Matablog

Newsweek Story That Would Be Widely Re-Bloggified if Not In Newsweek

June 12th, 2009 at 3:36 pm by Nils

synewsweekSonic Youth is the top story on Newsweek’s site today and this feature will be in the magazine next week.  (direct link)

I usually don’t blog about press, but this is a great piece about how culture suffers when art is marginalized, and (if you’ll allow me to stretch) the discouraging (and uniquely American?) absorption by purportedly open-minded indie/slacker types of Conservative disdain toward intellectualism and forward-thinking art.

“The retrenchment behind indie lines is more the mainstream’s loss than it is Sonic Youth’s. So while industry watchers prefer to fret over the declining sales power of Britney Spears’s comeback records, the rest of us should be more concerned about what happens when art music sends fewer and fewer ambassadors to the straight world.”

It’s only a couple weeks into Newsweek’s relaunch (in which it concedes weekly news recapping to the Internet, opting instead for “reported narratives” and “argued essays”) and hey, looks like a decent strategy so far.

(Photo by Jake Chessum for Newsweek)

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12 Responses to “Newsweek Story That Would Be Widely Re-Bloggified if Not In Newsweek”

  1. Pearl Says:

    rest of us should be more concerned about what happens when art music sends fewer and fewer ambassadors to the straight world.”
    The thing is, in a spoon fed culture like our own, anything that needs a bit of thought or concentration is mainstream problematic.

  2. Patrick Says:

    I wonder whether SY’s move to an indie truly signifies the underground’s retrenchment from the corporate world. It’s seems to me it’s more like likely to be related to the fragmentation of culture a la the change from 3 big network TV channels to dozens of cable channels. Big gatekeepers like Geffen no longer have the influence they once did, and small labels like Matador are able to work with bigger bands than they did in the past.

  3. MFB Says:

    The only “benefit” of Sonic Youth’s return to an indie is that their records now cost twice as much on vinyl than the last three Geffen LPs did (even more if you opt for the ludicrous Buy Early Get Now scheme) and their new releases are accompanied by marketing tie-ins with Apple & Fender and press coverage from Newsweek & Pitchfork.tv. Retreat from the mainstream indeed…

  4. Gerard Says:

    the expensive vinyl you refer to is a double disc, 180 gram version, with heavy-duty old-style “slicks” gatefold sleeve printed at Stoughton,2 special varnishes on cover – one high-gloss, one dull
    2 full-color, heavy-duty printed cardboard innersleeves. I think if you compare Matador’s LP issue of ‘The Eternal’ with the Geffen version of ‘Rather Ripper’, the difference in price seems a bit less audacious.

    Though I’d personally not claim SY-on-Matador represents anything other than the band actually being on a label that believes in what they’re doing, I would assume press coverage from Newsweek and PF is the sort of thing a non-indie would aspire to as much as we would. I’m also not aware of a “marketing tie-in” with Apple beyond our selling ‘The Eternal’ via iTunes and the band playing an instore at Apple’s Soho location. Sonic Youth are hardly the first independent band to have done such a thing, and again, I would presume if they were still making music for a Universal label, those folks would’ve gone after such an event, too (time permitting).

    Fender’s release of the Lee and Thurston signature guitars — coming on the heels of said co.’s J Mascis guitar — was a concept that was kicked around w/ zero Matador input. That said, I am struggling to figure out what’s the downside to a moderately priced version of a Jazzmaster being made available. If branding in general or an association with a major guitar manufacturer is offensive to some, fair enough, but I’ll submit that’s a line that was crossed a very long time ago, both with this artist and many others.

  5. A-Squared Says:

    Weren’t the last half-dozen or more vinyl pressings of Sonic Youth albums on the band’s own Goofin’ label? They were distributed through Revolver, not through UNI/Geffen.

    I think having the support of Matador allowed them to do a more attractive package than they’ve done in the past, which is part of the reason for the expense, as Patrick said. I’m sure they have just shrunkwrapped two stock white sleeves together and slapped a sticker on it if they were most concerned with keeping costs lower rather than pursuing their artistic vision for the release.

