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Recently, indie-rock cornerstone Touch and Go Records announced it was effectively closing up shop. Carrie Brownstein wrote up a solid essay on her blog, Monitor Mix, about the sad news.
Brownstein points the finger at music websites as a big culprit. She makes some interesting points. I agree with everything she has to say. It should be noted that the two recently released Touch and Go albums leaked well in advance. You can’t stop illegal downloading.
Then why are record stores thriving in the District?
Here’s some of what Brownstein wrote:
“I read the news about Touch and Go today. I was sitting in a restaurant and I checked my phone and gasped; my friend actually asked what was wrong. Something is wrong. We are careening toward a paucity of experience and a paucity of means with which to evaluate music. I mean, can we really engage with art on a Web site and in a vacuum, without ever bothering to contextualize it or make it coherent with our lives or form a community around the work? If we never move beyond the ephemeral and facile nature of music Web sites — and let’s not lie to ourselves, that’s where it ends for a lot of us these days — then that makes us worse than blind consumers; it makes us dabblers. We have become musical tourists. And tourism is the laziest form of experience, because it is spoonfed and sold to us. Tourism cannot and should not replace the physical energy, the critical thinking and the tiresome but ultimately edifying road of adventure, and thus also of life.
As for places like MySpace, they’re not the enemy, they’re not anathema to art, and they’re places I peruse frequently. I mean, MySpace is democratic and ceaselessly available, but it is ugly — and it’s a crumb being treated like the whole wedding cake we can’t stop gorging on. Are we no longer seekers of the real? Or do we only seek for ourselves without any sense that a tactile discovery is mutually beneficial? Being found is as splendid as the finding. Stumbling upon an MP3 or a blog or a Web site is only half the search. We seem to have forfeited our duties and become half-participants — and at the cost of the creators. But we have to realize, and the Touch and Go announcement is a reminder, that in order for there to be anything left in which to participate, we have to show up. We have to show up with not just our half-selves, our virtual selves, our broke-ass selves, but with our whole selves, and in the spirit of giving. Mock participation is more than just an absence of real engagement; it is a falsehood that has allowed us to justify our apathy. When, exactly, did we stop showing up? And how long until there’s not much left worth showing up for?”