Searching for Rarities in a Post-Scarcity Cultural World


Bill Wyman—the journalist, not the age-of-consent-refusenik former Rolling Stone bassist—is about the best writer I know of on the deep business of entertainment (well, except for that Joey Ramone thing). His Hitsville blog is a must-read (though he doesn't post often enough!).

He's got an excellent piece at Slate about how we're now all rummaging through "Lester Bang's Basement" and "what it means to have all music instantly available." Back in the old days (that is, the 1990s!), he recalls:

The music you wanted to hear wasn't played on the radio and you couldn't find the records you wanted to buy. You couldn't even find the magazines that told you what records you should want to buy. It was almost impossible to see filmed footage of the artists you wanted to see. And movie fans? We scurried like rats after what could be, for all we knew, once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunities to see this or that film at movie theaters or in unexpected showings on television.

Fast forward a few decades, and we're approaching a singularity of sorts—one in which the digital convergence, in a gradual warm flash, is nearly complete. If you were born to this it's an unshakeable, seemingly permanent feature of the world. The rest of us marvel that a significant part of everything out there that should be digitized and made available has. And once it's out there, getting your hands on it is a fairly simple process. The concept of "rarity" has become obsolete. A previously "rare" CD or movie, once it's in the iTunes store or on the torrent networks, is, in theory, just as available as the biggest single in the world. (In practice, there are marginal differences, like having to do a few extra searches or wait a bit for a download, but that's a big difference from, say, driving across town to a Tower Records to find that they don't have a CD in stock.)

A rarity might be less popular; it might be less interesting. But it's no longer less available the way it once was.

What follows is a great tour of the streaming services, official channels, and invitation-only bit-torrent sites comprising what back in the 1990s I called "cultural proliferation" and the "culture boom." For centuries, we could only dream of culture on demand, but here it is, every bit as much as human effluvia at a G.G. Allin concert (widely available online, natch):

Occasionally, you see major finds appear and then vanish. One of these for me was Hard Rain, an hour-long Rolling Thunder-era Bob Dylan concert broadcast on NBC in 1976. Like the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, it was broadcast only once in the pre-VCR era and never released commercially in any form. A couple of versions, one from Japanese TV, appear on the torrent networks intermittently—as does Dylan's other important TV appearance of that era, a 1975 PBS special on the work of producer John Hammond, released on VHS but long out of print. (That's a great example of the way fans' abilities to see their icons has changed as well: Through the bulk of the 1970s, Bob Dylan appeared on TV in any substantive way twice.)…

I asked [Big Champagne's John] Robinson whether he had noticed previously unobtainable nuggets coming to the surface. "Visconti adapted The Stranger, starring Marcello Mastroianni," he responded. "If you hear about it in film school it's, 'Forget about it, you're never going to see this film. He hates it, his wife hates it, everyone hates it. It's completely buried. Forget about it.' " Citing online discussions, he said the film emerged in 1999 at a meeting of a group of cinematographers. One showed the film on VHS, and a copy eventually made its way to a private tracker site.

Unlike the annoying collector types who populate third-rate horror flicks, Wyman doesn't shed a tear for the new era:

I have this or that fetish object—theWhite Album on two 8-tracks in a black custom case, for example, or a rare Elvis Costello picture disc. And I remember the joy of the find. But it's hard to feel bad about the end of rarity; didn't a lot of the thrill come from feeling superior when you had something others didn't? You really want to get nostalgic about that? We're finally approaching that nirvana for fans, scholars, and critics: Everything available, all the time. (Certainly Richards and Jagger would approve.) It's not an ideal state of affairs for a rights holder, of course. But for the rest of us, what is there to complain about?

The whole piece is beautifully, even touchingly, rendered, a fan's notes as written by someone other than Fred Exley, reminding us that even or especially in a world of surplus, great prose and perspective is the one thing we'll never have enough of. If the cultural world has turned into a Ross Dress For Less, with heaps of poorly-sorted stuff all over the place, we'll need guides more than ever.

Read the whole thing here.

