Friday, June 11, 2010

the relevance of analogue media in the digital age

I was recently involved in a huge (as in more than two hours huge) discussion on the relevance of analogue media in the digital age for Crustcake. You can hear the edited version here, before the important part is some news and general bullshit about Isis, Nachtmystium, MDF and other stuff.

It's hard for me to say anything else about the subject after that much discussion, but essentially i don't actually feel that analogue media is all that important. I think what's important is what analogue media represents, which as i've talked about before in this blog is the cultural aspect. And when making money is not the central point of your artistic output, then it's usually born out of some kind of (intentionally not defined here) cultural aspiration.

In essence we use analogue media to connect to greater cultural influences; fanzines and vinyl as atavism if you will.

When people talk about a fetish for vinyl they often unconsciously mean "an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency" instead of "any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation."

I think it was Douglas Rushkoff that said he was less enamoured with mp3 downloading not because the music industry lost money but because he fondly remembers that listening to a new LP was a communal experience where you invited your friends over to listen with you. I'm not really interested in the olde tyme nostalgic aspect of that point (and my own childhood listening experiences are the same), but the idea of coming together to experience music as a group is definitely something that seem's largely to have been lost. Outside of getting drunk (or not getting drunk) at concerts of course.

Anyway, if you have a two hour attention span for four people bullshitting it's there for you.


The Butt - Will Self
The Art of the Nasty - Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris
How the World was Made; the story of creation according to sacred geometry - John Michell and Allen Brown


[rec 2]
A Bookshelf on top of the Sky: 12 stories about John Zorn


The Vomit Arsonist - Wretch
Rammer - one sided 12"
Complications - s/t


Anonymous said...

fantastic words as always from you, mr. nolan. definitely would like to hear more of your discussions with people.

shakehurst said...

added to that: for me personally, maybe it's because i haven't had much dealings with the format myself, but, i just can't understand how tapes sell better than vinyl or even cds. is the sound quality not inferior to both of those formats? it's just not accessible to me at any rate as none of my equipment has the ability for tape playback and i've just focused on improving my vinyl standards. and when it comes to "warmth" of the record and quality and all of that... if it's your every day punk/hardcore/whatever band... the sound quality isn't going to matter on any format since it was recorded and produced without really caring about that. when it comes to bigger bands or other genres (i listen to a lot of folk/jazz/"classic rock" [whatever that term entails]) the difference is definitely notable, but the equipment you use definitely has an impact. but, it can be the same thing, if those are mastered poorly then perhaps the cd version will sound better than the vinyl. there are many releases that do sound far better on vinyl, but again there's probably just as many that sound great on cd. perhaps it really just boils down to personal preference. i run a label/distro and i've really refused to release or distro tapes simply because i think it's a ridiculous format. but if they are selling a lot more than your cds or vinyl... i don't get it. it seems too easy to me. i think if people are going to do it, at least get it pro-pressed or whatever, and not just recycle old tapes and try pawn it off for $5 to people, to me that's the exact same as a cd-r with a band name sharpied on there and it really shows no effort or much care in the release. so why should anyone care to buy it? but if the packaging is decent and the media is done well, i, as with probably the majority of people (i would hope) would be more inclined to buy it. though i do wish some tapes were released on vinyl as well.

maybe it has something to do with the economy lately, as well? or have you been noticing the tape > vinyl/cd for a while? tapes can definitely be sold for $5 or less, whereas 10"/12" has to be sold at around at least $10 to break even. and cds can be sold for less than that, but not as cheap as tapes. do you think the cost of the format has something to do with it all?

i find that distro sales in general have gone down. from speaking to other people that do labels and distros it just seems like within the last couple years, less and less people are interested. i don't know where everyone went. perhaps they grew up or moved on to different genres (big deathwish hype lately), or maybe it's just a matter of money. teenagers grew up and have to take care of their own bills/selves and can't afford "luxuries" like records.

