by Andrew Duke
Keep in mind the four levels of music releases:
#1: no label-an artist puts material and sells it without a label involved; some of these artists may go on to create their own label
#2: small independent label-usually run by an artist who releases his/her own material and may release material from others as time progresses; most of these companies survive from one release to another
#3: large independent label-a label that has grown and has been able to broaden their roster, advertise, and gain a larger profile. Some large indies, however, are now operating more like majors.
#4: major label-larger staff, advertising, and publicity budget; with recent mergers, a handful of major labels now control the majority of music we hear about. Only you can make the choice whether to support an indie or a major.
Buy a turntable--it doesn't have to be a Technics 1200-- you can get a good used model at a flea market/pawn shop just about anywhere. If you're just buying CDs, there's a lot of good music available only on vinyl that you're missing out on. But, in the same regard, buy the records because you enjoy the music--don't be sucked into the hopes of becoming a superstar DJ. Enjoy music for the sake of it; leave the ulterior motives behind.
Be political about the music you buy; music is the only universal language and yet we take it for granted far too often when we bring out our wallets. Make your music purchases personal: don't buy anything just because you've heard it's good, read it's good, or it's been charted by a certain DJ or in a certain magazine. Support your local music store before the national chain; support your local music scene and put an end to the sad reality that most artists are never appreciated in their own area. Listen to everything before you buy it-any store worth supporting will let you listen to a release to help you make your decision. The next time you're drawn to the top sellers wall, examine why you should even care about what's selling. Does the fact that a release is selling well mean it deserves more attention? Is that release selling well because of a major advertising and promotional campaign or because it's quality music?
Radio: examine the radio you're listening to. If it's commercial radio, keep in mind the fact that music is played between the advertisements only because this is a requirement. More and more stations are being automated because it's cheaper to have computers play the advertising and the music than it is to have humans do it. Is this what you want to support? Think of the repetition to which you're being exposed on commercial radio. The playlist you hear is designed to appeal to the lowest common dominator: are you the lowest common denominator or is there more to you than being just another sheep in the fold? By making the choice to seek out alternatives, you are taking a stand against sameness. Music television functions the same way; you can't deny it. Should the amount of money spent on a flashy video influence what ends up coming out of your home stereo speakers?
Buy music as if you might be stranded on a desert island with it. There won't be anyone there to show off that you've got the latest this, or the limited edition that, or what's #1 according to your favorite magazine or DJ. You've got to work to shape your own music collection because there are too many people trying to shape it for you. Think harder.