Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How Much is a Deal Worth?

Towards the end of my time in Berlin, I went to a concert with some friends, at the Passionskirche in Prenzlauer Berg. The band was the Kings of Convenience, a sweet Norwegian indie-pop duo. The opener was this woman whose voice sounded really familiar--a friend figured out that she does the dreamy, looping vocal on Broken Social Scene's (awesome) song, "Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl." Anyway, she was amazing--I bought her CD from her after the show, and it's been one of my favorite albums ever since.

Now this woman is pretty famous. She's Feist, and she's remained one of my favorite musicians. Her first major album, Let It Die, is totally brilliant. I skipped her next effort, Open Season, which is basically remixes of Let It Die singles, but now she's come out with a new original album. I've heard some of the songs already (search for her on YouTube, her videos are great, and "1 2 3 4" is from the new album), and I know I want to buy it.

The other day, it was staring me in the face at a Starbucks counter. It even had a sticker offering two free iTunes downloads with purchase. I was, quietly, appalled--there's a sort of possessive feeling to loving an artist whom nobody knows, and when that artist gets famous there's ambivalence--on the one hand, I think she's great! I want her to succeed! And on the other hand...well, Starbucks. It's such a symbol of mass consumption, and it seems to imply that she's appealing because she's bland rather than because she's awesome. On the other hand, is buying it at Virgin any less mass-consumption tinged? They don't call it "Megastore" for nothing, you know. (Maybe I'll trek down to my real favorite record store, Other Music, and buy it there, just to really make it count.) (Clearly, this doesn't matter all that much.)

Anyway, I didn't buy it. I know that I'm going to buy it, and in not buying it at Starbucks I'll forfeit the "two free downloads!" perk, which is a great one, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I can't be The Girl Who Buys Music At Starbucks (though apparently I don't have a problem with being The Girl Who Liked That Band Before That Band Was Cool).

I'm just totally fascinated by my overwhelming reluctance to go for the better deal here. Evidently, not buying my CDs at Starbucks seems to be worth $2 per album to me.


Him said...

I bought my copy off of iTunes, with an gift card I received as a Christmas present. It has been on repeat for a while now.

Many of the bands who I listen to achieve some mainstream success - the latest is Andrew Bird. What really kills me is the increasing cost of live shows for the mainstream success - a year ago we paid $15 total to see Andrew Bird at a small venue, but this year we shelled out $50 total for tickets.

I'm like you - if I saw one of his albums in a Starbucks (they may already be there, I'd never know) I'd secretly loathe it.

Krystal said...

I'm like you - I get kinda possessive when I fall in love with the music of some relatively unknown artist ... and when they start to achieve any sort of mainstream success, I get a little annoyed. It especially irritates me if they completely sellout, and I start to hear their music on commercials, or they've become a spokesperson for some sort of product.

I get the satisfaction in saying "yeah, their new stuff is ok, but it was nothing like it was back in the day, when they were 'independant.'"

Carolinha said...

The real question is: how come you buy coffee from Starbucks in the first place?

We have them on every corner here in Australia too, but we also have plenty of small coffee places that make much better coffee. Are there still small independent coffee shops in NY?

English Major said...

Carolinha, alas, there are very few independent coffee shops in Manhattan. There's actually only one I go to regularly, and it's a destination—that is, it's not on the way to anywhere else I go regularly. This is one of New York's great deficiencies, especially as compared to my home-away-from-home in the Northwest.

Beth said...

Really, it's a matter of pride. You don't want to buy it at Starbucks, because you like to think of one of your favorite artists as your own personal secret.

You enjoy being independent and different. By liking a popular singer/band/group, you're no longer independent.

HC said...

Bleachin your teeth, smile and flash, talkin' trash under your breath...

The first time I heard that song (pulling into the commuter parking lot at Big 10 U), I was so entranced that I nearly missed my bus. Hee.

At any rate, the radio promotion oligopoly has made it really difficult for artists to break through via normal commercial channels. I'd personally much rather see someone's CD at Starbucks than have to worry about them getting involved with payola or begging the Stockers of Bentonville to give them some shelf space.

k said...

As a general rule, cross-promotion bugs me. I wouldn't have bought it at SB either.

As for why go to SB, there are very few options in many places. I can choose from one of two monster chains or one slightly smaller regional chain in the downtown area where I work. None have coffee that impresses me very much, so I usually brew my own, but when I'm craving more than drip brew, I go to SB because it's the only one of my three options that offers its employees health insurance.