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I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store

Ian MacKaye , Noam Chomsky , Brendan Toller    Unrated   DVD

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Guerilla filmmaker Brendan Toller unleashes I NEED THAT RECORD! THE DEATH (OR POSSIBLE SURVIVAL) OF THE INDEPENDENT RECORD STORE, "an elegy for a vanishing subculture...a lively, bittersweet film that examines - with caustic humor, brutal candor, and, ultimately, great affection - why roughly 3,000 indie record stores have closed across the nation over the past decade," (Johnathan Perry, Boston Globe). A tour-de-force tale of greed, media consolidation, homogenized radio, big box stores, downloading, and technological shifts in the music industry told through candid interviews, crestfallen record store owners, startling statistics, and eye-popping animation. Fat cats or our favorite record stores? You decide. Featuring- IAN MACKAYE, NOAM CHOMSKY, MIKE WATT, THURSTON MOORE, LENNY KAYE (Patti Smith), CHRIS FRANTZ (Talking Heads), GLENN BRANCA, PATTERSON HOOD (Drive By Truckers), PAT CARNEY (Black Keys) , LEGS MCNEIL, BOB GRUEN, BP HELIUM, and many indie record stores across the U.S.

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars UNCUT Magazine Review Sept. 16 2010
By btoller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
DVD REVIEW: I NEED THAT RECORD! Mint! Inspired, moving study of the decline and fall of America's independent music stores...

Brendan Toller's engaging essay-film is a direct response to an unexpected extinction event of the past decade: 3,000 independent record stores have closed down in the USA alone.

By launching a two-pronged attack on the problem - meeting record store employees and customers in situ, and analysing the backstory of the wholesale restructuring of the American music industry since the 1980s - he manages to provide a rounded and quietly impassioned elegy for the kind of self-supporting yet fragile communities which independent stores bring into being.

Along the way, Toller interviews various leftfield rock icons, including Fugazi/Dischord's Ian Mackaye (brutally realistic), Thurston Moore and Chris Frantz (genially articulate), Mike Watt (incoherent), Legs McNeil (cynical) and Glenn Branca (cantankerous). Lenny Kaye explains how he actually met Patti Smith while they were both browsing in their local indie record booth, and there's the unspoken reminder of how many groups have formed through in-store notices.

But the real heroes and heroines of the story are the store owners and staff, who are painted as tireless Canutes, embattled against an oceanic sea-change in the business of selling entertainment. He begins at Record Express, the Connecticut neighbourhood record emporium that Toller used to frequent. Owner Ian is clearing his racks and sweeping up, forced out due to rent hikes and dwindling business, as he explains over choked-back tears. Meanwhile, the charismatically combative Malcolm from another CT store, Danbury's Trash American Style, explains how a local print-shop owner has just elbowed them out of a 20-year lease, while his customers mourn its passing: "It's like when your best friend's moved away to a far away land, and you can't buy a plane ticket to go there," says one. It's more than just the closure of a record store, it's the dismantling of an unofficial but tangible underground society. "A part of the culture," insists Toller, "that can't easily be regained."

How did this come to pass? Toller's argument begins with President Clinton's deregulation of radio station ownership in 1996, which led to Clear Channel owning one in 10 radio stations in the US, blanketing them with homogenised playlists. Wal-Mart, he goes on to say, has become the US's biggest record retailer, with one in every five CDs sold there.

Cumulative factors such as MTV, loss-leading CD prices by big-box retailers, even the legendary superciliousness of indie-shop staff are cited as factors, along with the inevitable role of the internet. Noting that `entrepre-nerd' Michael Robertson only owned six CDs at the time he set up the controversial [...], the film acutely observes the way download culture, with its defensive firewalls of legal protection and enforcement, has promoted a widespread antagonistic attitude to record labels rather than the kind of loyalty that might have characterised earlier generations of music lovers. With digital becoming the dominant delivery model, the prospects for future record collectors is, as Thurston Moore puts it, a "lonely and boring" experience rather than one involving community and fellowship. Theoretical heavyweight Noam Chomsky is roped in to point out the similarities with the way supermarkets sucked up the customer-base of small grocery stores. "The system is designed for isolating people," he says.

Toller has worked hard to structure his film to maximise the impact of his story, and the analytical sections are seamlessly woven in among the talking heads. Matt Newman's animations provide appropriately cut'n'paste counterpoints to the footage, and a post-punk soundtrack throbs throughout (the title track, by The Tweeds, is a celebratory slice of 1980 disc-junky power-pop).

