Box Full of Letters from Issue #27
Death of country music:
Or perhaps its executives?
The music business by definition is a mess. It is broken and when evaluated as a whole cannot be made right. It is not news that any business linked to any art ruins against both. But like most people , I want more music in my home than I can make myself. I want more music in my world than I can encourage out of a friend or a relative. So, I consort with the music business in its many forms.
That said, I have a modest proposal. No music title shall sell more than 500,000 copies — upon penalty of death for all the business types associated with the title.
Why 500,000? A friend recently showed me his gold record for his contribution to Lucinda Williams’ last album; “for sales of 500,000” was printed right on that beauty. Now think about it. Do you know anybody that doesn’t have Car Wheels On A Gravel Road? Of course you don’t. That means everybody that really should have that CD, has that CD. All the people who stop what they are doing and cry or jump for joy, or just fucking marvel at the accomplishment of it, have it. Lucinda probably has enough freedom off it to underwrite most anything that a normal gifted creative wacko would want to do. (“Wacko” in this context is a term of endearment.) So just what is the point to sell another 7,000,000? Well, there ain’t a good one.
Chasing those Beatlesque numbers breeds insanity. Please reference the Beatles themselves and Garth. Those sorts of numbers also bring in the lobster eaters and the lawyers. Chasing huge sales numbers opens the door to men like Pat Quigley, Mr. Brooks’ boy in the boardroom. The maker of the music is buried, modified, compromised, and driven to bad behavior by the process. To chase the big numbers, insane budgets are put in place by the suits. The whole thing takes on a life of its own well beyond making music. If they could be killed for selling 500,001 CD’s we could all relax.
Capping sales would also yield another wonderful state of affairs. Who knows how many wonderful little record companies would replace the big guys. Rather than five or six empires, we would have hundreds of Oh Boys or E-Squareds or Dead Reckonings or whatever. Small sales would give us small groups of committed people. Now wouldn’t that be novel.
What happens if through no fault of their own a title is to break the barrier? The other companies draw lots to see who gets it for a couple of years till it cools off. Then it’s back to the original owner.
Think of it. Dozens and dozens of small companies doing something they care about. Not enough sales dollars at stake for a Japanese investment bank to even notice. In years past, record companies were much more like this than the current state of affairs. A few people at a bunch of labels plowing the ground for music they love.
Give it some thought, No Dep readers. Get mad: get organized. Do something. Yes, it is impossible for this to happen, but let’s dream about it anyway. Dead or unemployed record company execs. You know you like the thought of that. Don’t you?
— David Wilds
Jimmy Martin, Osborne Brothers:
Finding bluegrass in the Big Apple
About a month ago, I was searching for C&W and/or bluegrass on St.
Mark’s Place in New York City. In one store, I spent about five minutes or so, going thru all the CDs available, and not finding any to my liking at the moment, I looked up at the boxed CD sets on a shelf. There was the Bear Family Jimmy Martin boxed set, at a ridiculously low price. I fellow saw me looking at the box, pronounced it “great, I have it, the best,” so I had to take his free advice, and bought it. To date I’ve played the whole six-hour thing three times straight through. Yes, it’s the best! Thanks again for the article on Jimmy [ND #21, May-June ’99]. Now I have to go buy Bear’s Monroe ’50-’58 and the Osborne Brothers, another great article [ND #26, March-April ’00]. Keep the pieces on C&W and bluegrass’s traditions coming please!
— Steve Zajac
Chatham, New Jersey
Willa Mae Buckner:
‘A truly unique person’
Love your story on Willa Mae Buckner [ND #26, March-April ’00]. Willa Mae was my close friend for years and she is missed very much. She was a truly unique person. The world isn’t quite as interesting without Willa in it.
— Gaile Welker