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February 9, 2009 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Alec Duffy won all rights to Sufjan Stevens' song "Lonely Man of Winter" in a contest (traded for the rights to his winning song). Rather than sell or blog it, he's having private listening parties with a handful of guests each Wednesday night in Brooklyn through Feb. 25th. Here's why. You can hear his winning entry, the vaguely Magnetic-Fieldsy Every Day Is Christmas, but so far, he has kept Stevens' song offline. Some people are angry about these "little asshat tea parties." The closest most of us can get are listener descriptions from Annie Scott ("lovely"), and Jessica Suarez ("gorgeous").

Sufjan said of the winning song: "It feels, at once, like a classic show tune, the perfect parlor song, a bar ballad, and a church hymn. It is unencumbered with the pejoratives and prophetic exclamations of Christmas, the most complicated of holidays."
posted by msalt (94 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. The only thing more preposterously pretentious and gratingly annoying that Sufjan Stevens is this asshat prick with his private listening parties.
posted by Curry at 12:13 PM on February 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


Fucking typos.
posted by Curry at 12:15 PM on February 9, 2009


Hahaha. But A Sun Came was good. Early Beck good.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2009


So, that's a "nay" from Curry?
posted by Mister_A at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2009


That thing I can't have just now? I have to have it. Now. You're violating my human rights. I'm entitled. Gimme.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wank wank wankity wanky wank.
posted by everichon at 12:17 PM on February 9, 2009


Reading the whines of commenters on the "little asshat tea parties" blog post I have to applaud what this guy is doing.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:18 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is the greatest and best Christmas song in the world....

Tribute.
posted by ALongDecember at 12:19 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The best way to handle this is to read soaring reviews and build the song up in your mind into mythic proportions so you will pay any price, including the ultimate one, for 10 seconds in The Presence.

No, I'm just kidding! The really best way to handle this is to claim that the song owner is pretentious or annoying or an asshat. Build the song up to be the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of humanity (yes, worse even than that German guy) and will destroy us all.

Hmmm...neither of these ideas is very good but I can't think of anything else to try.
posted by DU at 12:20 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Emo tempest in hipster teapot?
posted by orthogonality at 12:20 PM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


what
posted by cjorgensen at 12:23 PM on February 9, 2009


-Sufjan Stevens talks more about the contest.
-Lyrics to "Every Day Is Christmas" by Alec Duffy.
-Alec Duffy describes his play "The Top Ten People of the Millennium Sing Their Favorite Schubert Lieder".
-Curry will really hate this guest article by Alec Duffy on his colleague Dave Malloy's blog. Intro: "the challenge of alec duffy is a great one. he will force you to be yourself and to ignore the world around you. or, more accurately, to ignore your perception of how the world around you may be percieving you. you cannot count on him to behave."
posted by msalt at 12:25 PM on February 9, 2009


"'It feels, at once, like a classic show tune, the perfect parlor song, a bar ballad, and a church hymn. It is unencumbered with the pejoratives and prophetic exclamations of Christmas, the most complicated of holidays.'"

It's a cover of "Fairytale of New York"?
posted by orthogonality at 12:25 PM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Dude, orthogonality, I will be most upset if it is this thing you say.
posted by Mister_A at 12:27 PM on February 9, 2009


The guy is obviously having some fun by dangling it in front of fans, but in the end I'm going to blame Sufjan for having such an absurd contest that just asked for that sort of behavior. Although normal people would have sold it to a film company or something...
posted by melissam at 12:30 PM on February 9, 2009


Isn't there a band called Asshat Tea Party? No? There should be.
posted by sarabeth at 12:32 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


So?
posted by signal at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2009


The proper response is to infiltrate his asshat tea party and remove by practical means his ability to lord over others the scarcity he himself is responsible for.

We'd like to invite you to email us (sufjansong at yahoo dot com) and arrange a special hearing. We're in Brooklyn. We've been doing Wednesdays and Sundays, with about four people per listening. Bring your best headphones. We'll have cookies and tea.