And check out my 1999 Reason feature "All Culture, All the Time: It's Easier Than Ever to Make and Buy Culture. No Wonder Some People Are so Upset":

The upshot of such a [and explosion in the ability to make and consume culture] is that it is and will continue to be increasingly difficult to enforce any single standard of cultural value or practice, whether the enforcer is a government seeking to regulate material its deems indecent, a corporation trying to protect its franchise, or a group of artists or critics interested in cornering the market with its own aesthetic ideology. In this sense, the increased contests for power, prominence, and prestige that are often lamented in discussions of the "culture wars" are simply signs that all is as it should be in a free society. Indeed, more-serious problems will only be beginning if, as some participants in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education symposium suggested, those wars are in fact over.

Hat tip: It's gotta be Alan Vanneman, whose blog is a total must-read.

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  1. as an avid record collector, I used to scrounge through the bins of record stores with my want-list stuck in my hands. Now I order the majority of my records through Ebay or GEMM. It is convenient, but I do miss the “glory of the hunt” and finding that uber-rare pressing. Now it’s just a matter of how much money I want to spend.

    1. True, there are some negatives, but I’m sure you’d agree that the net gain is positive. It’s sort of like central air conditioning. When I was a little kid (wow, writing that non-ironically makes me feel old) we didn’t have central air, but my parents had a window unit in their bedroom for when it got really hot. During heat waves my sister and me would bring sleeping bags up to my parents’ room and sleep on their floor. The feeling of opening the door and stepping out of 95?F heat/90% humidity and into that ice cold, air-conditioned room was AWESOME. Twenty-five years later I still remember exactly how it felt. But now that I have my own house, do I turn off the central air and install a window unit in my bedroom just so I can experience that feeling all over again? Hell no.

      1. It’s not about net gain; hunting and having are separate pleasures. One of those pleasures is lost (books for me), replaced with a few keyword searches. The having is no less rewarding.

        I wouldn’t want to return to the previous state necessarily, but there is nothing hypocritical in acknowledging and even lamenting the loss.

        1. Agreed. Courting the woman who became my wife was awesome, but being married to her is pretty cool, too.

        2. Didn’t mean to suggest anything hypocritical. I was just pointing out that, for me at least, missing out on some of the simple joys we no longer experience is well worth the new opportunities we gain.

          1. I didn’t mean to come off that hostile… I was rebutting someone else from a previous discussion of this, I believe.

            1. I think we’re both being far too polite for an H&R thread. Can’t Orren or somebody jump in and say something stupid to break things up?

              1. u don r k lib durr $

        3. I wouldn’t want to return to the previous state necessarily, but there is nothing hypocritical in acknowledging and even lamenting the loss.

          Exactly. Some of my favorites are non-rare items that I stumbled across while looking for something else. I still get that sort of “thrill” via the internet, but it happens a lot less often simply because I’m doing a lot less searching-and-stumbling. Although that could simply be a byproduct of age.

      2. The feeling of opening the door and stepping out of 95?F heat/90% humidity and into that ice cold, air-conditioned room was AWESOME.

        Dude, central air doesn’t take that away. Just pop outside for a few minutes, then back in. Voila.

        1. Nah… When you’re only cooling one room, you can afford to really crank it. If I kept my entire house that cold it would probably cost me $500/month.

      3. If you want that feeling again, you just walk outside the house for a few minutes, and then step back in.

    2. I now what you mean, Lord. Along these same lines, all types of memorabilia collecting has improved greatly due to these here inter-tubes.

      I am a baseball/football/hockey card collector and I too remember the old days of having to wait for the big shows or whenever I was out of town finding all the shops within a 50 mile radius. Now between the major shops being online and e-bay, everyday can be the National Convention.

      I had been looking for 1 card to complete a set of World Series cartoons from 1970 for years without success. Found it quick when I starting using the internet for this purpose.

  2. I agree that the end of rarity is a good thing.

    OTOH, in my occasional non-perfectly-libertarian moments I wonder to myself if the ease of acquisition of content has devalued all content.

    I used to be excited when I bought a new album, or when I successfully taped something off the radio [you had to hit the start and stop buttons perfectly, the station had to be perfectly tuned, etc]. Content reflected effort and as a result I valued it. Now I don’t give a shit. Content goes by in a stream and I shrug.

