By Emily Townsend
Arts & Entertainment Editor
The muffled sound of live drums, guitar, and bass could be heard throughout the West Main Hilltop District’s parking lots Sunday evening when the Corner Record Shop hosted a show featuring local bands.
The show was part of a weekend long observance of National Record Store Day (NRSD), a five-year-old holiday on which independent, non-corporatized stores to celebrate music with artists and fans.
Hundreds of musicians released timely albums in support of NRSD.
In a press release, Jack White, of former Detroit-based ‘White Stripes,’ said, “What a shame to leave a child, or worse, a generation orphaned from one of life’s great beauties…Show respect for the tangible music that you’ve dedicated your careers and lives to, and help it from becoming nothing more than disposable digital data.”
Online corporate music stores like Amazon and iTunes, along with illegal downloading, have wiped out countless music stores. As of last year, iTunes accounted for 70 percent of legally acquired music.
Large music industry corporations also affect the music-performance industry. In late January 2010, the Department of Justice approved a merger between online ticket retailers Live Nation and Ticketmaster, creating what many critics call a monopolized empire.
Companies and products like Ticketmaster, iTunes and Clear Channel create online convenience, for a price. Outside of handling charges, Ticketmaster has strict contracts against bands, fans, or venues choosing the ticket price. While corporate booking mostly affects big-time live music, some see it seeping into local scenes. So far, Kalamazoo’s music scene has largely escaped the music industry’s corporate grip.
Nola Wiersma, local promoter and banjo player in the folk band ‘Almanac Shouters,’ says she started booking shows to connect with friends, not as a commercial enterprise. “It’s a really grass-roots thing,” she said.
Zach Smith, promoter and singer of ‘Ackley Kid’ says he is not looking for a profit either. “Basically we’re trying to fill a touring band’s tank up with gas, and send the local act home with some money, too,” he said.
Local venues, including bars like the Strutt and Louie’s Trophy Grill as well as house shows, do not use Ticketmaster because they rarely use tickets at all. Wiersma says a show’s success depends entirely on the venue. “Basement shows are an emergence,” she said. “The people in the crowd and the bands are the ones who put the show together.”
Larger university theaters, like Western Michigan’s Miller Auditorium and Kalamazoo College’s Dalton Theatre, allow reservations through the schools’ websites. Even the downtown State Theater offers in-person ticket sales free of handling charges as an alternative to Ticketmaster.
Wiersma says there is a noticeable difference between ‘Do It Yourself’ shows and shows that use ticket retailers and booking agencies. “When profit and money are involved, there’s a whole different feeling,” she said.