Capitol/EMI Taps into Vinyl Hype Cautiously and Half-Heartedly

In August, Capitol/EMI will be releasing eight "classic titles" on high-quality vinyl in the U.S. Titled "From The Capitol Vaults," the albums set for release include four titles from Radiohead, two from Coldplay, and one each from A Perfect Circle and Steve Miller Band, all out-of-print in the U.S. The albums will be released on 180-gram audiophile vinyl (aside from Amnesiac and Kid A, which will be released on 140-gram 10-inches), with original artwork and packaging.

Now, I'm no marketing expert, but I do know a good campaign involves a solid foundation. Capitol/EMI's strategy seems painfully transparent to me. First of all, by only releasing eight "classic titles," Capitol is sending a cautious signal to the consumers. Sure, Capitol releases new titles on vinyl in the U.S. (the new Coldplay, for example), but they're always very limited. Similarly, this limited-edition campaign doesn't speak to any long-term investment in the format. Chances are that fans have already bought these "classic" albums on CD, which means these vinyl releases are aimed primarily at commodity fetishists, further underscoring EMI's increasing emphasis on its back catalog, not its current artists. The campaign seems more like Best Buy's sales experiment (TMT Review), but at least Best Buy is being explicit about its aims.

"U.S. vinyl sales have increased by more than 80% in the past year alone, and the format is still on the rise," says the press release. Right. Meanwhile, indie labels have been fairly adequately catering to vinyl fans all along.

"From The Capitol Vaults":

- A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms (2 LPs, gatefold jacket, satin stock, diecut white sleeves)
- Coldplay - Parachutes (1 LP, printed sleeve)
- Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head (1 LP, printed sleeve)
- Radiohead - OK Computer (2 LPs, gatefold jacket, color labels, printed sleeves)
- Radiohead - Kid A (2 10” 140-gram LPs, gatefold jacket, printed sleeves, color labels)
- Radiohead - Hail To The Thief (2 LPs, gatefold jacket, printed sleeves)
- Radiohead - Amnesiac (2 10” 140-gram LPs, gatefold jacket, printed sleeves, color labels)
- Steve Miller Band - Greatest Hits 1974-78 (1 LP, printed sleeve, color label)

Ping-Pong Tournament, BBQ Announced At the Same Time As Something Called Gonerfest 5

Big old garage-punk label Goner Records puts on a fest every year. 2008 is a year. With that in mind, the masterminds behind Goner have gone ahead and announced that, at their request, a bunch of bands are playing Memphis within a very concentrated amount of time.

From September 25-28, bands such as Sic Alps, Psychedelic Horseshit, Eat Skull, The Box Elders, Tyvek (now called TVK because of what I assume was a lawsuit), and Thee Oh Sees will perform amidst such other attractions as DJs, a barbecue (not to be confused with BBQ, who I don’t think is playing) and, yes, a ping-pong tournament. More details, hopefully ping-pong-related, will be revealed as the summer goes on.

For those of you who don’t feel like clicking through, here’s the lineup as it looks now:

Sic Alps, Tearjerkers, Crusaders of Love (France), Dan Melchior, Touch-Me-Nots, Duke & Duchess, Cheap Time, Ooga Boogas (Australia), Psychedelic Horseshit, Box Elders, Earthmen & Strangers, Mouserocket, The Intelligence, TVK, AV Murder, Eat Skull, Barbaras, Wizzard Sleeve, Turpentine Brothers, Static Static, Thee Oh Sees, Black Time (UK), Cola Freaks (Denmark).

Hats off, Goner.

Bowerbirds Tour North America, Europe, Inexplicably Ignore Minneapolis

Bowerbirds, the inventive and folksy Raleigh, NC trio much beloved of Mountain Goats fans and environmentalists, will be hitting the road on both sides of the Atlantic this summer.

The ’birds will kick off with headlining shows in Madison and Chicago late next week before opening up the East Coast (and partially Canadian) leg of Bon Iver's summer tour. After a couple of headlining dates in their home state in early August, the band will embark on a seven-week European tour, which sees them headlining in seven countries, hitting up several festivals, and sharing stages with Bon Iver, Neva Dinova, Damien Jurado, and War on Drugs.

The lengthy trek is Bowerbirds' fourth tour and their first overseas, following their debut LP Hymns for a Dark Horse (TMT Review), released in 2007 on Burly Time Records and reissued (with two bonus tracks!) on Dead Oceans last month. Previously, the band has toured with Phosphorescent and fellow Raleigh-ites The Rosebuds. The group also opened for The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice last fall after a couple of ringing endorsements from head goat John Darnielle.

According to their publicist, Bowerbirds is in the early planning stages of a sophomore album, as yet untitled, to be released sometime in 2009.