    I really don’t like having “abundance doubts” because it feels like creeping granola douchebagish waiting outside my door, waiting to spring upon me and make me into a dirty hippie, but it’s there and I can’t pretend it’s not there.

    It may be hard-wired biologically. Mammals that invest a lot of effort into a small number of offspring value those offspring. Fish that dump a million eggs into the river don’t give a shit. Because seeing “that movie” or hearing “that song” used to be a lot of effort, we may have perceived ourselves to be attached to that experience much more than when no effort is required and a billion copies and a billion choices are always available. We’re no longer content mammals; we’re content fish.

    1. “I wonder to myself if the ease of acquisition of content has devalued all content.”

      I don’t think so. I don’t enjoy music or a book any less now than I ever did. And I can get them so much easier now. There is nothing not to love. The only way you can worry about that is if you value the distinction of owning or liking something few other people have access to. And if you get into that, you have pretty much hit the essense of hipster douschedom. Enjoy your abundance fluffy.

      1. I don’t enjoy music or a book any less now than I ever did.

        I do.

        I have to bring up Ape Week again.

        Ape Week was a real thing.

        Channel 7 in New York used to have a week once a year when they would show all the Planet of the Apes movies, in sequence, every day at 4:30.

        I would be totally pumped when Ape Week was coming around and would make sure I got to watch. All week.

        Now I can watch all of those movies any time I want. Or the Tim Burton remake. Or the old TV show episodes.

        But I can’t be bothered. It’s all a giant “Meh”.

        It’s possible that I still enjoy content just as much while I’m consuming it. The problem is getting excited about making the choice to consume any particular datum of content. When I’ve got one chance all year to see a particular movie, I will make sure I see it. When I can do it whenever I want – “Meh”.

        1. That is a good point. And they used to have Ape Week in Kansas City to. I loved it. They would also have Godzilla Week, Don Knotts Week, Man from Atlantis Week, War Week among others I have forgotten. Every day at 3:30 right after school. I have fond memories of Ape Week to. Funny, you were accross the country doing the same thing.

          It is a good point and a bit different than I thought you were making. But it could be made about any advance in techology. When the phonograph became widely available people lamented the death of home music making. It used to be that everyone knew how to sing or play piano because that was the only way to hear music in your home. And sitting around listening to a family member or members play was serious home entertainment. Certainly something was lost when we could listen to the Vienna Symphony play Bach rather than playing it ourselves. But such is life.

          1. Certainly something was lost when we could listen to the Vienna Symphony play Bach rather than playing it ourselves.

            True, but was what was gained greater than what was lost? I’d say so.

            1. I don’t think that the comparison can be made. I love recorded music and I am very glad that it exists and is easy to get. But what was lost was a completely different thing that really is lost. Music changed from an activity to a commodity (for most people, there are still plenty of casual musicians, of course). But such is the price of progress. No one has yet convinced me that there has ever been a better time to be alive than now.

          2. Ape Week was a real thing.

            I don’t lament the the loss of the media scarcity of my childhood. I was an only child, who moved a lot and no matter where we went, we had 5 channels: ABC, CBS, NBC, local PBS and local indie channel. If there was nothing on, which was the case a good deal of the time, and none of my friends-for-that-year were around, it could get pretty dull.

            The best I could compare to Ape week was the Ma and Pa Kettle shorts the local indie station would show on Sunday mornings, around the occasional Laural and Hardy.

            Yes, I read books and entertained myself as best I could under the circumstances, but I don’t miss those days at all.

        2. Again tho, was there value in the movies themselves, or was the value in the event that was made of scheduling and committing to the schedule. And was part of the attraction of Ape Week the fact that there wasn’t much else competing for your attention, and the fact that the other movies that could be shown at that time instead were far less compelling to you?

          I don’t know if I agree with Otto that gaining the ability to hear better musicians play music that was unattainable for home performers is *necessarily* greater than the loss of the group sharing that occurs with shared performance, but it would certainly seem that people do value it more. It’s not like having records of the Vienna Symphony available prevented anyone from sitting at the piano and playing something, or singing around the parlor, yet those activities did get reduced.

