I Need That Record! (2008)
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I Need That Record! is a good little documentary about the ever changing music business and how it affects the little independent record stores. In many ways this little known documentary reminded me of another very good and little known documentary, Beer Wars. Both docs deal with the independents being strong armed by the big companies. I Need That Record! goes a little deeper into why these shops can't succeed anymore.
We don't need to go to stores anymore to purchase music. We can get it cheaper online or we can get free off of the many music sharing websites there are. Why go to a store and pay the high prices that the major labels ask for their products?
The Independent Record stores have suffered the most from the Internet though. This movie touches on a lot of different issues regarding the music industry. From the rise and fall of radio to Wal-Mart to big Labels vs. small labels. Everything little thing can have a big effect on a small store. When a big store comes into town, it's going to take away business. When labels raise the prices of their products, it's going to take away business. Some of the stories are somewhat sad here. Trash Records is probably the most sad seeing as they were completely strong armed.
I Need That Record! is a nice short documentary that sums up the independent record scene pretty well.
Most of the film is narrated by director Brendan Toller himself, drawing on statistics about the music industry over archive cartoon and TV footage and cheerful image collage to make his points. Most of it feels humdrum and the argument presented at the beginning of the film is basically repeated until the end of the documentary. Maybe that's fitting since the film is a death rattle for a bygone era, but I guess I wanted some more piss and vinegar. Instead of moping about what is gone, more energy needs to be put in what we can do to move forward. I still buy vinyl records, but in rough economic times such as these, you need to make it worth my while to step into your store.
This short documentary is a solid, well-intentioned outline of the basic problems facing today's independent record-store owner. And someone (OK, his name is Matt Newman) had a lot of fun assembling dizzy, cut-out animations from album artwork and the like. I do have some quibbles about the film, however. Somewhere around the middle, the narrative strays too far into overall "death of the record industry" issues. A bit too much time spent on file-sharing and mp3s -- and some of the statistics are already badly out of date. I wanted a steadier focus on these wonderful record stores, their employees and patrons. And why weren't any collector nerds interviewed in depth? Instead we get soundbites from standard figures like Thurston Moore, Lenny Kaye, Ian MacKaye, Bob Gruen and Legs McNeil who always seem to turn up in this sort of film. Seeing these names, you'll also sense how slanted the content is toward indie rock and the CBGB's mindset. Record hounds go for jazz, country, doo-wop, classical, prog and more, but you would never know from this movie. It's all about Pavement fans and their requisite hipster T-shirts. Admittedly, I'm closest to that orientation myself, but I'm still interested in hearing about a wider range of music lovers.
I think the smart-ass, scripted segment with the elitist record clerk should have been scrapped (either discuss the issue seriously or just leave it out), and ironically inserting "square" clips of '50s-era television is kind of a punk-rock clichÃ (C) at this point. But the film does make a good case for a sadly vanishing institution.
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