Finding Yourself In The Used CD Bin
Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.
It is possible that a generation of future musicians will create music that is never released physically. This means they will never have to deal with some of the necessary evils I grew up with, like consigning CDs at local record stores or trying to secure a deal with a national distributor. They will also never find a copy of a CD they made ten years ago in the bargain bin of the Mid Rivers Mall V-Stock location the day after Christmas, and they will never pay 99 cents for said CD out of principle.
The specific disc I found is the Are We Not Drawn Onward To New Era? EP by So Many Dynamos. I was a member of the band from 2003 until 2009, and this is a document of the first five songs the group wrote. Dynamos just announced a 10 year anniversary show, so nostalgia is on my mind. That disc is particularly sentimental, but seeing it essentially devalued is conflicting.
Used CDs always feel like the dark underbelly of the music industry. These discs are in the shelves because they meant nothing to somebody, and the artist does not get paid for the transaction. Over the years, I have seen a few CDs I have been involved with in the used bins. It's a rite of touring passage to find promotional copies of your own band's CD at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles. I even saw a t-shirt of my high school band at a Goodwill once. But this was my first experience finding a disc in the lowest of the low, the bargain bin. At least when illegally downloaded MP3s get tossed in the desktop trash can, they do not return to haunt their creators.
I understand why somebody would be bummed in this situation, but I was not. Actually, it made my day since I haven't had an actual copy of this record in years. And yes, I plan on keeping it in the ripped shrink wrap, yellow $0.99 sticker intact.
But what really made me happy was what other discs I found in the same bin. There were releases by local bands time has forgotten, like Virginia Heart Attack by Climber. There were novelty oddities, an elevator music collection and a disc called Sensual Massage with tracks like "Warm Hands" and "Lotions Of Life." There were oddball releases by artists who have actually influenced me, like Hard Normal Daddy by Squarepusher and An Anthology Of Dead Ends by Botch.
And, as if this bin was waiting for me to rifle through it, I found a copy of Central Hug/ Friendarmy/ Fractal Dunes by Emperor X, a long out of print album by the nomadic Chad Matheny, a man who temporarily lived in my house four years ago. And I almost teared up when I found, in this very bin, Emergency & I by The Dismemberment Plan, the exact album that made me want to be in a band like So Many Dynamos and make a record like Are We Not Drawn Onward To New Era? After all these years, there we were together, in the place where the misfits and rejects go, the place we always belonged. I've honestly never felt more proud.