The film's subtitle is `The Death (Or Possible Survival) Of The Independent Record Store'. It might have been useful to have gleaned, from shops that are surviving, how to keep heads above water. As it is, I Need That Record! is about more than just the death of the record store. It laments the passing of a state of mind.

DVD: 5 stars
Extras: 4 stars

-- Rob Young UNCUT Magazine, August 2010
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We All Need This Film! Jan. 2 2011
By Timothy K. Schwader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I love music. I don't kind-of like music, don't enjoy music, don't have an interest in music. Music, for me, equals life. Period. I hate being out in public, can't stand being around people, would much, much, much rather be sitting at home with my headphones clamped over my ears... but I have relished every second of my life that was spent in a record store, and there have been many. Why was being 19 the best year of my life? Because that was the year I had the opportunity to manage an independent all-metal/hard rock record store in the sleepy community of Lawton, Oklahoma. How did I survive high school? Easy answer: the indie record shops that thrived in every Bahnhof (train station) in every small city in West Germany, where I lived at the time. How do I get the bulk of my music now? At a place that I consider to be the heart and soul of my current hometown of Austin, Texas--Encore Records on Anderson Lane. So when I found out about this independently produced documentary on the mass extermination of indie record stores across the USA, I had to watch it as soon as possible. In any documentary, the filmmaker will present the story in his own way, with his prejudices, his opinions, and a focus on subjects that he feels personally connected to. Brendan Toller--who is the sole writer, director, and editor of 'I Need That Record!'--concentrates on a small area of the USA, spending most of the film shifting between Connecticut, Washington DC, and various parts of Ohio. The film follows the owners of a few different stores that had become institutions in their respective communities, chronicling each store's final days then catching up with the owners a few months later to see how their lives had changed. It also paints a broad-stroke portrait of the music industry, offering examples of possible culprits--such as the rise and fall of MTV, the rise and fall of Napster coupled with the rise and continuing rise both of iTunes and of music downloading in general, and the manner in which corporate greed has corrupted major record labels and all commercial radio stations over the years--without actually pointing a specific finger at any specific target. Anyone who has spent time in an indie record store will enjoy the footage of the various store owners, because, let's face it, there's a certain type of person behind the counter at an indie record store, so we all have a feeling of instant comfort inside the walls of any and all such places. The celebrity interviews are well-chosen and well-placed, and this DVD is worth the cost just for the passionate insights provided by Ian MacKaye, Thurston Moore, Mike Watt, Legs McNeil, Lenny Kaye, Glenn Branca, Patterson Hood, Pat Carney (Black Keys), BP Helium (Of Montreal), and--interestingly, in a very, very good way--Noam Chomsky. The film runs a little under half an hour, but the DVD is packed with well over 2 hours of extras, including full interviews with those listed above. If you have ever "needed" a record, you need to own a copy of this film.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost Focus March 22 2011
By David E. Hintz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Sorry to say that this is a disappointing effort here. Why was so much time spent on major labels? This was supposed to be about independent record stores. How did they lose their customers? Pretty much due to the technology that allows you to read this review on Amazon.com. They finally got to this point. They also mention Dischord's low pricing model. One former independent record store's owner that was an old friend, used to bristle at their "pay no more than $x.xx for this record" as it did not allow him to get sufficient profit margin to make it worthwhile to stock and sell. Dischord is mostly a positive force, but this is just another example that you won't always hear in these types of films. This is a very complex subject and rather than just have musicians whine about big business and accountants, maybe a few of them should be interviewed. The comic book store owner was one of the few guys that looked like he had the skills to identify problems AND have the skills and heart to stay in business. Ultimately, we Amazon shoppers are not doing our part to keep stores in business. I balance my buying among many sources, but have mostly chosen independent internet sales people that may or may not have an indie storefront. I shop around the world and yes, that takes away some business from my local store. But I will always shop there, too.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store Dec 6 2010
By Carlos E. Velasquez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I don't know about you, but in recent years I have become addicted to collecting vinyl records. And the reason is simple: some of the music that was recorded on vinyl will never make it to the CD format, making vinyl records our own small treasures, something that, maybe, in the future, will be recognized as such. So, when I watched the incredibly absorbing and illuminating "I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store," I knew I was in heaven. I know this territory well - been there, done that, if you will.