        3. Sounds like you miss the marketing hype, not the actual content.

          Big loss…

          1. Nope, that’s not it at all.

            I’m talking about the difference between watching the Yule Log on TV on Christmas morning and watching the same thing right now on YouTube.

            They aren’t the same event. Even if you use a literalist focus.

      2. it’s not necessarily all posturing by any stretch. difficulty accessing musical objects did force one* to think about what they were working with more deeply because there was just so much less of it. it’s certainly harder to give greater attention to a single work because you can access thousands of songs within minutes.

        that said, i wouldn’t trade the current situation at all. there’s a lot of good in being able to hear so much, from so many disparate sources. and there’s still non-online, cassette or very small run only indie labels flapping about in various scenes, carving their own (very small) niche.

        * if one were a nerd, that is.

    2. I don’t think it devalues all content. It makes the value of the content much more dependent on the content itself, not ancillary characteristics like rarity. So instead of fetishizing some concert bootleg of a band that you like, but isn’t recorded well and you really don’t like the arrangement, because you had to put a lot of sunk costs into obtaining it, you can skip past that to whether it’s actually enjoyable to listen to. You no longer have to justify the effort you put into the process of getting it.

      Now, maybe, someone valued the ‘thrill of the hunt’, and it’s maybe too bad that they don’t get to hunt the same way, but then again, how much of that thrill and pride felt afterward is the feeling of superiority over other people who didn’t choose to spend that much time, effort, and money to obtain something that doesn’t have the intrinsic value, just ancillary value?

    3. I think a lot of what you feel is nostalgia, Fluffy. You remember how much fun it was in your youth to wait around for the song to come on and nail it.

      We all remember our youth as “the good old days” no matter if we are 30, 40 or 70.

      That makes you more curmudgeony old-timer than dirty hippy.

      1. because you had to put a lot of sunk costs into obtaining it

        I think Highway might be on to something here.

        You really can’t escape the knowledge of the sunk costs you have in something. You’ve either got a lot of sunk costs or you don’t, and your consciousness knows.

        There has been some work done out on the psychological effects of excessive choice – because people studying the problem of post-scarcity content think that the problem is one of excessive choice. But it may be that that’s not the problem at all. It may be the eradication of sunk costs from the way content is obtained.

        You know how you get attached to a puppy? By taking care of the damn thing for a month. You’re more attached on Day 30 than on Day 1. Is that related to the sunk cost of the effort you’ve expended over that time? I’m thinking, more and more, that it is.

        When puppies fall out of the sky whenever you want one, who gives a shit about Puppy XY-123354354? Unfortunately, not me, apparently.

        1. That’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure if it is true. A little kid who doesn’t take any care of the puppy is still more attached after 30 days than after one day.

          1. It’s not the cleaning up or feeding necessarily. It’s the paying attention that is the sunk cost. A kid who has nothing at all to do with a puppy isn’t going to be more attached, no. But one who plays with it, and enjoys its company, is going to be more attached because of the sunk cost of attention paid.

            1. Why can’t the attachment be greater because more enjoyment was received as opposed to because more effort was expended?

              Imagine you have two puppies for a month, one of which is standoffish and doesn’t want to play no matter how much effort and cajoling and time you put in while the other is naturally friendly and you play a lot together without much effort. Which one is likely to be your favorite?

              1. Serious answer: If the other one starts playing and everything is constant, sadly, probably the unresponsive one. It’s terrible, but apparently human. But thankfully, that huge difference in personalities makes them inherently different, which is why live puppies =\= pop art.

    4. My replacement has been concerts. The scarcity there has changed little over time, and finding out that one of your favorite bands — many of mine are smaller acts — is coming here is similar to the “thrill of the kill” when chancing upon that record you couldn’t find for ages.

      Also, I often go to my favorite indy record stores and peruse the used CDs aisle, which usually has stuff for $5-10 bucks. Last time there I got 7 CDs for $30 (!!!). I’d heard of all the bands and never given their stuff a listen, and was excited to find two great albums among them (plus four decent ones and one that should be melted for scrap). Before, when the only way to preview an album was from professional reviews and maybe a single, I’d often buy bad albums from bands I liked. Now I get what I know I like and use the leftover money for concerts and risk.

