson, his wife and his toddler. His home has a backroom with a stock of all of the albums the label has released. Also in the backroom is a press to make t-shirts for Suburban Home’s t-shirt company, Super Fantastic Clothing. There is a bookshelf in the living room that covers an entire wall, filled with records that Suburban Home is carrying on their online vinyl store, vinylcollective.com. Dickerson said that this is the busiest he’s ever been. According to Dickerson, at Suburban Home they are always trying to rethink their business model to answer to the changing industry.

“The industry is on a downward slope,” Dickerson said, “so we’ve been doing other things. Vinyl Collective is a big part of what we do.”

Vinyl Collective is an online store that carries vinyl records from a number of different artists including My Morning Jacket, Belle and Sebastian, Bright Eyes and the Shins.

“Digital is such a soul less format,” Dickerson said, “Music is just one part of the art of the album. We live in a fucked up, fast paced world and there is something therapeutic about sitting down and putting a needle on a record.”

Vinyl is the only physical music form, Dickerson said, that has increased since peer-to-peer sharing shaped the market at the beginning of the decade. Dickerson said that their digital sales on websites like iTunes, eMusic and Rhapsody have increased as well, however, digital sales have not yet made up for the revenue lost in sinking cd sales.

Next year Suburban Home plans to release all of their albums in a digital format. A few of their releases will be released on-line only.

“Peer to Peer greatly affects how music is purchased I’m all for it as a way for people to sample music. People listen to music now more than ever. People are excited about music now more than ever,” Dickerson said.

Despite the loss of cd revenue, in some ways the Internet has helped Dickerson’s label. The Internet has made it easier for Suburban Home to do press releases and send newsletters to fans. It also has leveled the playing field for indie labels and acts to compete with major labels.

“Digital Distribution has leveled the playing field. Majors always had the upperhand when it came to distribution, but now it’s all even,” Dickerson said.

The cheapness of recording technology and the exposure that the internet brings has leveled the playing field for bands with out a label. Increasingly, the necessity of a record label is being questioned.

“There are a lot of people saying that record labels are obsolete. I think about my future and it is possible that our bands could do their own thing,” Dickerson said, “However, we have a core audience, where a lot of fans check out a band because they’re on the label. There are things we can offer to a band that they can’t do on their own.”

Despite the changing industry Dickerson stays optimistic about his future in music. Suburban Home’s side companies act as a safety net to dropping sales and concerns about the role of the record label.

“It’s a scary time,” Dickerson said, “but I’m having more fun now than ever. I’m putting out records I love. In our own little way, we’re doing alright.”

What Are Records?
Boulder’s What Are Records was started by Rob Gordon 17 years ago. What Are Records was home to popular bands such as Big Head Todd and the Monsters and The Samples. W.A.R. now includes a number of musical acts and comedians. Artsits such as The Swayback, Zepperella and David Wilcox are signed to W.A.R.

W.A.R. has seen a shift in the industry and has heard the questions about the necessity of a record label in a digital world. In order to maintain an important role, W.A.R. is turning more to career development, something they’ve always dabbled in, signing 360 deals with bands. Many major record labels have been signing 360 deals, which give the label the responsibility of promotion, marketing and booking. In turn, the label gets a percentage of the bands profits outside of record sales. According to Jeff Palmer, W.A.R.’s media official, because of career development W.A.R. is more than a record label, and that’s how it will survive in the changing industry.

Palmer said that while physical copies of their albums make up for 70% of their sales, the ratio between c.d sales and downloads has decreased. To embrace the Internet, W.A.R. reaches out to blogs and online retailers that carry W.A.R. artists. In Palmer’s opinion, the Internet has not terribly hurt the label.

“CD sales are falling across the board,” Palmer said, “Majors are depending on one or two artists to sell millions of records that doesn’t happen anymore. The sky is falling, but it is falling a lot more for them.”

Palmer said that the internet has actually helped W.A.R. is some ways because it has helped expose the artists and given everyone access to a variety of music.

“The days of the superstar are over,” Jeff said, “Everyone has access to music and not everyone is looking at tastemakers like the radio and MTV. A band can come along that’s so great it becomes popular based on the strength of the music.”

THE FUTURE?
According to Guggenhiem, who is working on a free music streaming website in Boulder, people ages 13-24 have a made a decision- and that decision is that music should be free. Guggenhiem’s website, iggli.com, will have a huge library of music that people to stream for free on demand. Listeners will not be able to save the music to their hard-drives or iPods. Iggli will also act as social networking website for people to post record reviews and show reviews. The ad revenue of the website will support it and the artists and labels that are being listened to. Money will be distributed to bands based on how many times there song is streamed.

“Music has to feel like free,” Guggenhiem said.

According to Guggenhiem record labels have jumped on board with Iggli. Unsigned bands will be able to upload material onto the site, as well.

“Nobody knows how this will turn out. I think it remains to be seen,” Guggenhiem said, “Our company can play a role in the future of music, that’s what we’re hoping for.”

No one knows if websites like Iggli are the future of music, no one knows if the sky is actually falling for record labels and no one knows if the internet has helped or hurt music. Technology, is a double edged sword swinging away at the structures we once held as certain.

Thousands of miles away from the booming entertainment industry in New York and Los Angeles, Colorado has been affected greatly by the digital music revolution. Whether the local innovators like Ted Guggenhiem, the record labels like Suburban Home and W.A.R., and musicians like Inaiah Lujan will rise from the wreckage of an industry that is potentially headed toward disaster is yet to be seen.

“Maybe our idea of what the music industry is needs to die,” Lujan said, “If so, rest in peace.”

-marissa malouff

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Very informative, do you allow reprints (I’d love to post it on my blog) Thank you for taking the time to care about vinyl ! (You are right, Virgil does a heck of a job with Suburban Home Records!)

Best Regards,

Robert Benson
(920) 564-3313

http://www.buyvinylrecords.net
http://www.vinylrecordappraisals.com
http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com
http://collectingvinylrecords.blogspot.com
http://collectingvinylrecords.musicstack.com

Comment by Robert Benson

Do you still blog about the local music scene? Would be interested in hearing your thoughts about our music.

http://www.reverbnation.com/c./rpk/53376?access_code=9f4e527af622ff37bd98&auto_play=true

I could send you our show schedule and put you on the list to any of our shows.

Comment by Mark

Hi Mark, unfortunately right now I’ve stopped writing about local music! I’ll contact you though if I start blogging again.

All the best,
Marissa

Comment by littlehappyclouds




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