JAIMIE VERNON: Compact DISCovery

It was about a year ago that some columnist at some hipster rag (Wired? Pitchfork?) predicted or, rather, insisted that CDs would be dead by the end of 2012. And because this Nostradumbass was read by non-hipsters as well, it went viral and became the discussion du jour across the interwebs. A mass

sheeple hysteria ensued that even gave pause to those making the decisions about the future of the format despite the fact that they knew it wasn’t true. Physical product still accounts for the lion’s share of overall international music sales. To eliminate the format would mean flushing half their annual profits down the drain. The labels, currently, have no plan B. They cannot survive on downloading revenues alone and so the compact disc remains.

And if the CD is being phased out, nobody bothered to tell the replicating companies and thousands of independent artists worldwide ’cause here we are five months into 2012 and I’ve got a shitload of product on my desk begging to be reviewed. Of course, these discs are from independent music makers so I guess that doesn’t count. Because as we know, if you’re not on a major label you don’t exist (just ask Billboard magazine, BDS, Neilson-Soundscan and Bob Lefsetz). The fact that major label releases account for less than half of all CDs sold worlwide should not distract you from the notion that what they say is the ONLY truth.

Fuck the labels. You no longer set the trends. You no longer have the pulse on what the masses want to hear. You’re an impediment to good taste with your flavours of the minute distractions. When Madonna releases a new album featuring guest appearances from this week’s flash in the pans and it sells less than anything else she’s ever put out – it isn’t the format that’s to blame. It’s YOU. It’s like those people whose relationships continue to collapse over and over again and they spend all their time blaming the other person. The common factor in the equation is you. And like those people, record labels are not self-aware enough to realize that THEY’RE the problem. It isn’t the public. It’s the shit you keep releasing by lame horses you keep backing and the media diversions you think will propel a rotting carcass to platinum status.

Though my own independent label collapsed some time ago, I still have a working relationship in distributing my old recordings through a company called The Orchard. They are the largest distributor of independent music in the world. I believe at last count they had over 750,000 titles in their catalog. Sounds bloated and alienating on the surface, but they have never claimed to be the soul-sucking, revenue leeching criminals we now refer to as the major label music business. They merely get the songs into the hands of iTunes, Amazon and Spotify among 40 or 50 other downloading sites worldwide just like they promise. It’s up to the artists to promote where the music is available to their fan bases. The Orchard administers and I’ve never been happier with a business relationship. I load the songs onto their FTP server. Within a few weeks the songs show up on websites around the world. Every accounting period they direct deposit revenue into my bank. I can guarantee that I’ve been paid more times (as small an amount as it maybe) than the artists who’ve been signed to major labels since I started doing this in 2005.

And if you are still creating ‘product’, CD Baby is the next best distribution outlet. It’s a supermarket for independent CD makers and buyers. You got a disc to sell? You pay them a low set-up fee, send them a dozen discs to start and they self-promote to their mailing lists of clients which usually results in a few sales of your CD without much effort. The more traffic you direct to them, the sooner CDBaby will be hounding you for more inventory. They’ll even drop your revenue into your PayPal account once a month.

It is this street-level micromanaging that has completely been lost on the rest of the industry. An industry that has a pariah-like relationship with its customers. They HATE music fans…but need them to buy the product. To distance themselves from the cooties or whatever it is they think they’ll catch from music listeners, they put their entire business model in the hands of third parties – distributors, rack-jobbers, retailers, radio promoters. They still haven’t clued in that the system has failed. So, it has come down to millions of musicians running cottage industry small businesses from their bedrooms, basements and car trunks. It’s the ultimate ‘fuck you’ to the Walmarts and the HMVs who believe their megalithic, yet, short-sighted buying power will overcome the narrow audience still purchasing from them. They’ve narrowed the available catalog and will blame the collapse of CD sales on illegal downloading. Meanwhile, indies continue selling as they have before. Here’s some of the great material you can get from artists who’ve invested in themselves and musical legacies still available on CD. To whit:

DOUG VARTY BAND“Feel Free”

This is an old-school three-piece power trio led by singer/guitarist Doug Varty. If you like your rock hard then this is the party disc for you; Parts rockin’ blues and straight-up rock and roll a la  AC/DC, Nazareth and Bad Company. I’m usually leary of the retro rock ‘sound’, but these guys have shaved the edges off the nostalgia and instead recorded a fresh sounding album of familiar 1970s styles. Standout tracks are the Four Horsemen/Airborne styled “Kickin’ Ass and Taking Down Names” (which should have been the album’s title, in my humble opinion), “The Itch” which is a down and dirty blues number,”Now You’re Talkin'”, and “I Wanna Fight About”. The album’s one of the strongest rock records I’ve heard in years…and it was produced by Varty and Robert Breen in London, Ontario. Rumour has it these guys smoke live as well. Get your Varty fix here: http://www.dougvarty.com

WES DAKUS AND THE REBELS“Volume 3”
BARRY ALLEN“Clovis Collection”