      IMO, there are substitutes available for the collector, and for the most part the “singularity” has eliminated only the most frustrating elements. You can always dig deeper into more obscure acts and more limited pressings, but there’s no substitute from the 90s for the vast amount of content available today.

    5. I have deliberately avoided having a MP3 player, copying all of my CDs onto a hard drive or listening to much music online exactly to avoid the overabundance. I like to listen to a lot of music that I already know well, and I like to listen to whole albums.

    6. OTOH, in my occasional non-perfectly-libertarian moments I wonder to myself if the ease of acquisition of content has devalued all content.

      Devalued… from its previously way overvalued state.

      I call it “rightvaluing”.

    7. As a movie blogger, there are a lot of movies I’d love to recommend to people. But they’re not yet available on DVD or even VHS. So I can only really recommend them if they show up on TCM or the Fox Movie Channel. (I’m talking about obscure movies from as early as the 1930s, the sort of thing that doesn’t show up anywhere else.)

  3. Culture went downhill since the invention of the phonograph.

    1. Nah. Cave paintings.

  4. Wow. Fred Exley reference. Not bad Nick. Not bad at all. (If anyone hasn’t read A Fan’s Notes by Exley I highly recommend it as one of the most hilarious and engrossing novels ever written. It has nothing to do with music or rarity, however.)

  5. Anything technology that can get me a copy of The Decline of Western Civilization is a good thing in my book.

  6. Wow, that blonde girl in the pic is major F I N E

  7. “didn’t a lot of the thrill come from feeling superior when you had something others didn’t? You really want to get nostalgic about that?”

    Thank you for that. Im so tired of elitist assholes doing exactly that, I wont miss that one bit.

    1. My sister-in-law used to call my music obsession “sitting in the trashcan and eating shit”. ie, I was so obsessed with obscure music that “only I, Mr. Superior” had heard about. There was a certain truth to that.…..es347.html

      Now I’m not so elitist, though I’m still mining obscure threads of music – 80s Cold Wave music anyone? The internetz allows me to find stuff that I missed before.

      1. My sister-in-law used to call my music obsession “sitting in the trashcan and eating shit”.

        Nice family you married into, Humungus.

        1. The proper response to that comment would be – “No, sitting in the trashcan and eating shit is what it would be if I married YOU instead of HER.”

  8. didn’t a lot of the thrill come from feeling superior when you had something others didn’t?

    This has transformed into the thrill of feeling superior when you share something others haven’t. Look through the posts and comments on the sharity sites linked at my page and you will see this attitude on display frequently. A much better manifestation of the pride-envy collectors battle as it benefits everyone.

    A particularly rich archive:
    and it’s parent site

    1. A side note on this…the torrent, sharity movement raises many intellectual property issues. As the availability and instant distribution of free versions of music becomes the norm, it transforms how artists behave. An interesting example is the French duo Natural Snow Buildings ( who have released a huge volume of music in very, very, very small pressings. The releases come with elaborate artwork as covers and they sell out quickly. Then the music gets distributed quickly and widely via sharity blogs. It is a business model that is becoming more widespread. As musicians try and produce a product that people are willing to pay money for when they can get the music for free. The “pay what you want” model over at bandcamp (e.g., is another example as it leverages the sharing ethic, but gives people an easy way to directly compensate the artist. For obscure artists, access to this automatic distribution network lowers costs substantially compared to the past and allows access to the market that used to be controlled by middle men.

    2. The flip side of this is people who feel they have an entitlement to other people’s material.

      I’m a game show fan, and there are fans out there who engage in tape-trading, trading episodes of shows that aired, say, back in the 1980s and haven’t aired since, or the few surviving episodes of older shows that got wiped over literally when networks would reuse videotapes back in the 70s. Some clips and stuff has wound up on Youtube, and you wouldn’t believe how many people are simply ingrates asking for the people who spent their time digitizing this stuff to post xyz clip from such-and-such show.

      (I don’t engage in tape-trading so am not on either side of that divide; I’m just pointing out that it happens.)

