Michael Nelson

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But Who's Buying?

We’ve Passed Peak Vinyl – Here Comes The Collapse

From 1996 - 1999, I worked at a New York City record store called Rebel Rebel. I was a student at NYU when I got…
Michael Nelson | July 22, 2016 - 12:38 pm
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Stream Sun Kil Moon’s “God Bless Ohio” From New Double-LP Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood

Say what you will about Mark Kozelek, but you can't knock the dude's work ethic. He's been dropping material with the frequency of peak Pollard,…
Michael Nelson | July 20, 2016 - 12:23 pm
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Wilco Announce New Album Schmilco; Stream “If I Ever Was a Child”

Last week, Wilco released a new track called "Locator" -- ostensibly to recognize the one-year anniversary of the band's last LP, the surprise release Star
Michael Nelson | July 18, 2016 - 6:13 pm
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But Who's Buying?

You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby: Thoughts On The Nielsen Music Mid-Year Report

Is there even such a thing as good news anymore? Man, if there is, please share, because I'm not hearing it. The whole world is…
Michael Nelson | July 15, 2016 - 1:37 pm
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But Who's Buying?

But Who’s Buying? A Column About The Music Business

A few weeks before Britain's historic Brexit referendum -- before John Oliver eviscerated the whole thing on Last Week Tonight; before Noel Gallagher broke his
Michael Nelson | July 8, 2016 - 10:07 am
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Comments from Michael Nelson