The best headphones in this case are the ones that are surreptitiously modified to also hook into the line in on a small digital music player.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, Jeff Martin was kind of asshatty to quickly go solo after they broke up.
posted by cashman at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2009


I'm all for making people suffer in this way. This baby, this is what Intermocracy is all about. I only wish I could exasperate it.
posted by edgeways at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I had won that song, I would delete, erase or otherwise destroy it.
posted by Crumpled Farm at 12:44 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


If he ever stops having little tea parties, this guy could have a great career in advertising.
posted by dabitch at 12:44 PM on February 9, 2009


Suffjan Stephens also gave a copy to Tony Clifton.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:45 PM on February 9, 2009


msalt linked the lyrics. They boil down to "I'm in love with you, and that's the best xmas resent EVAR!"

Which is just banal. I mean, it'd still be banal if the "you" addressed were Jesus or a dog or the cause of Irish nationalism or postmodernism, but a romantic love that eclipses everything else in her lovers' life is a well-trodden cliche and the opposite of novel.

Ok, if teh idea is trite, is the execution interesting? No, not that I can see. No particular lyrics stand out.

Is "wintry wonderland" novel turn of phrase, a juxtaposition of words that makes us think anew? No. Are the line-ending rhymes "new" "hue" "lie" "Not I" particularly inspired? No, no, more than "June", "spoon", "moon".

Ok the key reveal is: For I've got a secret that no one else can know / That keeps my temperament even during times of snow / I've got the perfect present, one not wrapped up in a bow / It lifts my spirits high when I'm feeling low / Others long for the holidays, yes indeed they do / But everyday is Christmas when I'm with you.

Hmm. "know", "snow", "bow", "low", then "do", "you". And his "secret" keeps his "temperment even" even when it's snowing? Because as we all know, snow gets us low, it's a real blow that makes us go, Oh no.

Yeah.

I don't mean to be harsh, but the concept's hackneyed, the execution is banal, it's all sort of "eh, so what". No subversive up-ending of the hackneyed cliche like "Fairytale's" "Happy christmas your arse / I pray God its our last". No killer lines like "Fairytale's" claims and refutations: "I could have been someone--" "Well so could anyone!" or "You took my dreams from me..." "I kept them with me babe".

No, sorry, "Fairytale of New York" is incomparably better.
posted by orthogonality at 12:46 PM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't know who the fuck Alec Duffy is but God do I love him right now.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:49 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man. Brooklyn.
posted by plexi at 12:50 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here's the SHOCKING TRUTH about what REALLY happens!

6:00 pm: Guests are admitted in to the asshat tea party.
6:05 pm: Invitations are checked and hats of ass given.
6:07 pm: Tea is served.
6:10 pm: NDAs are handed out to be read and signed.
6:15 pm: NDAs are collected and Alec Duffy emerges, wearing the grandest asshat of them all.
6:16 pm: With great pomp, Alec Duffy produces a small Casio keyboard from underneath his asshat.
6:17 pm: After instructing the guests that they can listen for as long as they want, Alec grandly hits the DEMO key.
6:21 pm: The first partygoer filters out, muttering something about no goddamn refills.
6:23 pm: @hipster3737 I'm listening now. It's more wonderful than you could ever imagine. No, seriously.
1:36 am: The last partygoer leaves after the keyboard's batteries give out and Alec admits "Joke's over. Go home already."
1:37 am: Somewhere, if you listen very carefully, the ghost of PT Barnum laughs his fool head off.
posted by Spatch at 12:51 PM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I want to go to the tea party, plug my headphone into the playing device, but there's really a splitter, so that the signal is also going into my pocket, into a high quality digital recording device, so that I can step into the street and extend my arm, and the song will coo softly and go fluttering off, free, free to be heard by hipsters the world over, free from its cage of time and space.

