Fuck Jack White. The recently named ambassador for Record Store Day wrote the following little tirade against digital music and the Internet and telling people they need to get out there in the world and interact with one another. I agree with all of it. Every word. But Jack White is a hypocrite.
To give Jack White his due, here’s what he wrote in its entirety: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.
As the Record Store Day folks point out, he owns a record store, owns a record label and “makes all kinds of records,” which is true. But other than putting out music on vinyl in neat packages and really expensive boxed sets, he’s done nothing to get at the root of what he sees as a problem. And he has the power to do so. Are colorful, rare collections of 180-gram vinyl going to get people to buy vinyl instead of mp3s if they don’t already? Probably not. He says the “size, smell, texture and sound of a vinyl record” are things digital music cannot offer, but isn’t it really all about the music? And Jack White does not let the music itself, delivered to the people in physical form, retain its specialness.
A week before anyone could get their hands on Blunderbuss and feel its “size, smell, texture and sound” on vinyl, or even on a CD, the album was streaming on the Columbia Records website. The stream (which I will point out is far from the quality of Mr. White’s beloved vinyl) was embedded on a number of popular music blogs and before any consumer in the world had a chance to hold the physical record in their hand, every second of music on it was a mouse-click away.
If you’re cynical and say, this is the way things are done in music nowadays, wrong. Jack White can do whatever he wants and he has done so without record labels telling him what to do. He’s in a position of power. I know the preview was done to hype the album, but why not just a song or two and then on the day the physical record is officially out, why not use all your resources and connections with record stores and promoters around the world to throw hundreds of listening parties? You can bring people together, maybe get creative and host listening parties at bars with promotions from a beer or liquor company. The album can be for sale at each of these events, I’m sure it’s not hard to find a street teamer for your record label willing to sling Jack White merch and vinyl for a night’s pay. This would bring people together to connect with one another and talk about the physical record, but no you didn’t do that. You did what every other big record company dies to make some noise on a record before its out, you gave the fucker away with the click of a mouse button.
I think you’re in desperate need of some outside the box set thinking. What happened last April, a week before the physical record was out? The die hards who were going to buy the vinyl anyway had already pre-ordered it and the non-fanatic fans like myself sat in our rooms and listened to the record by ourselves streaming and made judgements on it by ourselves. If we talked to someone about it, it was while listening to the record at work through Gchat. Even if we regularly go to record stores and buy vinyl (I do), by the time we got there, let’s say the weekend after the record’s Tuesday release, the music had already been out for 11 days. It was old fucking news.
Wake yourself up bitch.