The thing is there's no single problem with a plateau; there are several different factions with skin in this game, and they all face different problems if the market doesn't grow. But their interests aren't entirely aligned -- and in some cases, they're at odds -- so one entity's problem might operate to another's benefit. Double-digit growth encourages an uneasy truce, because everybody is getting a taste, even if the shares aren't equal, buy when you've got numerous contingents trying to expand in a status quo market, you're gonna see numerous problems, most meaningfully loss of jobs. I'm not saying vinyl is doomed! I'm saying some people are gonna be screwed to varying degrees because the vinyl market can't sustain.
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July 22, 2016 on We’ve Passed Peak Vinyl – Here Comes The Collapse
I've seen a couple surveys dedicated to this, and the numbers are truly insane -- like claiming 25% of people who buy vinyl actually own a turntable or something. But the survey sizes are never large enough to be meaningful, IMO, which is why I don't talk about them here. Still, fun read if you just wanna laugh/cry: http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/04/14/icm-poll-48-of-people-who-buy-vinyl-dont-listen-to-it/ http://www.allaccess.com/net-news/archive/story/140454/survey-one-third-of-all-vinyl-buyers-don-t-own-tur
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July 22, 2016 on We’ve Passed Peak Vinyl – Here Comes The Collapse
Weird timing; this was just published: http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/7446554/hastings-entertainment-shutting-down-all-stores-following-court-ruling-on?utm_source=twitter This is also probably not a GREAT development for the vinyl market in general fwiw. Just two years ago, Hastings was one of the biggest vinyl sellers in the country: "A Billboard analysis shows that Amazon is the largest seller of vinyl in the U.S., with about 12.3% market share, followed by Urban Outfitters with 8.1% market share. Rounding out the top five retail accounts selling vinyl, the next-largest is Hastings Entertainment with 2.8% of the market; Hot Topic with 2.4%; and Trans World Entertainment with 2.2%." http://www.billboard.com/articles/6266616/urban-outfitters-doesnt-sell-most-vinyl
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July 22, 2016 on We’ve Passed Peak Vinyl – Here Comes The Collapse
Well, the majors are never gonna bail on vinyl entirely, and if they did, the market would probably collapse, because the big sellers are still things like Adele, Taylor Swift, etc., plus catalog stuff like Zeppelin or Miles Davis or whatever. Indie stores still stock and sell a lot of major label product, and they'd probably die immediately if the majors just pulled out. Beyond that, as to the rest of your scenario, it's by no means impossible, it's just that there are all these factors pushing against it. The majors are gouging, meaning indie shops have to either stock fewer titles to minimize risk, or raise prices. Either/both of those things are customer-unfriendly practices, meaning fewer people coming into the stores, meaning fewer sales, meaning stores shutting down. When stores shut down, it makes it harder for indie labels to get their product (vinyl) to consumers, which makes it harder for indie labels to stay afloat. Plus you've got these new vinyl plants set to press tens of thousands of records a day. But if orders drop, some of the existing plants won't be able to stay open, and the plants that do stay open will be the ones getting the biggest orders, i.e., from major labels, which puts indies at a further disadvantage. I mean, this is just armchair "analysis," and there are a whole lot of other things I'm overlooking, forgetting, or just too lazy to include, but my point is, it's a perfect storm of elements and it's not gonna kill EVERYONE but it's hard to see everyone surviving long enough to make it to the next stage, whatever that might be. And again, I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time!
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July 22, 2016 on We’ve Passed Peak Vinyl – Here Comes The Collapse
I think it's someplace in the middle: they want to maintain as much of a pro-sales stance as possible because that's still a fast path to the biggest possible payout and they also want to negotiate their positions with the streaming services and the artists with as much public sympathy as possible. If they were saying, "ANTI is now 10x platinum because of its YouTube streams" it would embolden YouTube and Rihanna (both of whom take money from the label) with no direct benefit to the label. I mean I'm blindly guessing AND wildly oversimplifying here so take it for what it's worth...
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July 16, 2016 on You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby: Thoughts On The Nielsen Music Mid-Year Report
A couple things being asked here, some of it probably better suited to a future column, but I'll offer a sort of overarching and incomplete response: The point of the Billboard charts and the RIAA Album Awards isn't to reflect revenue but consumption or "popularity." We actually have no idea what the profits and losses on any of these albums are because there are a billion additional factors that are specific to each project. Planet Money did a piece on this a while back and estimated that it costs on average approximately $1,078,000 to make a hit song for Rihanna: $78k on the song (which goes to many different contributors) and $1m on promotion. Nielsen isn't accounting for that, they're just telling you what people are listening to, so the idea of factoring in some sort of weighted priority for CDs over streams is antithetical to their mission. And I think this campaign of failure being staged by the industry does have a negative impact on the bottom line, but they're reluctant to abandon it. There are a lot of ways to to make money off music and musicians, it's just that CD sales are not really the standard or baseline anymore. But Rihanna's chart position doesn't factor in her endorsement deals so ... I dunno, I'm gonna come back to this in a future column but yeah regarding this one, I honestly do think these data compilers should employ a metric that more accurately measures actual engagement adjusted for the era, because I think that's more honest, more instructive, and more meaningful.
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July 16, 2016 on You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby: Thoughts On The Nielsen Music Mid-Year Report
Haha, yeah, it'll be published pretty regularly, but I don't wanna make promises I can't keep, so we'll see how it takes shape as we proceed. Most Fridays? Unless something huge breaks on a Tuesday or something and I wanna write something right away? It will definitely not always be a four-part multi-media epic like the one above, I'll warn/assure you in advance. But there is NO SHORTAGE of wild-ass shit going on in the music biz right now, so there's plenty for me to write about.
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July 8, 2016 on But Who’s Buying? A Column About The Music Business
That's totally my mistake, not John O's. I got rid of the Boris parenthetical -- I think the broader point still applies, especially to Farage and Cameron (who didn't "back" Brexit but basically brought it into existence to support his own political ambitions).