  9. ITT: hipsters

  10. The biggest problem I have found with the end of rarity (at least in terms of music) is actually finding stuff I like. More difficult to search through. I know, I know, weep for us to have such stressful, emotionally distressing problems.

    1. hence the value of gatekeepers i.e. critics one “gets” (rather than just agrees with) and whose judgment one respects. i usually have some go-to blogs i read because i know that even if i don’t like what they have on offer, they’ll be able to offer me something new/interesting/exciting.

      plus there’s the old game of find a label and pursue their output.

      1. I agree. The importance of gatekeepers has increased. What I find interesting is aversion to scale that the abundance has created. To the extent that if an artist moves up the food chain from a tiny niche gatekeeper’s domain to one that is only very small, some of the consumers see this as a sign that it is time to move on to find the next not-big thing. I mean god forbid you get noticed by Pitchfork or DiS.

    2. Restoras, that’s a great point. Even at my age, I value interesting new music, but it’s hard to find. And I don’t believe it’s because it’s not there. I find myself listening to a lot more internet radio and unusual(for me) XM stations just to broaden my view. All in all, though, this is goodness.

      1. Any music blogs anyone can recommend I wouldn’t mind checking some out. My tastes run the gammut (excepting certain types of metal and anything pop oriented, and I mostly pass on classical).

        I have stumbled on some stuff from Apple’s Genius application, but that is really only a little better than a stab in the dark. Mostly the issue is finding time with two young kids.

        I’ve been listening to Pandora lately – not too bad and I’d descibe the advertising as bearable as it can be – a short 20 second spot every third song.

        1. Restoras,
          Click on the link on my name.
          At the bottom of the page there is a long list of music blogs that focus on almost any kind of music you can think of from anywhere in the world.

            1. simon reynolds blogs over at

              the wire’s blog is here:

              also might try:

              and of course

              i know you said not metal, but for those who are not not metal, is my stop of choice.

  11. The music you wanted to hear wasn’t played on the radio and you couldn’t find the records you wanted to buy. You couldn’t even find the magazines that told you what records you should want to buy.

    Ah, The Lament of the Hipster-Dofus. You should have been listening to Barenaked Ladies like everyone else, hippie.

    1. You threw me with the lame hipster insult right out of the bag, but you k.o.’ed me with the Barenaked Ladies/hippie jab at the end.

      1. What else do you call someone who needs an obscure magazine to tell him which more-obscure music he “should” be listening to?

      2. I will defend Barenaked Ladies’ first three albums to the death. Unfortunately, it was all downhill once they hit it big with “One Week” (and, for the record, I’m not one of those guys who dumps a band as soon as they’re no longer obscure… they just started to focus too much on being goofballs later on while their early stuff had the perfect balance of thought-provoking songwriting to oddball humor stuff).

        1. What else do you call someone who needs an obscure magazine to tell him which more-obscure music he “should” be listening to?

          it’s only obscure if you don’t subscribe, broham.

  12. My to-find list still has about 200 records on it that haven’t made it onto the tubes. But the list was more like 20,000 impossible things back in the ’90s.

    Living through the transition, so I had a list that the tubes helped me shrink, rather than just being glutted for my whole life like kids these days are, was great fun. I’m sad they’ll miss out on that?not the glut itself, which is awesome.

    When I find any of those last 200, I’m shoving them into the tubes immediately, because collectors are listeners’ worst enemy, and anything that hurts them, even marginally, is awesome. It’s not the “hunt” that thrills them; it’s the “hoard.”

    “Here’s my list of things you can’t listen to.”

    Back in the scarcity days, I was always the guy who had tons of hard-to-find stuff and made copies for anybody who wanted to hear it. Because why not? Never sold anything back into collector-world obscurity, never will. Buncha smelly dicks.

    A much better manifestation of the pride-envy collectors battle as it benefits everyone.

    In theory. But “Fredo69Potato posted this [as unlistenably shitty .ogg files] at Reckids Y’all Don’t Got Bitch three months ago, stealio!” crap is rampant, and it’s discouraged a couple non-assholes I know who have a lot of cool shit but don’t want to join asshole world to share it.