Shawn Nagy’s SuperOldies label has made it a mission to catalog, locate and restore long lost recordings by 1960s acts predominantly from Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Alberta. During the pre-CanCon mandated radio days, every high school, sock hop and Holiday Inn act scraped together enough money (or industry contacts) to cut a record or two. Many were released on indie labels like Eagle, Quality, Apex, Franklin, and then frequently licensed to larger labels stateside like Kapp and DOT among others. Wes Dakus And The Rebels enjoyed a long run of Shadows-styled instrumental singles, and an occassional LP, on Capitol Records in Canada. Tracks like “The Hoochi Coochi Coo”, “Shotgun” and “Manipulator” found chart action in Canada and made Wes Dakus And The Rebels  part of the elite force of touring acts that were able pull headlining shows and opening slots with larger touring American acts. Much of what they recorded was vetted by their producer Norman Petty from his studio in Clovis, New Mexico. As a producer Petty had turned Buddy Holly into a household name and he seemed to have an affinity for bands from Canada; given the opportunity to record in one of the few professional studios available to them at the time, they these acts would pack up their kitbags following a Friday night gig in Winnipeg and drive non-stop for 2,000 miles to record a track or two on a Sunday afternoon before heading back to Canada to carry on their live performances only to do it all again the following weekend. Wes Dakus & The Rebels were no strangers to this process.

In a rare move, Wes Dakus also became the home of singer Barry Allen. Following the complete upheaval of the music business in 1964 by the North American invasion by The Beatles, Dakus and Norman Petty realized they needed to release records with vocals on them as well – thus doubling their chance at radio success as instrumental guitar music began to fall out of favour.  Volume 3 in this series continues with the archiving of no less than 29 of these and other recordings. Allen himself would go on to a lengthy career as a solo act – both with and without The Rebels backing him up. Superoldies has packaged 61 of his solo releases all recorded with Norman Petty as the ‘Clovis Collection’. The two disc set shows the evolution of Allen’s crooner vibrato into a strong voiced soloist. Included here are all of his radio hits like “Turn Her Down”, “Lovedrops”, “Over My Shoulder”, and “Armful of Teddy Bears” plus nearly two dozen previously unreleased bonus tracks from the Norman Petty Estate’s vaults. Like the Wes Dakus release, this package comes with a giant full colour book that’s completely annotated and features exceptionally rare photos of label copies, charts, and promo shots.
Grab these discs and the other releases in the collection – including the multi-artist primer anthology “From Canada To Clovis” at http://www.superoldies.com. For a limited time Shawn’s offering both the Dakus and Allen releases as a combo deal: http://www.superoldies.com/combo.html

DESMOND NATHAN“Space”

One-man band Desmond Nathan, originally from Oshawa, studied classical guitar in British Columbia in the 1990s. Having returned as a better guitar player he made it his mission to continue learning and absorbing music by frequenting Toronto hot spots like Grossman’s to watch masters such as Jeff Healey plying their trade. After short stints with bands in and around Southern Ontario he decided to ply his trade in a life-long dream to record a debut album. Saving his money and building a home studio over the course of two years, he taught himself to drum, play keyboards and bass guitar so that he could best capture his new found love of songwriting. The result is the 2012 release ‘Space’ which is an album of singer-songwriter confessional tracks like “A Story”, “I.D.N.N.S.” (I Don’t Need No Savour), “For So Long”, “Stealing My Mind” and “Great World”. He also takes a rock approach to “Showbusiness Blues”,”Rock and Roll Slave”, “Dance Away the Blues” and an in-your-face anthem for the 21st Century entitled “Leave Me Alone”. There’s hope and promise in the album and here’s hoping Nathan continues pursuing his musical dream so we can hear him grow as an artist.  http://www.bullseyecanada.com/desmondnathan_all.html

POST-SCRIPT:

Not only have the Grapes of Wrath – Kevin Kane, Tom Hooper & Chris Hopper – been playing live as a band again but they completed their new studio album this week. The first in more than a decade. The as-yet-untitled release will hopefully be out sooner rather than later.

SEND YOUR CDs and music news to:

Jaimie Vernon

180 Station Street

Suite 53

Ajax ON

L1S 1R9

CANADA

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia available at http://www.bullseyecanada.com/encyclopedia.html  and on Amazon for KINDLE users.

3 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON: Compact DISCovery”

  1. For a second, I thought this was a lost column I’d written. Then, when I got to the music, I realized that I had no idea who the artists were (except Wes Dakus & the Rebels who are legend, and Doug Varty, who played with some band I have in my collection but which I cannot find amongst my records… was it Hometown Band?… aarrgghh!). Attaboy, Jaimie! Keep tilting at them goddamn windmills!

    • Hi Frank,
      I’ve played in and led a few bands you might have in your collection but I’m guessing you’re thinking of SeaDog, the first recording band I was ever in, back in the days when I played Hammond organ. If you still like to rock, I know you’ll get a kick out of my new CD, Feel Free.
      Cheers,
      Doug Varty

      • Precisely! Sea Dog! I have a 45 of Sea Dog released on Scepter. “Beyond the Spirit” or something like that? I love that song! I need to pull that out and listen again. Very cool. I will be checking your band out, Doug, so watch yourself.

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