Match Frame

Thoughts from an American editor and filmmaker in New Zealand about film and video production and post-production. Plus whatever else I feel like talking about.

Location: Balmoral, Auckland, New Zealand

A work in progress.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Future Of Music, In My House.

Of late I have been having apocalyptic thoughts about the future of media, in terms of making a living from it. As I, in fact, do just that at the moment, and would like to continue to do so, I've been thinking about not only how to do so but behave in a way that corresponds with those values.

So I went to the record store today. You remember those, don't you? Yeah: there are a few that still exist. I used to spend hours upon hours in them, get lost in bargain bins, get mistaken for clerks because my bin was so full of CDs. Nowadays? Not so much. For lots of different reasons.

Here's my basic problem, though: new CDs feel expensive, I don't currently have a turntable, and digital downloads also feel expensive. The former is exacerbated often in New Zealand, where CDs retail for $34.95 NZD (at current exchange rates, that's $24 USD). Vinyl, being heavy, is often just as expensive if not more, but feels like it has some beauty and value as an artifact ... but not so satisfying if you can't play it. Digital downloads, meanwhile, were not available in NZ for ages, and were originally encumbered by lots of DRM, and now that all that's finally sorted they still seem quite expensive relative to value.

(As an experiment, I decided to log into the iTunes store and see if I could get Nina Nastasia's new album, OUTLASTER. After waiting 90 seconds for the search results to load, I discovered it is there for $10 - but it's not clear if that's USD or NZD. I could buy it on MP3 for 6.95 GBP from Fat Cat, her label, but with the CD priced only 1 pound higher, it feels like a bit of a ripoff to get nothing physical in return. And so OUTLASTER remains unbought by me.)

The end result is if I do buy, it's either used or at stores in the States, or sometimes via Amazon (often shipping to my infinitely patient parents). And so today when I went to the record store, I mostly bought used CDs. The new Gaslight Anthem (second-hand, NZ$19.95); older bargain priced CDs from Jakob, Fantomas, The Mint Chicks, and Roy Montgomery. And then I had the two most recent CDs from a favorite band, Liars, in my hand, both used. SISTERWORLD is the latest album, priced $21.95 NZD ($15.11). The packaging was flimsy, though. It would get lost.

I wasn't feeling the value, but I kind of felt like I should buy it anyway. Make no mistake: I know I could acquire it digitally, illegally, for $0.00, and on a demand curve between those 2 options, for most music these days, I fall closer to that side than even the less expensive used option. But the guilt pushed me towards it.

(Why, though? Liars weren't getting a dime from my used CD purchase. Remember the good old days when it was used CDs that were killing the record industry, rather than downloading? There was a kernel of truth in that giant pile of bullshit, you know.)

But then, on a whim, I browsed the vinyl, and discovered SISTERWORLD new for NZD $34.95. But it wasn't just the vinyl. It was a double LP, with the second LP being remixes, and a double CD, with the same material as the LP but on the format.

And that, to me, was worth it. No download codes to fuck with, both media options at my hand, and a very nice package.


I'm listening to SISTERWORLD right now. And as I do so, I'm downloading my first non-physical music purchase, ever.

It was a really random train of circumstance that introduced me to Flingco Sound System, founded by the former head of Kranky Records, a label famous for spacy and drony rock-based sounds. You might be familiar with Deerhunter, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Charalambides, Labradford, Jessamine. (Or you might not be. That's cool, too.)

Flingco is another step more experimental. If you go to that site, you can download a sampler of their material, or listen to songs as you browse. Through one of those mechanisms, I got to hear Interbellum, who combine piano, cello, and what I call "soft noise" (non-musical sound textures on the less abrasive tip) to a very pleasing effect, at least for my ears.

This would usually have been the point where I said, eh, sounds good, will keep my eyes open. I do this when I visit a lot of label's sites. But Flingco, unlike pretty much every other label I know of, made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

Their digital downloads are priced at a measly $5 USD! And as it happens, there's no other option for this album - some of Flingco's other albums are available on limited edition vinyl, which is very very very (very!) expensive, but might be worth it if I became a passionate fan of one of their other artists.

But anyway. $5 and a quick and easy paypal transaction later, and I'm downloading Interbellum's album. All 532 MB of it! Not sure if it's FLAC or 8 hours long or what, will find out soon enough.


I'd like to say this demonstrates multiple paths for successful sale of music in the future. I'm not sure if that's the case. I have no idea how much SISTERWORLD has sold, and my order number from Flingco was 87, which makes me think they're not tearing through the Internet. (That may have more to do with the obscurity of their roster than actual piracy, however.)

But it does feel good to have bought music in ways that I wanted to, in forms where I'll be satisfied with the results, and not be left with that lingering feeling that I'm being cheated.


The real question for me is this: how can I apply this to movies? I'm not sure of the answer yet, but I'm thinking about it. Thoughts are welcomed.


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