    1. discouraged a couple non-assholes I know who have a lot of cool shit but don’t want to join asshole world to share it.

      Yep. There are those who still want credit for being the cool one with the cool shit.

      As an exmaple: A great blog sharing island rarities went off the air for awhile because he go so bent out of shape that others passed along the records he was sharing without mentioning him. He did a great rant-post where he ironically called them out for “stealing” his hard work without his permission. Of course, none of the artist whose music he was sharing had given him permission. His indignation rant was identical to that of musicians who go off on people stealing from them when they share music.

  13. I can still remember being a major Pink Floyd fan in the 80s and being astonished when I found out Roger Waters had released a solo album…a year after its release. Now, I can’t imagine buying a copy, but if he did release a solo album, I’d know about it before it happened.

  14. Okay, I challenge you to find me the concept album for Frank Wildhorn’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” starring Douglas Sills. I’m dying to hear it, and it’s available NOWHERE.

    Scarcity still exists for us Broadway buffs, alas.

    1. A few places on the web suggest that isn’t available because it was a demo only and never actually released.

    2. No matter how technology evolves, scarcity will always exist when you’re the only person on the planet that wants something. “I was a fool to think that anyone would want nude photos of Whoopi Goldberg…”

      1. So Ted Danson is dead when we’re having this conversation?

        1. I stand by CMS’s statement.

  15. My to-find list still has about 200 records on it that haven’t made it onto the tubes. But the list was more like 20,000 impossible things back in the ’90s.

    You don’t have the Rip-Offs’ “Savage Young…” EP with “Hooked on Phonics,” do you?

    By the way, I wrote a really long post, but everybody has covered it. The are only two points I wrote about that haven’t been raised:

    1)critics have no scarcity, because they get everything for free or through connections, and that impacts their gatekeeper function. The don’t value your time, nor your money, and often will get socio-political about their tastes. Yeah, I know, who doesn’t? It used to be a little more neutral, though.
    2)There’s also the issue of cognitive aging, especially in the context of music. Is it aging or glut that leaves us less interested as we get older?

    Two quick things: Psych 101 told me about the hunt/have thing. The harder you work for the have, the more gratifying it is. And speaking of socio-political, Tim Yohannan of Maximum Rock N’ Roll, RIP. That was the gatekeeper for me.

    1. It was Yohannon. Never, ever trust grammar lines and a Google search over yourself if you know it. Peace.

    2. On a couple of your points… I did music reviews (some books too) for ten years, and got a lot of free stuff. I tried to not unduly compliment material, which was easy, since 75 percent of the stuff I received was shit. I’m also getting older — I have a kid and don’t have time to wade through piles of music like I used to. As you’ve suggested, I may be overwhelmed, but more likely just bored with keeping up.

    3. On a couple of your points… I did music reviews (some books too) for ten years, and got a lot of free stuff. I tried to not unduly compliment material, which was easy, since 75 percent of the stuff I received was shit. I’m also getting older — I have a kid and don’t have time to wade through piles of music like I used to. As you’ve suggested, I may be overwhelmed, but more likely just bored with keeping up.

      1. Thanks for the response. It wasn’t a quid pro quo accusation. I think that when you get everything for free, one’s visceral aesthetic judgment might suffer. One can celebrate socio-political leanings more readily. I’m immediately reminded of a band called Sahara Hotnights, who were universally praised, and almost objectively sucked if you like garage rock.

    4. Good riddance to that fucking commie.

      1. Wow. I get that fully. I once likened him and Biafra to Lenin and Trotsky. But RIP for that motherfucker and what he created.

  16. Post-scarcity is really cool. I have a world-class music nerd friend who’s always keyed me into stuff he knew I would like. A friend like that is invaluable. But now I just follow the rabbit trail of people I like. Hall & Oates leads to Todd Rundgren. Robert Palmer leads to Little Feat leads to Allen Toussaint leads to The Meters. Pretty rad.