U.S. tourdates:

There Is a Non-Denominational Faith-Based Figure: Indie Labels Beat Out EMI in Market Share

Finally, some justice for the "little guys" -- though that classification gets less accurate as EMI's behavior increasingly mirrors Britney Spears in a 7-11. Independent record labels officially snagged 14% of the music industry's market share, leaving EMI behind with 10%. Apparently, corporate ain't everything... who knew? The death grip of the Universal Music Group is also slipping, ever so slightly, from 31.5% to 31.2%.

Back to EMI. You know, the big loser. How, one asks, just how do you fuck up a once-powerful industry conglomerate with infinite resources so badly that THIS happens? Oh, you mean by doing things like threatening to eat all of those indie labels for breakfast (TMT News)? Selling itself to someone who couldn't afford to fix it, despite having the best name ever (TMT News)? Keeping on a bunch of corporate suits and laying off the young, in-touch entry-level employees (TMT News)? Releasing an artist's single without asking (TMT News)!?

Yes, that's a froth I've worked myself into. It's kind of gross, but, then, so is the state of the music industry. I'm gonna take the positive slant, however, and invite you to give the indie labels a big round of applause for this winning lap. Turns out that the real secret to success in the record industry is a straight shot: respecting your artists, releasing creative new music in various mediums, and charging a fair price for your albums. What. A. Concept.

Björk Cancels Another Fest Appearance Due to Voice Problems; I Recommend Apple Cider Vinegar Lozenges

Is it just me, or does Björk cancel a lot of shows? Fresh off her cancellation of Wild In The Country (which itself was canceled) and a Sheffield, UK show a few days ago, Björk has canceled her Finlandia Puisto/Park show in Helsinki citing voice problems.

"Sadly, due to medical issues with her voice, Björk has to cancel the show in Helsinki," states a post on her official website. "Ticket holders should return tickets to point of purchase to get a ticket refund. Björk thanks her fans for their understanding and support."

But like most stories, this one has a good ending: "The remaining concerts are not affected by this cancellation.” And that's the end of that! Or is it? Hey, remember that song "The End is the Beginning is the End" by The Smashing Pumpkins? Good times.

Remaining dates:

Castanets Guy Set to Release 4th Album, Make Your Work-a-Day Existence Look Pitifully Lame

The guy from Castanets continues to live the kind of life I want to have, but never will. The kind of life that unfolds in your imagination with every new detail, looking like it was filmed by the Coen Brothers and scripted by someone less violence-inclined than Cormac McCarthy. The kind of life that makes press releases practically write themselves. Specifically, press releases referring to the fourth studio album from Castanets. According to the one I read before writing this story, the man behind the music, Ray Raposa, reportedly woke up in the backseat of a motor vehicle after an overnight drive from Oakland to Vegas, had a revelation, and decided he was going to record his newest material in a desert motel room.

Entitled City of Refuge and set for release October 7 on Asthmatic Kitty, the album was recorded during a three-week stint at a mom-and-pop motel room in unincorporated Overton, Nevada. Yes, that's right... that Overton, she of two bars, zero traffic lights, and one Lost City Museum. Overton lies on the outskirts of the amazingly-named Valley of Fire State Park (or Moapa Valley to the indigenous tribes living nearby), and it quickly became the center of Castanets' universe. Raposa's City of Refuge also features guest contributions from pals Sufjan Stevens, Jana Hunter, Scott Tuma (Souled American, Boxhead Ensemble, solo), Dawn Smithson (Jessamine, Sunn O)))), solo), and co-producer Ero Gray, added during some post-recording studio wizardry. If you're reading this thinking, "Shoot, all these lost highways and lost cities are seeming a little too faded and American Gothic! I mean, it's summer right now!" well, then you are in luck, because Asthmatic Kitty will also be releasing Dub Refuge, a dub version of the upcoming original. Party on!

And in an effort to make my unemployed Midwestern office-worker life feel even more distant than his epic, Wild Wild West lifestyle, Castanets will also be releasing an album of Hank Williams cover songs in the near future. Sigh. You may have your romantic minstrel life, Mr. Raposa, but I got stoplights. I got LOTS of stoplights.

City of Refuge tracklisting:

Boredoms Looking For New Drummer; 77 BOADRUM Documentary Being Screened – Rad

Japanese noise act Boredoms are screening a documentary of their 77 BOADRUM show in Japan! For those who aren’t familiar or weren’t around, 77 BOADRUM (Boa as in snake, drum as in... duh) took place July 7, 2007 in New York's Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park (not as cool as June 6, 2006, but still awesome). Boredoms played with 77 drummers spiraling out from the center where they were positioned.

It looked like this:

I was there, it ruled. But somehow I forgot that huge drum circles = hippies. I was thinking, “Tons of awesome drummers playing with Boredoms, fuck yeah!” To many others, however, it meant bare feet, overalls, devil sticks, granola, and that weird noodle dance they do. Shit got crunchy. Regardless, it was fun, loud, and a creative way to celebrate the date. You could hear the drums echo off the Brooklyn Bridge. Drummers included Christopher Powell (Man Man), Mattias Schultz (Enon/Holy Fuck), Andrew W.K., Alan Licht, Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt/Black Pus), Ryan Sawyer (Stars Like Fleas), Chris Moore (Negative Approach), Jason Kourkounis (Bardo Bond/Hot Snakes), and many others.

