Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Local is the New Global

Today's blog post was co-authored by FMC intern
Daniel Eno, based on a bit of pondering by FMC Events Organizer Chhaya Kapadia.

Do you ever get nostalgic about cruising the racks at your local record store? Do you ever feel that, while it may be infinitely more convenient and even a couple dollars cheaper to buy an album off of iTunes, it’s nice to know your purchase helped keep your neighborhood shop up and running? What if you could combine the convenience of online purchasing with that warm feeling you get from supporting your local music-slingers?

One of our favorite broadcasters, Seattle’s KEXP, wants to help you do just that. The station has integrated a new feature into their online streaming radio that provides a means to buy local without having to leave the comfort of your computer keyboard.

Like other internet stations, KEXP's live stream features links to places to buy almost any tune that catches your ear. But in addition to the standard Amazon and iTunes links, KEXP also points to local record shops that will deliver the album right to your doorstep. Webcasters like KEXP have helped make broadcasting global, so it’s cool that they’re giving local listeners a way to buy music in their own backyard.

It's not clear how much new business this feature has generated for local shops, and maybe it amounts to nothing more than a kind gesture on the part of KEXP. Still, it's not hard to imagine that this sort of service might be implemented on the sites of other stations around the country. Stores like New York City's Other Music offer high-quality digitized versions of their awesome underground music collection, but as far as we know, there’s no online radio component — at least not yet. It would be interesting if the mass consumer movement toward online shopping turns out to be what saves local record shops. It’s a nice thought, anyway.

FMC believes that the future of music is inextricably tied to sustainable cultural communities. This is why we support localism on the public airwaves by fighting the forces of consolidation and encouraging community radio initiatives like Low Power FM. The internet has its part to play, too – better broadband penetration and open structures that let artists (and smaller retailers) compete on a level playing field with the big companies is essential to a legitimate digital music marketplace, local and otherwise. It’s like one hand washing the other, or whatever other metaphor you want to use.

KEXP’s local purchase feature also fits nicely with Seattle’s “City of Music Initiative,” a mayoral effort to promote the city as “home to musicians, live music and music business.” We hope more burgs follow Seattle’s lead in the name of regional diversity and sustainable cultural commerce.

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