Wait, did I just say, "I want to go to the tea party"?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Invitations are checked and hats of ass given.
posted by jonp72 at 12:56 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hopefully when the song is better distributed someone will start having tea parties for big asshats. Those NYC apartments can be cramped.
posted by exogenous at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2009


Shouldn't the term 'asshat' be reserved for referring to Goatse? And even then, only when Goatse is worn as a hat?
posted by Curry at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2009


However, there is a part of us here at Hoi Polloi that mourns a bit for something lost. For the not so instantly available, for the hard to find. For the labor, the anticipation of seeking something out. For the rarity.

And of course for the hipsteriffic feeling of having something that nobody else you know has, so you can gloat about how much more hardcore you are. These secret listening parties are quite possibly the dumbest and most pretentious way to make this song artificially rare.

An equally pretentious but far better scheme would be to chop up the song into 20 pieces, record each one onto a separate cassette tape, and randomly sell or distribute them to different people in a way that would be difficult for all 20 people to coordinate to listen to the whole thing. Parts of the song would end up on the Internet, 20 people would be vaguely disappointed with their tapes, and virtually no one would get any real enjoyment from the project. But as far as rarity goes, though, it would be great.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:01 PM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


These secret listening parties are quite possibly the dumbest and most pretentious way to make this song artificially rare. - posted by burnmp3s

Eponysterical!
posted by Curry at 1:05 PM on February 9, 2009


We obviously do not have enough problems going on in the world, if this bullshit is capable of ruining someone's day.

I mean, come the fuck on. I love music, more than almost anything, and being pissed off because you can't hear a track is the highest level of cluelessness I've encountered in quite a while.
posted by plaidrabbit at 1:05 PM on February 9, 2009


My last.fm stats are totally skewed by the presence, for a brief period each year, of all the Sufjan Stevens Xmas tunes on my Holiday Playlist. Seriously, I never listen to him otherwise.

...now to find an equally plausible explanation for the significant number of times that I have listened to Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue's "Kids".
posted by joelhunt at 1:06 PM on February 9, 2009


However, there is a part of us here at Hoi Polloi that mourns a bit for something lost. For the not so instantly available, for the hard to find. For the labor, the anticipation of seeking something out. For the rarity.

So the Hoi Polloi, the unwashed masses, wish to have listening parties? With headphones? So instead of downloading the song and listening to it on your iPod headphones, you'll sit in a room and listen to it on ... your iPod headphones.

They want to bring back "the romance of the unfound," by leaving this track out of reach of everyone but those in close proximity. This is not the romance of the unfound - it is the glee of a hoarder. They, the "common rabble" that is hoi polloi, are trying to bring back secret sounds.

The hipster juxtapositions baffle me. High art or just painfully ironic?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:07 PM on February 9, 2009


Also, we should kidnap and torture Dick Ebersol until he tells us who "You're So Vain" is about.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:11 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should really just stop reading MeFi threads about music.
posted by god hates math at 1:12 PM on February 9, 2009


I went to a session. Alec and Dave were very nice, and not hipsters at all (are those things mutually exclusive?). Anyone can email them and come over to listen to the song, so besides the location and the size of their apartment (meaning you can't really fit more than five people in there) there isn't anything prickish about it. The "tea party' is also just, "Would you like some tea? Pick out whatever kind you want from the cabinet" and "We made some cookies."

I get most of my music over the internet and forget about it fast. It was nice to feel like something special was happening, because I don't get that feeling with music very much anymore.
posted by miniminimarket at 1:16 PM on February 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I have secret listening parties all the fucking time and no one clammors to hear Night Farts I guess I'm not the rare and delicate genius Sufjan Stevens is.
posted by I Foody at 1:16 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, we should kidnap and torture Dick Ebersol until he tells us who "You're So Vain" is about.

