Author: Douglas Wolk

  • Bastard Out of Carolina

    Charlie Poole was a sot, a holy hell-raiser, a smart-mouthed terror of a banjo player with huge, open ears. His recording career lasted just over five years, from his 1925 megahit “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues” to 1930 sides that sold only to cultists; a year later, he drank himself to death. Having […]

  • The Other Foot

    A few weeks ago, New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, triumphantly announced Sony BMG’s agreement to quit exchanging money and goodies for radio airplay and to throw in $10 million to nonprofits by way of apology. The reaction from the music industry was a collective shrug and a hint of wounded entitlement. Payola, the music […]

  • Never Ending Math Equation

    Justice David Souter’s opinion in MGM Grokster a few weeks ago was the first U.S. Supreme Court decision to mention Modest Mouse by name, but it was otherwise less juicy than it looked. It’s had no immediate effect on the file-sharing scene—Grokster is better known for spyware than for its user base, anyway—and the gist […]

  • How Much Is Music Worth?

    Let’s say you wanted to buy a copy of Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, in honor of their current protest against Warner Music Group for not cutting the band in on WMG’s (not-as-successful-as-planned) IPO. For $18.98 (list price), you’d get a CD from which you could rip MP3s to play on whatever portable device you like; […]

  • The Big Chill

    Users of easytree.org who visited it on April 6 got a nasty surprise: a note saying it had been shut down due to legal threats. EZT, as it was known, was the file-sharing equivalent of Grateful Dead-era tape trees: a clearing-house for “torrents,” which allow multiple users to exchange fragments of the same big file […]

  • Bluenosed

    One Republican Federal Communications Commission chairman (Michael Powell) leaves, another one (Kevin J. Martin) takes his place; will it really make a difference in what you hear on the radio? Yeah, probably. The good news about Martin is that he’s not the flag-waver for media consolidation that Powell was—he’s for it and all, but he […]

  • Soul-torch Shouter Revives 1970 to the Letter—Subpar Filler and All

    The Dap-Tone house band’s second album backing up soul shouter Sharon Jones is a rare-groove album, circa 1970, in all but recording date (that would be 2004): songwriting, vocal style, snare sound, slightly off-key strings and all. The model is the haphazard LPs by women like Marva Whitney and Lyn Collins, who sang with the […]

  • Priced Out

    Why would people agree to pay astronomical rents to live in the new apartment buildings and high-rises that are popping up all over the East Village and the Lower East Side? One big selling point is the neighborhood’s world-class live music clubs—except those same new buildings and high rents are driving the clubs into extinction. […]

  • Booty Call

    I have a purely booty-call relationship with Rio baile funk. I don’t know a lot about it beyond the basics (it’s made in the hills of Brazil, hence its other name, funky do morro); I’m not sure how exactly it developed (somebody listened to a lot of Miami bass and late-’80s MTV and decided that […]

  • Fair Useless

    In the late ’80s, Karlheinz Brandenburg of the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany listened to Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” more than a thousand times. He was perfecting a technique for audio compression that could reduce a CD track’s file size by about 90 percent while distorting Vega’s voice as little as possible. The result was the […]

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