Setting the tone for this week’s politically minded Random Acts, I’d like to report that at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 5, Eamon Martin, a member of the Asheville Global Report editorial collective, will speak at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe. Martin will discuss the AGR, a nonprofit, independent, all-volunteer-staff newsweekly focusing on human rights, labor and environmental issues, and the winner of four Project Censored Awards this year. Call 236-3103 for more information.
CDs are too expensive.
If you, like me, are one of the many Asheville residents who earn the main portion of their living in the service industry, the price of a new CD — at around $15 on the low end — can cost two or three times what you make in an hour.
Dropping that kind of cash on new music can taint the experience with some serious buyer’s remorse. Not to mention that, if your favorite band happens to be on a major label, your money could be going toward all sorts of scuzzy corporate projects you’d want no part of. Sony, Vivendi Universal, AOL/Time-Warner, and BMG all have links to key players in what Eisenhower christened the Military Industrial Complex — according to the good folks of avant-orchestral band Godspeed You! Black Emperor So keep in mind the missiles you could be helping pay for the next time you’re rocking out to The Clash on that Sony Music release.
And not only might you be contributing to less-than-savory military hegemony, but you’re also getting severely ripped off. In their essay “Shiny, Aluminum, Plastic, and Digital,” cultural gadflies Negativland relate the sordid origins of the compact disc — revealing that a “CD, with its plastic jewel box, printed booklet and tray card, now costs a major label about 80 cents each to make (or less).” And despite that tremendous profit, “record labels continue to this day to pay almost all artists a royalty rate as if they’re selling CDs for the list price of vinyl [usually about $8.98 or $9.98],” the essay continues. “That extra 4 or 5 or 6 bucks goes right into the pockets of the record labels. It is not shared with musicians.”
Well, what can a poor, socially conscious boy or girl do? Go to the library, of course.
Among its many branches, the Asheville-Buncombe Library System has a right fine collection of compact discs (and cassette tapes, for those so inclined). After a two-day sweep of several limbs of the ABLS tree, I found that most of the branches have, if sometimes in small quantities, interesting and well-selected samples from the worlds of pop, country, jazz and classical. (If you’re a classical fan, visit the Pack branch downtown, which boasts a full shelf of symphonies, operas and early-music works.)
Classic rock was even more well represented across the local library system: The Clash’s London Calling, Frank Zappa’s Freak Out! and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds were to be found at branch after branch.
But if pop — here representing everything from Huesker Due to Public Enemy, Moby to Christina Aguilera, Billy Joel to The Strokes — is more your thing, hit the north-Asheville branch, next to the fire station on Merrimon Avenue. Rumor has it that a former librarian used to pay close attention to various published “best of” and “essential” record lists — and the proof is in the browsing.
The number of CDs you can check out at a time varies from branch to branch, but they can be returned at any associated library. CDs can be borrowed for three weeks, and the overdue fine is 20 cents a day per item. And remember, the key word here is borrow. Yeah, your tax dollars paid for that copy of The White Album — but so did mine and everyone else’s. So bring it back. Stealing from what may be our finest public institution (aside from the fire department) is not OK.
However, your regard for the stern warnings about “unauthorized duplication” and violation of “applicable laws” is your own business. For their part, Negativland suggests that “copyright infringement is your best entertainment value.”
That said, this column is not intended to discourage shopping at Asheville’s fine independent record shops. Go to them. Spend money on your favorite albums. But keep the library in mind while you’re saving up tips for that new release.