Jack White has been appointed the official ambassador for Record Store Day this year, to help support and market the April 20 push for music-buyers to head into their local mom-and-pop shops.
To kick off the festivities, the Third Man Record head posted a cheeky video chock full of conspiracy theories set at the United vinyl-pressing plant in Nashville; he is also dressed like Boris Badenov, the villain from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.”
White also went to the lengths of penning a pro-vinyl post that commented on digital technology, the generation gap of music-buying and the importance of face-to-face interactions. The entirety of that missive is below.
Speaking to digital distribution of art and entertainment, White rhetorically asks, “What’s the point?”
“Why go to a bookstore and get a real book? You can just download it. Why talk to other human beings, discuss different authors, writing styles and influences?” he wrote. “Well here”s what they”ll someday learn if they have a soul; there”s no romance in a mouse click. There”s no beauty in sitting for hours playing video games (anyone proud of that stop reading now and post your opinion in the nearest forum).”
I don’t think it’s ill-intentioned, but I also don’t think he’s being meaningfully articulate when he says playing video games for hours lacks “beauty.” Or that other (electronic, faceless) exchanges lack “soul” or “romance.”
White — in the case of interviews like those on “Colbert,” “It Might Get Loud” and his own Third Man promotions — can be very dry and sarcastic, and deeply passionate and is rarely slave to trends. He is also very obviously self-aware and, in this case, argumentatively so, building a case for interactive commercial exchanges by putting other exchanges down.
Were the only intention of listening to records (or watching a movie, or reading a book) was self-enriching beauty and romance, then he may have a point. But he seems to also be purposefully casting down any other ways to consume books, music and movies as inferior, which ignores the other fine uses of those artforms — like for relaxation, comfort, seclusion, convenience, escapism, education, agitation, etc. And, apparently, to hell with gamers, who can “stop reading now and post your opinion” somewhere else on the internet.
For somebody who’s wishing to “invigorate whoever will listen with the idea that there is beauty and romance in the act of visiting a record shop and getting turned on to something new,” alienating video game lovers and young-people-these-days reads small-minded and snobby. Particularly for an “ambassador” and particularly for someone who’s trying to bring new buyers in the door on behalf of independent record store owners.
I buy vinyl, and I am all for Record Store Day, partly because as an entertainment fan I love an entertainment event. I agree, that “beauty and romance” can be had at a brick-and-mortar. But this is like Dave Grohl’s soft assertion in “Sound City” that analog/human is superior to digital/in-the-box: you either do it one way or you do it the other, “lesser” way. And especially considering the cost of vinyl — for the artist, the distributor, the shop and the purchaser — did he really have to make this an “or” conversation, instead of an “and?”
Here is the full text of White’s Record Store Day post, call and respond accordingly:
Years ago someone told me that 1,200 high school kids were given a survey. A question was posed to them: Have you ever been to a stand-alone record shop? The number of kids that answered “yes” was… zero.
Zero? How could that be possible? Then I got realistic and thought to myself, “Can you blame them?” How can record shops (or any shop for that matter) compete with Netflix, TiVo, video games that take months to complete, cable, texting, the Internet, etc. etc? Getting out of your chair at home to experience something in the real world has started to become a rare occurrence, and to a lot of people, an unnecessary one. Why go to a bookstore and get a real book? You can just download it. Why talk to other human beings, discuss different authors, writing styles and influences? Just click your mouse. Well here”s what they”ll someday learn if they have a soul; there”s no romance in a mouse click. There”s no beauty in sitting for hours playing video games (anyone proud of that stop reading now and post your opinion in the nearest forum). The screen of an iPhone is convenient, but it”s no comparison to a 70mm showing of a film in a gorgeous theater. The Internet is two-dimensional…helpful and entertaining, but no replacement for face-to-face interaction with a human being. But we all know all of that, right? Well, do we? Maybe we know all that, but so what?
Let”s wake each other up.
The world hasn”t stopped moving. Out there, people are still talking to each other face-to-face, exchanging ideas and turning each other on. Art houses are showing films, people are drinking coffee and telling tall tales, women and men are confusing each other and record stores are selling discs full of soul that you haven”t felt yet. So why do we choose to hide in our caves and settle for replication? We know better. We should at least. We need to re-educate ourselves about human interaction and the difference between downloading a track on a computer and talking to other people in person and getting turned onto music that you can hold in your hands and share with others. The size, shape, smell, texture and sound of a vinyl record; how do you explain to that teenager who doesn”t know that it”s a more beautiful musical experience than a mouse click? You get up off your ass, you grab them by the arm and you take them there. You put the record in their hands. You make them drop the needle on the platter. Then they”ll know.
Let”s wake each other up.
As Record Store Day Ambassador of 2013 I”m proud to help in any way I can to invigorate whoever will listen with the idea that there is beauty and romance in the act of visiting a record shop and getting turned on to something new that could change the way they look at the world, other people, art, and ultimately, themselves.
Let”s wake each other up.