  6. sonofsam Says:

    The Geffen pressings sound perfectly fine. The $28 price tag is just absolutely ludicrous and is just another lame attempt at an indie label trying to squeeze every cent they can from the vinyl fetish-object market. While it’s admirable that Matador is putting a lot of effort into making a high quality product, I think it’s just as important to keep affordability in mind and it’s clear that they lost sight of on this pressing. Is it really necessary to have two special varnishes on the cover? That’s the kind of stuff I would be re-considering if I am releasing new records during a recession.

    It’s one thing to give this kind of treatment to stuff like the Burma re-issues. I can certainly see a market for that sort of thing in archival releases of important albums. But to expect someone to drop that amount of money on a totally new release seems kind of disingenuous and out of touch to me.

  7. Gerard Says:

    S.O.S., I recently purchased the vinyl edition of the new Maximo Park album — $18 before shipping. No download code. Thin vinyl. Fairly basic packaging. I’m not asking for a refund, but measured against what a number of single LP prices are these days, I do not feel Matador is squeezing anyone. You can call it the vinyl fetish-object market if you like — I’d prefer to think we’re trying to make LP’s people are gonna want to play and look at over and over again, and will hopefully feel they’ve had an experience superior to that of a CD or a download, rather than the opposite.

    The new Conor Oberst 2XLP on Merge is $24.98 before shipping. I’ve neither purchased or heard sald album but shall assume the discs and packaging are comparable to ‘The Eternal”s vinyl and sleeves. If I’m correct about that, well done to Merge.

    “It’s one thing to give this kind of treatment to stuff like the Burma re-issues. I can certainly see a market for that sort of thing in archival releases of important albums.”

    Point taken, though we thought this was an important album, too.

  8. Stephen Mejias Says:

    I purchased The Eternal through Matador’s Buy Early Get Now program. I have been thrilled with the service — streaming the album prior to the release, the bonus live LP, bonus MP3s, option to pre-order concert tix — and the quality of the album itself is superb. In my opinion, the package is a bargain. This is something I will cherish for many, many years. Thanks, Matador.

  9. Gerard Says:

    thank you, Stephen. And your check is in the mail!

  10. Funk Says:

    “the expensive vinyl you refer to is a double disc, 180 gram version, with heavy-duty old-style “slicks” gatefold sleeve printed at Stoughton,2 special varnishes on cover – one high-gloss, one dull
    2 full-color, heavy-duty printed cardboard innersleeves. I think if you compare Matador’s LP issue of ‘The Eternal’ with the Geffen version of ‘Rather Ripper’, the difference in price seems a bit less audacious.”

    The “Geffen” version of “Rather Ripped” is a single LP that is a third of the cost, and released by the band’s own label. SY also self-released three 4-LP deluxe box sets that you can get for less than the double LP, and the band had to license it from a major label and don’t have the benefit of CD and digital sales to offset the costs.

    “The new Conor Oberst 2XLP on Merge is $24.98 before shipping.”

    Doesn’t Merge’s online store say that prices include shipping? Or have they removed that since last week?

  11. Gerard Says:

    i stand corrected on the Merge mail order policy as well as the label of issue for the ‘Rather Ripped’ LP. However, just for instance, the Goo 4XLP box is not “less than the double LP” if ordered from Insound ($36.99 compared to $30.99).

    I wasn’t aware it was any label’s policy (big or small) in 2009 to use CD and digital sales to subsidize vinyl as a loss leader — particularly with LP sales on the rise and CD totals plummeting, but as always, we appreciate the advice.

  12. nova Says:

    So yesterday I was in the record store and saw The Destroyed Room DLP for $15, the Daydream Nation box for $30, and The Eternal for $32. What’s wrong with this picture? I’ll gladly wait for a used copy of The Eternal if I pick it up at all. What a waste.