Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bragging rights

A couple of days ago Mark Bragg released his latest CD, called Bear Music. I'm a big fan of Mark's music and consider him up there near the top of my list of best Newfoundland performers. The others would include Colleen Power, Sean Panting and Ron Hynes. I'll give Great Big Sea another shot after I listen to their new record. I suspect I'm like a lot of people in Newfoundland (well, I'm in Iqaluit now, but you know what I mean) when I say their recent recordings have been less than impressive.

Anyway, Mark has a new CD out and I can't wait to listen to it. But it seems I'm going to have to. There are no copies of the CD available here in Iqaluit. Shipping on the CD to get here it will be about $5 and call me cheap, but the days of me paying more than $20 for a CD are done and gone.

So that means the next time either my folks, or Cathy's, sends us one of their care packages, I'll ask for them to get a copy and toss it in. It's a minor inconvience, to be sure, but it illustrates a point I mentioned in columns when working with The Express and that I want to emphasize here.

And it's that Newfoundland musicians are being painfully slow in taking advantage of distributing their music online. Sure a lot of them have websites. A lot of them sell their CDs online. A few even make individual tracks available online to listen to. But very, very few have their music available online to download for a fee.

I can't access PureTracks (I use a Mac, so they don't even let your browse the site), but on iTunes the only Newfoundland bands with records for sale that I can find are Great Big Sea, the Novaks and Shaye. Now, I know iTunes isn't going to list independent artists like Bragg, Power or Panting. And that the start-up costs for a site for people to pay and download songs might be too much for individual artists to afford.

Hell, a previous attempt, such as by John Hutton failed. But there were circumstances behind that one. The idea of paying to download music was radical at a time when you could get most of it for free with some hunting. iTunes wasn't big yet. Also, from what I heard, Aliant gouged him silly on transmission fees.

What would be nice is if another group were to step forward and offer to do this for Newfoundland artists. Perhaps something like The Music Industry Association of Newfoundland (which, upon further looking, hasn't updated its site this year. sigh) or the St. John's Independent Artist Cooperative (If it still exists. I can't find a trace of them online right now and the Rock Can Roll Records website isn't loading) were to step up and do something like this.

Most people want to pay and support local musicians. But fewer people want the actual CD. I don't. Which is the frustrting thing. I don't want to pay shipping, because I'm just going to take the CD, put it into my iBook, rip it, load it into my iPod and then the CD is just taking up space in our tiny apartment.

So yeah, it would be great to go to a site, download the music and then pay for it. And not just new stuff. I was looking for a Fur Packed Action CD before I came to Iqaluit and couldn't find one. I have a worn out tape of Panting's old band, Joyful Noise. I'd love to download it and have it on my iPod. There's a bunch of older Newfoundland Music that I'd love to have made available again.

If Newfoundland Music wants to get out in the world, they're going to have to work harder and making songs available online for downloading. Because fewer people are going to want CDs in the coming years. It's a dying format.

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