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July 8, 2016 on But Who’s Buying? A Column About The Music Business
Hahaha, I nearly used that line in this column, no joke.
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July 8, 2016 on But Who’s Buying? A Column About The Music Business
All Tom's PE's are sublime, but this one was written by Chris (and I agree it too is sublime).
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July 1, 2016 on Premature Evaluation: The Avalanches Wildflower
Also, fwiw, they're the least "hipster"-ish people in the world to an almost comical degree (based on the interview I did with them, anyway). They worship Devin Townsend; the two founders have sound engineering degrees; and the band name was born when they were playing some sci-fi video game for hours on end the day it came out, and one of the dudes said "asteroid" wrong, which they both thought was funny. But I get what Doug's saying, and I doubt anyone who seriously uses the term "hipster metal" (or "hipster" for that matter) really cares to examine that kinda stuff anyway.
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June 30, 2016 on The Black Market: The Month In Metal – June 2016
Well I was talking about Britain specifically, and the British faction that would like to see its country become less European by way of leaving the European Union. But yes, Trump's "policies" mirror those of France's longstanding National Front party, among others. Point taken about America's fascist nutjobs and their countless acts of murderous violence dating back to...I mean, I'd like to start the clock with John Wilkes Booth, but we both know it predates him by almost a full century. I stand corrected. In any case, I didn't intend to start a conversation about politics on a blog about music, and for that I apologize. As long as we can all agree that the Brexit debate was at least in part motivated by a segment of the British public feeling chastened after hearing Jonathan Groff as King George singing "You'll Be Back" while being clowned by Lin-Manuel Miranda's heroic Hamilton, then we've reached a meaningful understanding while also staying on-topic. Thanks guys!
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June 23, 2016 on Noel Gallagher Steps Into Brexit Debate: “I Like The Fact That It Sounds Like A Cereal”
Nah I was being, how you say, cheeky? I think the sentiments powering both the Leave initiative and the Trump "campaign" are identical, and both pander to nationalist ideologies. Feel free to strike the last sentence from my reply; I do not mean to suggest that Leavers endorse the assassination of Remain-backing pols. If that's the only claim in my comment with which you take issue, then we, in fact, agree. The reason Noel is telling politicians to "do their job" and ignore the emotionally charged views of the public at large is because he knows that THEY know leaving is a terrible idea with terrible consequences, but they're punting because they're backlash-averse cowards. "Hey you guys wanted this, we were just doing what you guys wanted us to do..."
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June 23, 2016 on Noel Gallagher Steps Into Brexit Debate: “I Like The Fact That It Sounds Like A Cereal”
I guess I called it that because it's jingoistic populist exceptionalism promising economic vitality by localizing industry, creating borders, and eliminating immigration. It masks fear and xenophobia as "pride." And if it wins the vote, it will almost certainly be catastrophic for the country and the world. But no American politicians have been killed by zealots for opposing Trump, so it is different in that respect...
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June 22, 2016 on Noel Gallagher Steps Into Brexit Debate: “I Like The Fact That It Sounds Like A Cereal”
Nah, not at all, he's saying it's really easy for copyright holders to keep their content off YouTube, but they choose to keep it ON YouTube. I think this excerpt covers the salient points:
If you don’t want your song on YouTube, upload it into the ContentID database and issue a blanket takedown for all videos using that song. Boom. Done. And yet, this is done only very rarely. Every record label has their own policy for what they will do, and many individual artists have their policies as well, but very few do blanket takedowns of their property.
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June 15, 2016 on Trent Reznor: YouTube Was “Built On The Backs Of Free, Stolen Content”
Yeah this is exactly right. All these music-industry criticisms of YouTube are just trying to win favor in the court of public opinion and I've read a bunch that seem willfully disingenuous. Hank Green recently wrote a fantastic essay about this in the form of an open letter to Irving Azoff. http://www.recode.net/2016/5/10/11645760/youtube-hank-green-response-irving-azoff-artist-rights
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June 15, 2016 on Trent Reznor: YouTube Was “Built On The Backs Of Free, Stolen Content”
I'd be pretty surprised if Tidal had a really big pre-sale block, which is exacerbated by the fact that a high percentage of Tidal's subscriber base is gonna want tix to these shows, so I can definitely envision Thursday morning being pretty fraught and resulting in a lotta anger, frustration, and heartache...but still better than waiting till Saturday. I might do it.
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June 14, 2016 on Kanye West Announces Saint Pablo Tour
He's probably got the weakest verse on "Monster," but everybody looks bad next to Nicki Minaj on that one. However, his nadir is "Drunk In Love," no question.
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June 8, 2016 on Jay Z Would Like To Remind You That He Can Rap
Not sure if serious, but if serious: that's a watermark, not a sample. It's not actually part of the song.
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June 3, 2016 on Kanye West – “Champions” (Feat. Travis Scott, Desiigner, Big Sean, Gucci Mane, Quavo, 2 Chainz, & Yo Gotti)
Well I'm not gonna argue with thoughtful analysis from a serious fan. All I'll say is, I feel like some of the things you perceive as weaknesses are, to my ears, strengths. I actually think the "simpler" approach and "repetitive" sections serve the music really well, but I also felt like the first two albums were compositionally scattered and dense, like they wanted to work in every trick they could -- often very abruptly and only once, as if to maximize some sort of "WTF HOLY SHIT!" reaction in the listener -- which made for a pretty exhilarating experience, but sometimes at the expense of truly memorable or immersive songs. And for me, this album just feels more like the band is working to do something bigger and more permanent, and they're hitting a better balance of wild acrobatics and really solid, engaging song structures. But I'm not saying you're wrong or that you should come around to my way of thinking, just trying to give you an idea of where I'm coming from. In any case, I really appreciate you following up -- I hope the album grows on you, and if it does, lemme know!
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May 18, 2016 on On Everybody Wants Some!!, Metal’s Genre Problem, & Kvelertak’s Amazing New Album