You probably didn't think this, but it's actually about you.
posted by inigo2 at 1:19 PM on February 9, 2009


Here's a Metatalk thread from late 2007 regarding the Song Swap thing, including a comment from one of the folks at Asthmatic Kitty.

Thread also includes me being kind of a party pooper, at least at first.
posted by cortex at 1:19 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"And nowadays, I've got every Bjork and Radiohead B-side, easily BitTorrented, easy easy easy.

But the romance, the romance of the unfound, the unknown!!

So. We'd like to do something unique with this track.
And so, in an effort to rekindle the flames of rarity, it is not our intention to release the track over the internet.
"

Well, here's your problem: The vast reach of the internet has expanded access to most music, changing the relative value of scarcity.

See, like, you've got an mp3 of every Bjork and Radiohead song, which is different than having the physical copies. But you're valuing the expression of the song over the artifact, OK. But there's no rarity there—even the 12 CD fans know who Bjork and Radiohead are. Three minutes on google can reveal their whole discographies. Aside from being a completist, why bother to have every b-side they ever put out? Is it all of such quality that it's better than the other songs that you're missing out on by focusing your energy in searching for that?

For some folks, sure, yeah. For a bunch of Sufjan Stevens fans, that there's a Sufjan Stevens song that's hard to find means that they are willing to devote a lot of effort to finding it. It also means that they have an incentive to rate it very highly, because they've sunk effort into finding it. But that exclusivity inherently undermines any sort of objective (as much as that's possible) or detached listen—the listen is always biased by that work. Which, again, is fine, if you like Sufjan Stevens.

But to posit that as bringing back the rarity of the musical experience ignores what's special about finding something new—the new has to be better than the old, otherwise there's no point in seeking it out.

If you're not getting the same thrill out of hearing every Bjork or Radiohead b-side, that's because they can't stand up against the music that you've already heard and loved. The chances that one more lost song is the secret to rekindling the thrill of listening to Radiohead is vanishingly low; this song isn't going to be some revelation unless you psych yourself into thinking that it will be.

I'd posit a different form of rarity and discovery as both better in line with the values of loving music and the internet age: What is rare is the knowledge of how broad music is, and how to find it. If I wait a couple months, I'm sure that this Stevens song will leak somewhere. But I don't even care enough to download all of his music that I could get for free now. I'm too busy trying to find, say, more Lee Osler (a friend's blog with Lee Osler's "Back to Ypsilanti"). Most people have no idea who he is, even though this track has been out there for a while—that's the sort of rarity I respect.

So, yeah, sure, music has flattened out and it's easier than ever to access. But instead of erecting artificial elitist mechanisms, why not look even further to the edges? Instead of this Sufjan track, why not spend the same amount of time looking for, say, ECM jazz that's never been digitized?

Or hell, think of it another way—the knowledge also implies knowing what's good out of the endless choices. Bette Davis isn't particularly rare or hard to find, but you have to be a bit deeper into finding music to know who she is, relative to Sufjan Stevens.
posted by klangklangston at 1:36 PM on February 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


If I won the song, I'd record a Sufjan sound-a-like and have hipster taste tests. I'd make them eat salty crackers before listening and everything.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Strangely, the impossibility of hearing this track fills me with the same insane level of desire to hear it that I feel for the rest of Sufjan Steven's music. That is, none at all.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2009


"It was nice to feel like something special was happening, because I don't get that feeling with music very much anymore."

Then, to recap my bloviation above, you're not listening to the right music and more Sufjan Stevens won't help.
posted by klangklangston at 1:39 PM on February 9, 2009


Klangklangston - Very well said. You nailed a lot of what was bugging me...

More than anything else, I think it was the artificial nature of this "manufactured rarity" that really fired all of my annoyance synapses.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:41 PM on February 9, 2009


Klang: And continuing, I think what you said marks the big difference between people who truly love music, and people who love HAVING music. Many of the latter profess to do the former.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The real rarity is taste.
posted by klangklangston at 1:44 PM on February 9, 2009


Maybe the "little asshat tea party" guy should send in his "white whine."

