Record Buying Habits Reinvented
As you’ve surely noticed, I haven’t been writing so much about music recently. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been enjoying it, or even that I haven’t been buying it. Over the last few months, I’ve been listening to jazz, to Latin music, to blues, to gospel, to the vocal groups that got lumped in with doo wop, and to the music of Leiber-Stoller, Phil Spector and the young married couples who populated the Brill Building in the early 1960s. There are worse ways to spend your week. (Watching your bank account empty because someone wrongly promised you it would be cheaper to build a new house than buy an old one is certainly among them.) In doing so, I’ve taken advantage of all the music distribution systems immediately available to me – none of which, interestingly, include the old-fashioned record store.
The fastest and usually most efficient system is iTunes. Can’t find ‘One Fine Day’ and ‘He’s So Fine’ by the Chiffons anywhere on a compilation? Two minutes and two dollars (minus two cents) later, they’re on my hard drive. Embarrassed to find I don’t have the Shangri-Las catalogue on CD already? Look what iTunes is selling for $6.50: a fifteen-song Greatest Hits. Mistakenly purchase a Big Bands set that is actually an anonymous covers album, the jazz equivalent of those old Top of The Pops albums? I got a full refund three days later, along with a two-song credit.
The disadvantage of iTunes is the lack of sleeve notes, a real hindrance when you’re buying music largely for research purposes. In comes amazon.com, through which I have been ordering so many CDs and DVDs and books of late that I feel like I should have my own Amazon rewards credit card. (Oh wait, I do.) The past couple of weeks I’ve picked up a really well-produced DVD series from A&E’s Biography channel on The Songmakers, a documentary (as yet unwatched) on Afro-Cuban drummer Chano Pozo, and have been adding to my series of budget box sets from the Proper label. These are produced out of the UK, focus largely on jazz and blues legends, are almost exhausting in their detail, and yet remain impossibly inexpensive. The Chick Webb 4-CD set I ordered last week arrived, as an import, two days later, with some 5 hours of music and a 48-page booklet (which, sure enough, contradicted the facts contained in the Machito and Dizzy Gillespie box sets), and all for only $15. It’s hard not to add to your music collection whem compilations are this cheap.
But even inexpensive purchases add up over time, which is why I’m most thrilled to take advantage of the local Library. Our branch itself is relatively small, as you might expect living in a village. But it’s part of the much wider Mid-Hudson Library, the database of which is available online. Order a book or CD or video or DVD from your home computer, chances are it will be with your local branch in a day or two, at which my friendly librarians call me at home, I walk on over and my life is further enriched. I recently returned about a dozen books I’d kept out for a couple of months, without which I could not have survived, and my thanks to the Library for constantly checking back in and out again, so that I could keep them as long as I needed them. Right now, I’m looking forward to renting, for free, the movies Bird and Grace of My Heart, while holding on to CDs by Stan Kenton, Tito Puente, and Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. And yes, they probably will be ripped before they’re returned.
In short, then, I am listening to, reading about and watching more great music, more of the time, than ever before. And yes, some of it is even new: I found myself ordering the new albums by Arctic Monkeys and Ted Leo from amazon to push myself into the free shipping bracket. Now all I have to do is find the time to hear them.