    1. Sounds like Pandora.

  17. Oh, and quickly: There’s been a resurgence in unannounced shows, quick reunions, and house shows (especially in CT punk — it’s been written about a bunch). There’s many reasons for that, but one of them is that artists might want to freely associate with those people whom they want to associate with, instead of associating with the paying public. That’s also something to possibly think about when thinking about scarcity. That the artists themselves might crave it, and act in an exlusionary manner.

  18. The think cultural post-scarcity could have a high value in putting to rest the central hipster fallacy: Obscurity is a determiner of quality.

    It’s hard to rave about a band everyone can judge for themselves. Of course the hipsters know this. I read about a few obscurist band only releasing their records on cassette.

    1. I’m pretty much fully out of the hipster game (I fall asleep instead of going to shows) but they indeed do that. When I check back in at MRR every so often, a good portion of the bands are doing cassette demos only. It’s retro! And limiting.

      When I see that, I think of Brooklyn. I went there last summer, during an arts festival. It was strange. So many people going from post-apocalyptic gallery to gallery. And so orderly, too. It was…



    2. a few obscurist band only releasing their records on cassette.

      They’re safe until somebody invents the technology to digitize cassette recordings, then.

      1. One of these days, I’ll remember to switch off a joke handle.

        1. what’s irritating about the cassette thing is that you can find the songs but if you want to support them, you either buy a cassette (which i can’t play because this isn’t 1991) or hope they tour or make shirts. i get why they’re doing it – kultur war delusions aside, it’s because it’s insanely cheap – but it’s still irritating.

          case in point – found a song on a split from last year by a band called leech (think slint if they went back in time and got into black metal but kept their regular outfits) with thou. thou’s a nola sludge band, easy to find (good stuff) but leech? there’s about a dozen other bands named leech and the only label that’s put out their stuff is woodsmoke, which is both no longer in business and never had any web presence.

          discogs helps me sort out who’s doing what but it’s definitely kind of surprising to think this was the way things were for most underground acts a mere 15 years ago.

  19. I collect 19th century county atlases — I’d like to eventually amass a complete collection from my state. The Web has actually made this a realistic goal. They’re so few and far between that I actually had no hope of putting together a really great collection before I was able to search them out on the Web. It’s still hit and miss, but now I go weeks, not years, between hits.

  20. Since this is a Vanneman-inspired post, would this be an appropriate place to say that the genre of fucking literary pastiches has finally gone too far?
    I just received a copy of The Meowmorphosis. — “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking from anxious dreams, he found he had been changed into an adorable kitten.”
    It goes on from there…

    1. Are those even pastiches? I’d classify them more as “Find and Replace Rape of The Public Domain.”

    2. Pastiches are a fine genre. The problem as you point out is the lame ass Vanneman’s that are currently doing them are not up to creativity of Phillip Jose Farmer, at least in the prime of his product.

      1. the lame ass Vanneman’s

        Get the Scooby gang on the mystery of the misasserted apostrophe, pronto. When you go up against the Vanneman you have to jeep your diction and syntax real sharp.

  21. jeep your diction

    not up to creativity

    Ah, shit. Merry Passover, you bastard.

    1. Did you find the matzo this year?

  22. In music, I find the real issue is not the difficulty of acquisition (or lack thereof), but simply the sheer volume of new music being produced. The real revolution is the ease with which music can be recorded and distributed by anyone.

    The effect on the public is a collective shutdown. Nobody actually listens to music anymore, they sample a few seconds of something online before moving to the next clip. It’s a radical extension of the old radio maxim that a song has to be attention-grabbing in the first few seconds in order to make the playlist.

    Oh, and here’s my contribution to the current over-supply of music. Six albums of instrumental guitar weirdness. Feel free to listen to a few seconds and move on with your day:

  23. I don’t miss the old days at all. I grew up in the sticks. It was a 50 mile drive to Fargo, ND to see a first run movie. Forget about seeing new exciting music in any store.

    Give me technology or give me death!

    1. That was supposed to thread to ChrisO;s Councilofone comment.

    2. Yep. I’ve hosted my music on a number of sites, and Bandcamp is by far the best of them.

  24. I observe this is true for music but isn’t true for movies. Is this because licensing turned out to be easier or because the music industry is so desperate to remain the licensing hub? Worth some reportage?

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