The event was put on by Vice Records. If you want to check out video, pictures, and find out more information about the event, check out the Viva Radio website or 77 BOADRUM's MySpace page. As of now, there's no concrete plans for a DVD release, so the screenings may be your only chance to catch the film. Unfortunately, it's only being screened in Japan, currently at Theater N Shibuya for four weeks until August 1 as part of the Punk/HC Film Festival. In keeping with the theme, 77 people will be invited to each screening; the screening lasts 777 minutes and 777 seconds; and the lobby will display 777 photos of the event by Reiji Isoi. There will be an additional screening July 24 in Kyoto.

In other news, if you happen to live in the Kansai/Osaka area and can play drums, the band is looking for a new drummer. For more information, send an email (boretonix@earth.ocn.ne.jp) with your resume and drumming samples (either in video or MP3 format).

[Thanks to Brian Suzuki for helping translate!]

Stars Announce More Tourdates, Recall Television Acting Stints

Remember when Torquil Campbell, the singer of Stars, starred in an episode of Sex and the City in 2000? Sure you do! But did you know that the other members of Stars also starred on a few hit shows back in the day? Really! Check out the list below:

- Amy Millan may be a singer/guitarist in Stars today, but back in 1994, she was originally cast as “Monica” on Friends. She backed out after a few episodes, and Courtney Cox was given the role instead.
- Evan Cranley has been playing bass in Stars since their formation in 2000, but two years prior to that he played a prison guard in the finale episode of Seinfeld.
- Chris Seligman helped form Stars with Torquil, and he actually hasn’t acted in any television shows, but rumor has it he used to be a porn director before Stars hit it big.

Aspiring actors/waiters, be sure to ask Stars for their showbiz advice when they play your town:

RIP: Ann Spencer Gates, Radio Show Host, Matador Publicist

From a post by Gerard Cosloy on Matador's blog:

Though mentally manipulating Spin editors and pursuing TV bookings wasn’t previously Spencer’s forte —- we’d first encountered her via her awesome job co-hosting the Mystery Girls show on Cambridge’s WMBR many years earlier — to say she took to the gig like she’d been doing it all her life was an understatement. The insight, humor and attitude she brought to the office every day not only made her the perfect person for the job, it sometimes felt like we’d all been doing it together forever. And I mean that in a good way.

Spencer played an absolutely pivotal role in the success of Pavement, Liz Phair, JSBX,Bettie Serveert, Pizzicato Five, Guided By Voices, Railroad Jerk and many others you know and love. She was a tremendous friend to the label’s artists and it would not be an exaggeration to say there’s a period in the label’s history that might’ve turned out very differently were it not for her.

Spencer passed away on Sunday, July 6. Our thoughts are with her friends and family.

Mission of Burma's Clint Conley:

Spencer was such a gas -- so funny, and sassy and tuned in. I was a dedicated listener of her show in the 80s -- total irreverence, anarchic fun, such a psych hearing them getting all jacked up over the music they'd be checking out that weekend. Thinking of Spencer, I am more convinced than ever that the most inspired part of any cool music scene usually has less to do with the musicians than the musicians would like to think.

- Matador Records
- Cambridge’s WMBR
- Obituary in Wicked Local
- Memorial service details

Best Buy to Try Vinyl Sales Again, Asks Self: “Didn’t We Used To Sell This?”

Well, folks, prepare to purchase your vinyl without an old coat of dust and poor independent record store lighting -- your baby’s returning to the big time. Vinyl, the long-thought dead and "outdated" form of musical storage and presentation, is getting a test tryout at select Best Buy stores. Could this be the first tiny step for mainstream vinyl reemergence? Will this be the crossing of the Rubicon for the endless and non-profitable war between CDs and LPs? Will I have to start buying my records at Best Buy once they inevitably overtake the market and control all distribution chains with their massive bulk-quantity discount-buying? Am I over-exaggerating?

However surprising this may seem, it isn’t really unexpected: vinyl has been quietly (and with a fuller sound!) resurging back into the populace (TMT News). According to Jackie Crosby of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, vinyl makes up only 0.2% of total sales compared to 90% of CDs, amounting to nearly one million units sold. This may seem small for an entire format, but that “nearly one million” is a 15%(!) increase and the highest level in three years, according to Nielsen Sound Scan.

Crosby goes on to further explain that Best Buy’s willingness to give this old war horse another shot is due to the growing demand and sales figures from local Minneapolis record stores. She also illustrates that, contrary to popular belief, vinyl music cannot be directly copied to a digital format (except for the many models of record players built for that specific purpose, obviously) and points to the growing amount of hip, young artists who are simultaneously releasing their work on CD, LP, and digital formats.

Best Buy states that this “test” will take place “at an undisclosed amount of locations... to avoid artificially tipping the scales.”

  

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