Touched And Gone?

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The big music news today is that Touch and Go Records is resigning its position as a manufacturer and distributor of a handful of independent labels. Here is the complete statement from T&G's Corey Rusk:

"It is with great sadness that we are reporting some major changes here at Touch and Go Records. Many of you may not be aware, but for nearly two decades, Touch and Go has provided manufacturing and distribution services for a select yet diverse group of other important independent record labels. Titles from these other labels populate the shelves of our warehouse alongside the titles on our own two labels, Touch and Go Records and Quarterstick Records.

"Unfortunately, as much as we love all of these labels, the current state of the economy has reached the point where we can no longer afford to continue this lesser-known yet important part of Touch and Go's operations. Over the years, these labels have become part of our family, and it pains us to see them go. We wish them all the very best, and we will be doing everything we can to help make the transition as easy as possible.

"Touch and Go will be returning to its roots and focusing solely on being an independent record label. We'll be busy for a few months working closely with the departing labels and scaling our company to an appropriate smaller size after their departure. It is the end of a grand chapter in Touch and Go's history, but we also know that good things can come from new beginnings."

I read the news about Touch and Go today. I was sitting in a restaurant and I checked my phone and gasped; my friend actually asked what was wrong. Something is wrong. We are careening toward a paucity of experience and a paucity of means with which to evaluate music. I mean, can we really engage with art on a Web site and in a vacuum, without ever bothering to contextualize it or make it coherent with our lives or form a community around the work? If we never move beyond the ephemeral and facile nature of music Web sites — and let's not lie to ourselves, that's where it ends for a lot of us these days — then that makes us worse than blind consumers; it makes us dabblers. We have become musical tourists. And tourism is the laziest form of experience, because it is spoonfed and sold to us. Tourism cannot and should not replace the physical energy, the critical thinking and the tiresome but ultimately edifying road of adventure, and thus also of life.

As for places like MySpace, they're not the enemy, they're not anathema to art, and they're places I peruse frequently. I mean, MySpace is democratic and ceaselessly available, but it is ugly — and it's a crumb being treated like the whole wedding cake we can't stop gorging on. Are we no longer seekers of the real? Or do we only seek for ourselves without any sense that a tactile discovery is mutually beneficial? Being found is as splendid as the finding. Stumbling upon an MP3 or a blog or a Web site is only half the search. We seem to have forfeited our duties and become half-participants — and at the cost of the creators. But we have to realize, and the Touch and Go announcement is a reminder, that in order for there to be anything left in which to participate, we have to show up. We have to show up with not just our half-selves, our virtual selves, our broke-ass selves, but with our whole selves, and in the spirit of giving. Mock participation is more than just an absence of real engagement; it is a falsehood that has allowed us to justify our apathy. When, exactly, did we stop showing up? And how long until there's not much left worth showing up for?

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