aside from music sales, though. i've noticed that for even longer than that, 3 or 4 years now, that zines simply do.not.sell. it seems people really only care about the bigger zines like MRR or SF&L (but even SFL is pushing it sometimes I find) and unless there's some band that's pretty notable or on the hype machine at the time, they don't care to get the zine regardless of how many really good articles or other (just as good/better) bands are in it. i guess the effort has to be put into printed media, too. i think people perhaps stopped wanting to pay $1 or $2 for a quarter/half-sized zine that's photocopied poorly and is lacking in real, thoughtful words. but then you have a zine come around like Ritual (Assembly), and everything is fantastic. packaging, writings, adequately thought-out interview questions... and people have been buying that more than any zine i've carried in my distro since it's inception years ago.

shakehurst said...

part 2 (my message was too long for the last post):
one last point i'd like to bring up is: limited is definitely smart. people do want to pick up things moreso if it's only available for a short amount of time or if they can't get it anywhere else. pre-orders to flip on ebay, yadda yadda. definitely agree with all points made in that discussion. and i've definitely been planning more limited/special things for my releases lately, and it seems to be paying off. even though it may be more money up front.

Survivalist said...

tapes definitely don't sell better than vinyl, but in my experience they sell far better than CDRs (i personally don't buy CDRs and i don't think i've made one since the second Blockade demo back in 2004)

i think you're wise not to carry tapes though, they seem to sell better at source unless it's something really 'must have'

quality control of releases is something that's always been hit and miss, particularly in the mythical golden age unfortunately (check your first press of the Crossed Out 7")

and the debate as to why music sales are in decline is not strictly the same as the continued resilience of seemingly outdated media forms; though there are some points of convergence. That's something that's too big for me to really want to talk about on this blog, maybe a three hour podcast on the subject is somewhere in my future though?

Regarding zines, well, i predicted this one a long time ago but it's definitely come to pass. The only zines that can be sucessful are those that have a relatively small run, a single voice (or few voices in their production) and are intensely focused on a very narrow sub-sub-section of interest.

Andrew Aircraft said...

I finally got a chance to sit down and listen to this. I think having a physical medium is important for many of the same reasons you've stated. I think the internet has made things too easy. It's made more people take art and music less seriously and view it as a casual interest rather than something that they need to put lots of time and energy into.

I collect music on all formats. Vinyl, cassettes, cd's, whatever. I consider myself a music collector rather than a record collector. For me, having the physical representation of the artist's vision and having to take the time hunt it down somewhere is what's important. Not whether it's a cd or record.

One thing that I hate about this recent popularity in vinyl culture is the myths that it's founded on. There's a whole lot of people repeating bumper sticker style slogans about vinyl that don't have a fucking clue what they're talking about. The whole thing about vinyl recordings somehow being better drives me insane because if you own a recording on vinyl that came out in the last 10 years, there's a 99% chance that it has touched digital at some point. Whether it be during recording, mixing, mastering, or at the plant. The idea that all of these records that are coming out right now are somehow more "pure" if you buy the vinyl is nuts. It was converted to digital at some point during it's process of ending up on wax if it's anything that has come out recently. So how is listening to something that is the equivalent of playing a cd into a record making machine any better than just listening to a cd. It's digital in either case?

Vinyl is cool, and I love records but they don't sound "better". They sound different, and you can like that difference all day long but they are, in the grand scheme of what you're hearing, an inferior version of the recording. The closest thing you can get to what the band heard coming out of the moniters at the mixing desk is gonna be a cd, as uncool as some people might think that is.

Steve Albini has an interesting take on this. He believes that analog is important because it's more permanent, not because of any of the warm, fuzzy reasons that most people claim to like analog. Audio computer files have to be constantly updated. A reel or record does not. We'll always know how to play a record. There's no wires for it to get lost in. It's physically engraved on that record.

For me, the idea of losing the physical medium all together is what's scarey. Vinyl vs CD doesn't matter because like you said, one day people are gonna sit around getting nostalgic about cdr demos haha. Whether it be a cd or a tape or a record, the important thing is the process of obtaining and learning in a way that takes time and energy rather than a click on the mouse pad.