Because "It's so unfair that I can't get invited to a private listening party to hear a song by Sufjan Stevens" would certainly be the day's winner.

Or as plaidrabbit pointed out,

these are not problems.
posted by pineapple at 1:44 PM on February 9, 2009


Cortex, thanks for the link to the comment from someone at Steven's record label. I thought this part was especially interesting:

"It's much more likely, it seems to us, that the winner could stand to make some money by selling it to Coke for their next Christmas commercial, or pawning it off on ebay. But, really, I would be much happier if the winner took Sufjan's song, invited some friends over, mulled some wine and warmed some hot chocolate, and sat down and listened to it, and then put it away until next Christmas. "
posted by msalt at 1:54 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


sarabeth : Isn't there a band called Asshat Tea Party?

I'm pretty sure that was a b-side single off of one of The Meatmen's albums. Maybe on the flip of "1 down, 3 to go" (Beatles reference) or "Crippled Children Suck".
posted by quin at 1:55 PM on February 9, 2009


klangklangston: My problem is that I listen to too much music, I think. So for me the experience was less about one more Sufjan Stevens song and more about getting away from plowing through large quantities of music and remembering to move a bit slower sometimes.

Maybe it's the same way people think about the slow food movement? Alec and Dave had loose leaf tea, which I never drink at home because it's too messy and complicated. They had homemade cookies, which I don't do because I can't bake and it takes too long. The whole experience, explicitly and in other ways they probably didn't intend, left me realizing I should take more time to enjoy thing: food, songs, hanging out.
posted by miniminimarket at 2:09 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like loose-leaf tea, I adore freshly baked cookies, and I get the notion that there may be other, better ways to appreciate $your_favorite_media outside of our current model of trying to sip from the gushing fire hydrant.

But: this Sufjan song thing feels high-handed such that it instantly takes those things and transforms them into, I don't know, nails on a chalkboard.
posted by everichon at 2:14 PM on February 9, 2009


I would be totally behind this and think it was charming and a unique use of a single track of folk meant for private consumption if the tea parties weren't in Brooklyn which is essentially Annuvin to me.

MY COMPANIONS, WE MUST LIBERATE THE MAGICAL HARP FROM THE GRASP OF THE HORN'D KING!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:18 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


"My problem is that I listen to too much music, I think. So for me the experience was less about one more Sufjan Stevens song and more about getting away from plowing through large quantities of music and remembering to move a bit slower sometimes."

I know that feeling too. I've racked up over 60,000 plays in about four years just in the music I listen to on my computer (thus not counting stuff that goes on the stereo, whether CD, tape or vinyl), with no more than 20 or so listens per track. I totally understand the phenomenon of listening to so much music that it all blurs together and large swaths get forgotten. For a couple of those years, I made my living by listening to music.

But I find that by listening to folks who push the edges, who innovate and who are willing to take severe listenability risks in their music, I remember it better. I discovered probably at least 40 to 50 bands who I loved and that were new to me, this year alone. That's the same thrill I used to get from tracking down rarities from, say, Pink Floyd or Captain Beefheart, until I realized that those were diminishing returns. I just don't care enough about Beefheart to get that thrill of discovery from another Clear Spot demo—not only that, I don't really care about many artists, even folks I like, enough to buy two albums from them. That sense of discovery comes instead from finding something great from someone I've never heard of.
posted by klangklangston at 2:24 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and one last thing, multiminimarket—I'm not trying to disparage your tastes or say that you're wrong to like Sufjan Stevens or even that you're wrong to go to this teaparty. What I'm trying to say is that the premise of this is that the moment of discovery is gone from music, and I don't think that's true. I think when that happens, you have to say, "Hey, the thrill is gone for me, because I am old. I will now listen to Adult Contemporary."

