BEST: 7" Record Labels
The only reason to start a 7" vinyl label is out of love for the medium. Pressing a run of 500 at 7$ is $3,500 and after pressing costs and giving the band/artist a kick back the label might be lucky to come out a few hundred ahead. This is what makes them special, they're working for nothing else other than to satisfy the needs of vinyl heads and to give bands an extra product to boost their visibility. As a music and vinyl fan, there is nothing more special than receiving a limited piece of wax from a band/artist you love. I encourage you to support these labels as they need you to continue. Three labels specifically have really impressed me with their dedication: Forest Family Records, Father/Daughter Records, and Jax Art Records.
WORST: iTunes Ping
The idea of having the musical equivalent of Facebook on iTunes is very appealing. To be able to view friends albums, rate records, share music, that's all great. The problem is Ping only applies to music bought on iTunes. This leaves off bandcamp and direct from the band purchases, vinyl rips, and most importantly free tracks/albums given away from bands. I buy records and use the free download code from the label, what do I do with those tracks? Having only bought a handful of albums of iTunes, an amazing idea like Ping is completely pointless.
When Bandcamp didn't take a cut from album sales it was the most glorious invention for bands. Now, they take around %15 and it's still one of the best sites to gain popularity in 2010. With streaming capability, sleek layout, great stat meters, and and overall user friendly feel, Bandcamp is a must for any new band looking to host their albums/tracks. As a blogger, the embedding looks amazing and is simple. I typically will listen to anything sent to me on bandcamp as I know I can click, listen, and decide if I want to post or not within minutes.
WORST: Kanye West
This is not about his music, rather the person. I've never seen someone contradict themselves as much as West did in 2010. His immature behavior garnered a lot of press and he followed it up by going on an apology spree. This was short lived as he basically took everything back and made himself the victim of his own actions. Hearing Kanye explain anything is a headache as he talks in circles and then unjustly declares himself right. I have no sympathy for Kanye as all of his mistakes are self inflicted. Yet, he continues to repeat them over and over (mind you he crashed Justice at an award show before Swift). Is it that hard to sit and watch an award show? The last straw was his epic rant at a small show in NYC after the release of his hit album where he takes back every apology he made during the previous three weeks. To blame Taylor Swift for riding out the conflict is hypocritical because he created the drama and is just as guilty for riding it out. The problem is that none of his misguided actions will ever cost him professionally. People will buy his records at whopping numbers regardless of what he does. A friend summed up Kanye West the best when he called him a child. That's what he is, an immature person who behaves as if there are no social rules. People love his music and I wish he would focus solely on his craft and why people love him, rather then choosing to act like a hypocritical male diva instead.
BEST: Pitchfork TV
Love Pitchfork or hate them, it's really impossible to deny the amazing work they're doing in their music media section. With every band giving them first look exclusives on music videos and their own creating of exclusive content, Pitchfork TV is unmatched in the visual aspect of music journalism. I believe
WORST: Live Show Etiquette
It seems like every year it's becoming more and more unbearable to go to concerts. Be it talking during a performance, texting, or trying to grab video of every song, it's been a rough year for shows. I have a few simple rules that I try to live by when attending a show. First, don't talk. If you have to talk, whisper and keep it short. Second, I understand that we live in a digital age and texting is your lifeblood, but if you have to text, go to the bar, outside, or somewhere that won't disrupt the performance for the people around you trying to enjoy it. Third, take a video or record a song, but only do one song. People are much more concerned with capturing an experience rather than actually enjoying the experience. If you want a digital memento to remind yourself you were there, take it, but then put away the phone and enjoy the show.
I can understand if the corporate aspects of SXSW upset some people, but that one week in Austin is a dream come true for music fans. A ridiculous amount of bands from all genres populating a small area creates this amazing vibe that still hasn't left my mind. I've been to almost every major American music festival and none of them can compete with the magic of SXSW.
WORST: Altered Zones
I was actually excited when the announcement of Altered Zones was made. Pitchfork was becoming cluttered with all these similar sounding tracks and was overwrought by one aesthetic. A collective of some impressive bloggers added to the prospects of the new site. I'm not a huge fan of the sound Altered Zones promotes but I was excited that the people who loved that type of music would have their own professional resource to turn to. Shortly after it's launch it became clear that Pitchfork wasn't changing and Altered Zones was just a jumping link to what would eventually end up in the Forkcast. The only change is these bloggers who were getting to the tracks first before are now getting paid as staff. This is good, I'm all for people making money, but Altered Zones added nothing that wasn't already there and more importantly didn't free up any space on Pitchfork for bands not focused on the genre that Altered Zones was supposed to take over.
BEST: Record Store Day
I've never seen record stores so alive as they were on April 17th, 2010 (Record Store Day). With impressive exclusive releases and limited reissues, music fans proved that physical music is and could be relevant. I waited in line for hours to guarantee the purchase of specific limited goods and it reminded me of how much fun has been lost in music. Be it staying up late for a midnight release at a record store or listening to an album the day it came out (not months before), there are a lot of special moments lost when we turn our backs on physical music. This one day had an excitement behind buying physical music and it just felt right.
WORST: Marijuana Branding
In high school marijuana was taboo and this cool thing to talk about, but now we're adults and if you want to smoke weed, great, if you don't, also great. A personality should never be defined by something so juvenile as gloating about drug use. The most visible examples of this trend are Best Coast and Wavves where they tweet non-stop about smoking pot and even goes as far as selling weed grinders as band merchandise. Grow up and find something interesting to talk about. It's not just those two bands, a bunch of bands/artists are using drugs as a brand identifier which is just ridiculous. I'm for legalizing pot, but I'm also for making it illegal for any more bands to act like high schoolers and treat marijuana as the most important thing in the world. Smoke and shut up about it.
Kickstarter is making it possible for bands to fund albums without any label interference. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of a lot of record labels, but what do those bands do that can't get signed? Fans of the band who donate are basically purchasing the album in advance which is amazing because it cuts off the loss of profit from illegal downloading. There are a lot of bands/artists out there who just want to create art or make an album that they would want to hear as a music fan themselves. Kickstarter allows for medium to low exposure bands to achieve this dream.
Close to 90% of the bands I saw at CMJ would comically ask for more reverb during their soundchecks. At one showcase, four bands/artists in a row asked for more, when I finally heard the disgruntled soundguy mumble to his friend that everyone of these bands had the reverb all the way up on the soundboard. I understand that it's a tool and if it makes your music better than great, but music lovers should be aware that those bands going without reverb and exposing their actual talent as singers should be praised. I challenge the bands that don't necessarily need reverb to make an extra effort to go without.
BEST Of 2010: Daytrotter
Daytrotter is by far my favorite thing from 2010. It's one of the hair-brained ideas we all have but don't act on. Everything about the project is perfect. From the recordings, to the bands/artists they choose, to the free downloads, to the beautiful art...it's all perfect. I know they're probably making money, but it's one of the few projects of late this is actually helping music, bands, and artists. They're artists in their own right, creating these beautiful pieces for fans and music lovers to enjoy.
The Other BESTS:
The Other WORSTS
Lack Of Buying Physical Music
Large Music Festivals Circulating The Same Lineup
The Amazing Musicians We Lost This Year