An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

I'm a Total Wanter

I have been spending the last couple of weeks adding my want list to Discogs. On Discogs, as well adding your collection by picking out each release that you have and adding it, you can also compile a wish list, or wants list.

I have kept away from this for quite a while, as being a paranoid person (and rarely disappointed with that viewpoint on life) I didn’t want to add to the market how much a release may be sought after. By this I mean, on each release you can see how many people have added that release to their collection. You can also see against the same release, how many people want the item. It’s seems logical that this is a good indicator of worth. If more people want the release than have the release, then of course there is a demand for it and demand increases price. The greater the difference, the most likely effect on price it will have.

If 200 people are marked against the release as having it in their collection and only 10 have marked the release into their want list, demand is low and plenty already have it. The price therefore will most likely be relatively low, or at least varied. On the other hand if on another release only two people have it marked as in their collection but 100 have it added to their want list, the demand for the release is very high and the prices from the traders will most likely reflect this. This isn’t set in stone, but as a general rule it makes sense. Traders with no idea of what they are selling, can easily base a price on this demand alone

So you could say that using the want list on Discogs may actually work against me. By adding items to my want list, I tell the trader before I even start shopping, how desperate I may be for each release. I had to weigh up the advantages before I was willing to go ahead with this. The advantages are having a full database, safely offsite (so I can access it anywhere), of all the items I am still going to have to get. It also gives me the advantage of seeing which traders I can buy from that have multiple items that I want, which then reduce the packaging costs, which would be spread over multiple buys (generally the more you buy in one go the cheaper the collective packing and postage is).


Another advantage is having a database of wanted items that I can print off whenever and wherever required, send a link to a trader if they have a discogs account, or post an exported list  on a blog and beg for freebies. But the greatest advantage is having a market place where you know exactly what you are buying, and if you don’t get exactly what is listed, you have reason to complain and get your money back. This is one of the worst problems with ebay. As I have mentioned before, many traders on ebay just don’t describe what they are selling. Some listings on ebay are so sparse with their information that it isn’t always clear what the format is. So the chance of finding out what the catalogue number, country of origin, matrix number etc is, means sending messages off to the trader every time. At least with a listing against a wanted item in Discogs, I know the exact release that is up for sale and if there is any deviation in that with the item being sold, the seller will have specified it.

And yet another advantage, is seeing the selling history of previous sales of the same item. You can immediately see if a trader is ripping you off. And strangely enough many still try to charge extortionate prices. So there is a greater advantage to using the Discogs want list than holding it back.

I should get commission for this!!

The disadvantage is finding something new, which I have done many times on ebay. Discogs is limited to what other users have added, and doesn’t have everything on there. Traders can be quite lazy and if they don’t find the release they have, instead of creating a new release, they will stick their item against another release with a few comments on what is different about it. That is useless if the release they have put it against is an item you already have, it won’t appear against your want list. Another downer is not being able to add non media items such as posters, postcards, promotional items etc. So again as mentioned in a previous blog entry, these have to be kept separate, which is very annoying.

I’m still adding to my want list, so it’s still growing, but you can peruse if you wish, any donations gratefully accepted

Sunday, 12 February 2012

It's a shit business...

So there you go, my point is proven. Just because a release is a promo, it’s not really worth the great asking price that many traders will try on. The Cocteau Twins US Promo CD has been won, congratulations Adam from Poland.

Hardly anyone has attempted to win this free CD. I was giving away a Promo CD to anyone who wanted it, and yet hardly anyone was interested. So, no, just because a release is a promo does not mean it’s rare, of much worth, or even desirable.

During the last couple of weeks I have found some interesting information. I joined a Cocteau Twins forum :

A small hint, if you ever join the above forum, whatever you do...don’t mention 4AD.

My experience there, although short, has been memorable. There is no love for 4AD from Cocteau Twins fans it would seem. The forum founder (the late Leesa Beales) had lawsuits brought against her from 4AD, Cocteau Twins had trouble getting money from 4AD and also the members of Cocteau Twins were not consulted when re-packaging their material.

This has thrown up all sorts of questions, particularly about how you find the truth. I love 4AD’s music. Or at least the first decade, of course. Being a musician myself, I know the egos that musicians have. I also work, which means I have seen the face of business. Musicians can be spoilt, childish creatures that constantly seek the adoration of others. Business people can be selfish, greedy and power hungry.

I personally believe that business is a moral-less monster. Let loose, this monster would steal, kill, cheat and do anything it can to achieve money and power. It’s servants are drawn to business with promises of wealth and power. Business people can be so blind to their affect on anyone around them, can be completely without empathy, psychopathic even. In business these people are called focused and are rewarded and encouraged with yet more wealth and power.

Musicians are self destructive, lazy, addictive, self loathing creatures that constantly need to be reassured and praised. Musicians that crave money and power generally show themselves not to be true artists. The ones who shamelessly postrate themselves, want to be famous for their art, die prematurely etc are the more genuine artists.

It’s a match made in hell really. The devouring business feeding off the suicidal lemmings.

The independent labels that sprang from the punk movement in the late 1970’s are an interesting tale of business headed musicians, fighting the battle of their schizophrenic existence. Factory Records were such a good example of this. Factory never had a good business head really and existed for the love of the music. The inevitable consequence being that the musician killed the label in a shower of self pity, addiction and lack of any business common sense. Creation drowned under partying and drugs instead of keeping it’s head above water.

4AD was also a business musician type of label. But it’s still going. Maybe this is because it had more business than artist in it’s chemistry. Of course this fine balance would be practically impossible to sustain. The artists had incredible creative freedom. But they were also subject to business greed.

I, as many, think that 4AD has completely lost it’s way now. The balance has definitely swung more to the business end of the spectrum.

What I find interesting though, is how many get lost in the spectacle and glamour, that is cleverly pushed from the business end of modern music. These are all people. The musicians, the designers, the producers, the management, the labels. These are all just human beings, not celebrities. They all have flaws, they all eat, shit and sleep like the rest of us. Because of this, I would like to know their stories. The good ones and the bad ones. I want to know their flaws, because we grow as human beings when a true picture is created. Do I worship 4AD. NO! I love the music, I find the history of the label and the decisions people made fascinating. But none of them are gods!! That includes musicians too I’m afraid.

So that brings me to the train of thought about truth. How do you get to the truth. Especially when dealing with such extremes of characters. The only way I know is to ask as many people as many questions as possible. Other than that some top notch detective work. 4AD’s first decade is an interesting story and I would like to get the full picture, warts and all. Let’s see if I can get anywhere at all.