(Which is what Sufjan Stevens is, but that's another discussion.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


quin: Tooling for Anus, I think.
posted by The Bellman at 2:33 PM on February 9, 2009


the advertising-gimmick hipster: present-day incarnation of the trust-fund hippie
posted by derekpaco at 2:37 PM on February 9, 2009


Wow, I can't wait for somebody to make more music so I can write on the Internet how much I hate it.
posted by dobie at 2:41 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sufjan Stevens? Overrated!

Besides, the best Christmas song by far is Quad City DJs/69 Boyz' "What You Want for Christmas."
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:57 PM on February 9, 2009


This = Lame.

With that said, I've enjoyed the listening parties I've attended. Sharing music you think is great with a room full of friends who will give it a real, attentive listen—as well as reciprocating—is a damn good time; pretentiousness and posturing need not be an issue. It does help if your friends have good (and varied) taste, though.
posted by defenestration at 3:03 PM on February 9, 2009


But I find that by listening to folks who push the edges, who innovate and who are willing to take severe listenability risks in their music, I remember it better.

I think that is distinctively personal and that there are tons of blowhards who only listen to music because it is scarce and "fringe" and older and scratchier than everything else just as much as there are those who will waste their time being completists of bands with an uninspiring catalogue.
posted by setanor at 3:16 PM on February 9, 2009


He won the contest, right? If Sufjan Stevens's song was supposed to be released to all anyway, what kind of a stupid prize would it have been? It's his song, to do with as he wish. I'd be much more disappointed if he were in it for monetary gain and sold it to the highest bidder.

I like some of Sufjan Stevens's music, but not a huge fan. Still, I'd really quite like to hear the song, but would never be able to travel to the listening parties - so I probably won't ever get to hear it. Still glad they're doing it - and I hope they stick to their guns and don't bow to public pressure.

They're using a song called "The Lonely Man of Winter" to build small, intimate moments of human connection with other fans. With cookies and hot beverages. It is a good thing.
posted by Ira_ at 3:30 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


who only listen to music because it is scarce and "fringe"

When I was in college, my little brothers accused me of liking bands out of sympathy, cause nobody else listened to them. Seemed unfairly snarky at the time but I have to admit that I don't listen to Henry Cow, Face Ditch, etc. any more.
posted by msalt at 3:34 PM on February 9, 2009


Also: Why is it that hipster is used by so many like the right-wing media use liberal?
posted by setanor at 3:39 PM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


"I think that is distinctively personal and that there are tons of blowhards who only listen to music because it is scarce and "fringe" and older and scratchier than everything else just as much as there are those who will waste their time being completists of bands with an uninspiring catalogue."

Well, yeah, I don't own any Jandek. It also has to be music I like. But why bother with this new Sufjan when there's Nick Lowe in the dollar bin? (Or, if you already have enough Nick Lowe, some Nick Drake. Or anyone else for that matter.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:42 PM on February 9, 2009


I never know what to do at listening parties. Some folks close their eyes and nod their heads. Other (oh gawd) make uncomfortable eye contact with you, like, man, did you hear that insightful lyric? I usually pretended to write stuff down so I wouldn't have to do either of those things.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:45 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The idea that this track isn't supposed to be uploaded is just a direc challenge to The Scene.

My money says this shows up on online next week, after The Scene dispatches an agent disguised as a cute hipster chick with special spy headphones.
posted by mullingitover at 4:03 PM on February 9, 2009


"I never know what to do at listening parties. Some folks close their eyes and nod their heads. Other (oh gawd) make uncomfortable eye contact with you, like, man, did you hear that insightful lyric? I usually pretended to write stuff down so I wouldn't have to do either of those things."

I used to drink as fast and as hard as I could while demanding a copy to listen to at home, where I could stop and start it at my leisure.

Which is why I didn't get invited to many listening parties, I think.