The documentary covers many areas of recorded music at the same time. It smartly alternates the current state of the music industry with the history of recorded music. It tells us right away that 3,000 independent record stores have closed in the US in the past decade. Director Brendan Toller, who also wrote and edited the film, knows his turf really good, and goes around several stores which are barely surviving or are about to close - some closed during production --, and interviews their owners. Their stories give us a clear picture of the problem. We are told, for example, that there is no artist development anymore, and that it is more about the profit for the labels. We also learn that since the fifties, when payola was introduced, music was affected because the labels hired independent promoters to play the singles on the radio. We are informed, for instance, that 63 spins of a JLO single go for $3,600. Interestingly enough, too, is the fact that Clear Channel, according to the filmmakers, owns 1,200 radio stations, and that a study shows that some radio stations play the same song 73% of the time. Toller goes on and explains the impact of the so-called "Big Box" stores (Wal-Mart, Target, Borders, etc.) on the independent artists and music in general. He also examines the birth of MP3s, iPods, and the current resurgence of vinyl. Of course, he also delves into the 2004 suit that the RIAA filed against 4,769 music downloaders. The film is also aided with the participation of musicians Chris Franz (Talking Heads), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group), as well as writer, historian, and linguist, Noam Chomsky.

When you are done watching this unforgettable documentary, you are left with a feeling of sadness and nostalgia, especially those of us who have seen better times. Perhaps the feeling was captured best by one of the clients at Trash American Style, one of the many independent stores that closed down during the production of the film, when he said, "The kind of music that is interesting and stimulates your mind is at this store, not at the mall." In addition, Chomsky reminds us that "local stores provided a sense of community." "I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store" is powerful, a true testament of our times. The DVD also includes more than two hours of extras, with extended interviews. (USA, 2009, color, 77 min plus additional materials).

Reviewed on December 6, 2010 by Eric Gonzalez.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not very balanced, but still worth a viewing for record shop fans June 21 2011
By T. Scarillo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"I Need That Record!" is a moderately interesting documentary about independent music stores, and their difficulties of late in the marketplace. As a longtime record collector and having worked in the music business for 15+ years, I found that it codifies well some of the biases among the indie record store community - there are some very valid complaints related to uneven economic playing fields (in the sense of big box store exclusives and pricing), inequality and inefficiencies in terms of promotional efforts, and the like - the business end. On the other hand, I didn't think it was very balanced in that many of the interviewees in the film take the usual hip stance of non-stop carping about how major labels are money-grubbing and indifferent (or worse, outright evil) to `true artistry'. To listen to the interviewees, you'd think that nothing good ever came out of a major label - incidentally, no representatives of said majors labels were interviewed here, though several of the musicians in the film, including Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) were signed to majors at one time, and Moore's boutique label is distributed by Universal, the world's biggest record company. Lots of major label bashing, but only a very brief and half-hearted segment (presented in skit form) about record-store clerk arrogance and taste-bashing vis a vis customers, as being part of the problem. I've been on the receiving end of abuse from clerks like Barry (played by Jack Black) in "High Fidelity" and it made me not want to shop at the place. Some of the interviewees are quite good (including Lenny Kaye from the Patti Smith Group, and Mike Watt of the Minutemen & latter-day Stooges) and bring great memories of their musical growth in terms of personal history; others are like Glenn Branca, being his usual chain-smoking pompous/pretentious act in waving his arms around and complaining about everything under the sun, says his music isn't commercial, then acknowledging that money is, yeah, kinda important, you know? Still, I found that several interviewees, namely the store owners in the midst of closing down, related touching stories that captured the `store community' that stemmed from their regular customers, and their passion for running their stores. Realities of the marketplace and economics have gotten us to where we are now, and yes, there will need to be a change in the business model.

I've spent a lot of time in record stores, both large and small, chain and indie, and I still believe that very little tops the thrill of a find made in the used vinyl and CD bins of a true indie store (that second Box of Frogs album/Mink Deville/Sparks/Be Bop Deluxe/sundry New Wave vinyl), or discovering something fresh and exciting on the store's sound system (though, they should've also covered the atonal crap and freak-out acid jazz that seems to be on the playlist of many indie stores). The doc was worth at least one viewing, though (and for the record, yes, I purchased my copy at an independent record store), notwithstanding its assault on major labels.

For further reading, I recommend "Record Store Days" (which is likely in the 'suggested purchases' section of this product page). And if you want a taste of a weird music-collector subculture, seek out a movie called "So Wrong They're Right", about lovers of 8-tracks.

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