Analysts' take on sales trend can't cover all the ways people take in music they love
Joe Gross, The Stuff
A few weeks ago, Nielsen Soundscan noted that old albums outsold new ones for the first time since 1991, when the company began tracking U.S. album sales. Anyone claiming they know why probably has something to sell you. Nielsen Soundscan analyst David Bakula said in the July 13 issue of OC Weekly that this has to do with a few things: a lack of blockbusters in the first half of the year (me: well, OK ...), a strong catalog (me: which isn't so different from your mom and dad saying music was better when they were kids) and the fact that catalog CDs are often priced as low as $5.99 or $7.99 while new releases are often twice that (me: hmmmm).
All of this may be correct, but it doesn't seem to address the fact that many young people (also known as consumers of newer music) may be out of the habit of buying any music at all and prefer streaming sites such as Spotify or those old bugaboos, file sharing, torrenting or otherwise getting it without paying for it.
The problem with trying to figure out anything about how recorded music is consumed right now is that, as yet, file sharing — from the number of tracks shared to the amount of money (allegedly) lost — is impossible to track accurately.
Then again, someone must be buying some old music and paying full price for it, because record companies keep cranking it out. (I look forward to buying the Pharcyde three-CD reissue that I wrote about last week.)
Blur's catalog has just come in for the remastering-plus-B-sides treatment. Look for "Leisure: Special Edition," "Modern Life Is Rubbish: Special Edition," "Parklife: Special Edition," "The Great Escape: Special Edition" "Blur: Special Edition," "13: Special Edition," and "Think Tank: Special Edition" in stores today.
Also look for remasters of the early Frank Zappa catalog, now controlled by the Zappa Family Trust and licensed to Universal. Here are the first 12 of an alleged 60 (yes, 60) album reissue program: "Freak Out!," "Absolutely Free," "We're Only in It for the Money," "Lumpy Gravy," "Cruising With Ruben & the Jets," "Uncle Meat," "Hot Rats," "Burnt Weeny Sandwich," "Weasels Ripped My Flesh," "Chunga's Revenge," "Fillmore East-June 1971," and "Just Another Band From L.A." Ahem.
Anyway, Amazon is listing the Blur two-CD sets around $20 each and the Zappa single CDs around $14.66 each.
So are these catalog pieces? New releases? Sort of both. Are they at full retail price here? Pretty much. (Waterloo Records has the Blur stuff on its website for $22.47 each and the Zappa CDs for $11.92 each.)
Speaking of old music for people who like to buy stuff they can hold in their hands and prop open doors with, check out the Charles Mingus 10-CD box set "The Complete Columbia & RCA Studio Albums Collection" and the Thelonious Monk six-CD box set "The Complete Columbia Studio Albums Collection." Phish also would like to submit the six-CD set "Phish: Chicago '94" to the door-jamb sweepstakes.
(Also, there is something funny about the six-CD complete studio album set versus the six-CD set of two complete live shows, about the evolutionary range of the former collection versus the in-the-moment improvisations of the latter, about the hedgehog versus fox worldviews of those who would buy one and not the other, and how thrilled Phish would be to have fans who buy both. I just have no idea what that funny thing is.)
Fans of older New Zealand music (and turntables) owe it to themselves to check out "Ambivalence," an LP reissue of the Pin Group's brief discography. An excellent outfit that took the idea of "influenced by the Velvet Underground" to then-new and weird heights, the Pin Group is essential listening for anyone who likes the VU, Yo La Tengo, the sound of guitars or any Flying Nun acts, such as the Clean and the Bats.
As for new records, Fort Worth's own Toadies' "Play.Rock.Music" is out today. Rap star Rick Ross' "God Forgives, I Don't" is in stores now. The Alchemist's new one, "Russian Roulette," is out today, as is "Red Hook Summer: Music From The Original Motion Picture," Bruce Hornsby's score for Spike Lee's new movie. "Candy Coated Fury" is Reel Big Fish's first album of new songs since 2007.
Contact Joe Gross at 912-5926