Still, when you're like, yeah, my editor made me come down to this stupid club to listen to you, Widespread Panic, but I know that since it's after deadline, I'm only here in case one of you catches fire or something, so how about we all just be cool and you let me back at that open bar again? That makes you question the utility of listening parties in general.

(None of the band caught fire, and I think after I was introduced to guys who may or may not have been in the band or with the label or road crew or something, I confused them with some other jam band called something like Majestic Grape or some shit and we all had an uncomfortable moment and then I went back to hang out with my girlfriend so I could talk over the music to someone else who didn't really care about it.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:17 PM on February 9, 2009


I like what these guys are doing, but I also agree with klangklangston. I like Sufjan Stevens OK, but I'm sure as heck not going to miss *one song* from any artist, even God himself.

I wouldn't bother with a listening party for just 1 pop song. A full album, maybe ...
posted by mrgrimm at 4:18 PM on February 9, 2009


I think Sufjan may have demonstrated the real value of a song as intellectual property, about 10,000 times more subtly than Metallica did by suing. Or maybe he disproved that value. One or the other, for sure.
posted by msalt at 8:13 PM on February 9, 2009


I have to say I love (love) what these two are doing. The fact that it pisses so many people off makes me love it even more. It seems that those doing the whining are projecting their own hipster-hoarder-asshat mentality on someone trying to do something somewhat unique.
posted by piedmont at 8:39 PM on February 9, 2009


"Annie Scott, a playwright and actress based in NYC"

I wonder what restaurant she works at.
posted by bardic at 12:09 AM on February 10, 2009


then I went back to hang out with my girlfriend so I could talk over the music to someone else who didn't really care about it

That's pretty disrespectful champ. And whilst I agree with some of your points, Klang (time probably is better spent in finding new artists than desperately searching for cutoffs of old standbys) I don't see that as being massively relevant in this situation. It's an argument against lots of things, but not against people who want to listen to this track in this situation, or an argument for those who want to listen to this track on the internet. And that comment about a matter of taste is over the top.

I support these listening parties. They're a fun little thing. Nobody's life is being damaged by not having access to this song. Some people are enjoying an interesting experience. We're all winners. Some people seem to be very excited about an opportunity to be offended by something amazingly slight.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 3:04 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this was a Tom Waits song and you got a shot of whiskey and a cigarette instead of tea and cookies would the reaction be the same. The combination of Sufjan Stevens and Brooklyn seems to be inflaming the snark glands here.
posted by minifigs at 5:01 AM on February 10, 2009


You make a fair point, minifigs, but speaking for myself, what grates is the rarefied self-indulgence that all involved parties must have -- in order to be in a position to throw these parties, or to be in a position to discuss it endlessly. The people linked in the above articles have too much time on their hands and ought think about some volunteer work.

Anyway, the minute anyone says something like "It feels, at once, like a classic show tune, the perfect parlor song, a bar ballad, and a church hymn" about his own work product, I'm going to think that guy is an insufferable wanker. I'd roll my eyes if Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan said the same.

Wait, am I still allowed to like Bob Dylan, or is that Over now? I'm so confused since the Super Bowl.
posted by pineapple at 7:04 AM on February 10, 2009


Anyway, the minute anyone says something like "It feels, at once, like a classic show tune, the perfect parlor song, a bar ballad, and a church hymn" about his own work product, I'm going to think that guy is an insufferable wanker. I'd roll my eyes if Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan said the same.

I thought that was Steven's description of the winning entry?
posted by minifigs at 7:12 AM on February 10, 2009


The people linked in the above articles have too much time on their hands and ought think about some volunteer work.

I am one of the people linked above. I attended the event in order to write about it, and I was also paid to write about it. But even if I didn't get paid I wouldn't think it was a waste of time. Anyway, how is going to this and then discussing it any more a waste of time then discussing it here? Do you have too much time on your hands? Should you consider volunteer work?
posted by miniminimarket at 7:33 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


*than
posted by miniminimarket at 7:35 AM on February 10, 2009


"That's pretty disrespectful champ. And whilst I agree with some of your points, Klang (time probably is better spent in finding new artists than desperately searching for cutoffs of old standbys) I don't see that as being massively relevant in this situation. It's an argument against lots of things, but not against people who want to listen to this track in this situation, or an argument for those who want to listen to this track on the internet. And that comment about a matter of taste is over the top."

