Saturday, June 30, 2007


The record store is dead. A recent business story said the top four music stores were Wal-Mart, Best Buy, iTunes and Not a music chain in sight among them. And of course Tower Records has shut down, leaving a hole in my heart. New York City holds some eight million people. If I want to go to a record store and browse, I have literally TWO choices: Virgin MegaStore in the midst of all the tourists in Times Square or the slighly preferable Virgin MegaStore in Union Square. That's it. You can find a few used CD stores in the East Village, while most of the specialty stores like Footlights, have disappeared.

My favorite record store NYCD shut down its physical location a while ago. And now the guys have closed shop at their office location, where they tried to go all-Internet (piggybacking on Amazon, mostly) and finally just gave up the ghost. They had almost no competition on the Upper West Side by either major chains or indie stores or used CD stores, with the closest real competitor being Tower Records at 65th St. (They were in the high 70s.) But rising rents forced them out of a tiny location on Amsterdam and sent them up a block or two and around the corner to a basement location. It might as well have been the moon, as so many customers failed to follow them. They had every advantage in some ways: New York magazine highlighted them in its Best of New York edition, their weekly email newsletter about new releases was also singled out for praise in the media and went out to thousands of customers. Their switch from a physical store to an online presence was written about in the LA Times. They gave interviews, wrote liner notes, sponsored shows, played in bands, posted on Huffington and of course even had their own blog.

And yesterday it came to an end. Rob -- who has the twin loss of no new Grateful Dead records to ever look forward to -- is I think moving in with his Mom. Sal -- who has the twin loss of his second home New Orleans to incompetence and indifference -- is I think selling blood. And Tony's wife has offered to put him on allowance in exchange for daily chores.

And me? Me, I'm stuck with my smart-ass comments about ringtones and digital sales and the unnatural bulge in CD sales in the early 90s that could never last and how everything would be okay. Everything will be okay in one sense -- people still spend billions of dollars on music, just about as much as they have throughout the 80s and 90s (except for that crazy five year period when everyone bought every album they owned all over again on CD and then bought it again when it was remastered and then bought it again when they added a bonus track). But the touring industry hit a tipping point of unpleasantness for me with the Police shows, which featured early sales IF you spent $100 to join their fan club, plus early sales for American Express customers PLUS early sales via Wal-Mart or some other store and still people who jumped through all those hoops had to pay hundreds of dollars and got horrible seats. But I'm going to see Old Springs Pike -- an Americana band featuring John Gallagher, the Tony winning actor from Spring Awakening -- at Joe's Pub on July 9. And next week the new Magic Numbers CD comes out in America and the week after that it's Nick Drake and Spoon and Common and the week after that it's Raul Malo and the terrific new Suzanne Vega CD and in August there's the new Linda Thompson and in September....

Home Alone (For A Moment)

First I was in London and Cannes for a month. As soon as I returned, my nephew arrived for a two week internship. The day before he left my sister arrived for ten days. For various reasons (such as the fact that I stay up till two or three in the morning), I put my guests into the bedroom, where my computer is. And come Monday, I'll be alone for the first time in two months and actually have regular easy access to my computer. Hurrah!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Angelina Jolie Restrictions

Angelina Jolie is in the news for all the wrong reasons. While promoting her film "A Mighty Heart," the story of a journalist who is murdered by extremists, Jolie foolishly tried to force journalists to sign one of the most restrictive release forms I've ever seen. The irony of doing this for a film about journalists is of course obvious. Last night on the Daily Show, Jolie fobbed it off as something she had nothing to do with -- it was just something that people who work for her did without her knowledge. Uh, they represent you so anything they do is in your name and you're responsible. She should simply apologize and promise never to do it again or she should defend it. Acting as if it had nothing to with her is silly. Roger Friedman of points out the irony of all this. I took part in an "intimate press conference" with Jolie at Cannes that included about 12 other journalists from around the world. We were not asked to sign any release form, but a representative of the film did say that we were invited because we were all adults and they expected us not to ask any "personal" questions. We simply ignored them, as insulting and stupid as it was. Jolie herself brought up her partner Brad Pitt before the first question was even asked. I have empathy for celebs stalked by photographers and bottom-feeders. But Brad Pitt was a producer on the film and attached to the project long before Jolie. Not mentioning him would have been idiotic. Besides, if you're Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, expecting people not to mention your partner in any situation is unrealistic. I found Jolie really interesting and smart during the press conference. This might come across more if she didn't shut herself off from major media outlets that behave professionally. (Among the groups she tried to force to sign this pledge -- which was absurdly broad -- were the Associated Press and other major outlets. Are they really the problem? I typically refuse to sign any release forms and they simply don't pop up more than once a year, if that. I have a feature on Jolie and "A Mighty Heart" running in the NY Daily News this Sunday. The film is well worth seeing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hey, I've Got A Blog!

Been gone for a month and still switching over bookmarks and info from my PC to my Mac. (And yes, I'm very happy with the Mac so far and think it will just get better.) Gotta rebuild my home page and this blog while trying to get back into work swing. Plus, I've got my nephew visiting for two weeks followed by my London sister Leslie visiting for ten days plus oral surgery to remove that chipped tooth. In other words, back to normal. More soon.