OH NO! I disrespected Widespread Panic by not giving their feel-good boogaloo my full attention! Will they manage to choogle on? (It's gonna blow your mind that I went to the Yung Berg listening party for the free sandwiches and lost the CD he gave me almost immediately, and that I wasn't disappointed when Dr. Dog failed to show up for their listening party, leaving me to scarf free tacos.)

As to the relevance of my comments, well, see, they were the ones equating rarity with access and discovery with rarity. Both of those are flawed assumptions, and lead to this pretentious and elitist tea party bullshit. Don't get me wrong, I'm not upset at being left out—if it was next door, I'd be more interested in the cookies than the music. But in terms of restoring romance, they're doin' it wrong.

And that comment about taste was, if I do say so, right on—when access disappears as a barrier (which it should, and hopefully will), having every Radiohead b-side won't mean anything because it shouldn't inherently mean anything. As my girlfriend mentioned last night, it's the post-completist mindset. When everything is always there, what you discover and like from all the choices available supersedes.
posted by klangklangston at 8:17 AM on February 10, 2009


It seems that those doing the whining are projecting their own hipster-hoarder-asshat mentality on someone trying to do something somewhat unique

I used the h-word in describing these guys, but only because of their own description of their reasoning. Especially the part about obsessively collecting rare records:

My two record collecting obsessions as a kid were The Beatles and Prince. It was clear to me growing up with my parent's record collection that was something wrong with the (American) pre-Rubber Soul Beatles catalog.

...

How could I simply and easily (and on a $5 allowance) get all the songs? How could I get every song The Beatles had ever made?
...

"Shockadelica"? The 22 minute "America"? This shit was INSANE; and I was one of the few people to know about it. It was like knowing a masonic secret.


I find the people who do this that I've met in real life to be annoying. They are the people who invite you to their house to show you their record collection, which involves delicately removing various non-descript looking albums from their sleeves, but never actually listen to any of it. They have a lot in common with the people who read books so that they can make intelligent-sounding arguments at parties rather than because they actually enjoy reading.

Having a listening party to play Zaireeka on four boomboxes is fun because it's about giving people an experience that is hard to re-create alone. But these listening parties seem to be more about keeping something from a large group of people, rather than sharing something with a large group of people.

I did my share of rare music hunting both offline and online, but finding music isn't the fun part, the fun part is listening to music and sharing it with others. My fondest music memories don't involve digging through the dollar bin at a record store, they involve burning a few live bootleg CDs of my friend's favorite band for him to listen to when he moved away and drove to California, or giving my cousin a hundred CDRs of a hundred bands when he was in junior high and just getting into listening to music. That's why, if I had the only copy of one of Sufjan's songs, I would upload it to the Internet and let everyone listen to it. It wouldn't be rare anymore, and nobody would have a reason to come over to my house and listen to it, but more importantly people all over the world could enjoy the song.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:44 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


All these unsubtle mentions of all the listening parties you went to, and how they all sucked makes me think you would be upset at being left out of anything. Those kinds of listening parties are nearly always invite-only, and mentioning them, bragging about how disrespectful you were, is pretty elitist, even if the bands you saw/listened to were not very cool and you think they deserve it. At least this Sufjan thing is open to everyone.
posted by miniminimarket at 8:49 AM on February 10, 2009


minifigs said: "I thought that was Steven's description of the winning entry?"

Touché. Totally did not read that correctly.

miniminimarket said: "I am one of the people linked above. I attended the event in order to write about it, and I was also paid to write about it. But even if I didn't get paid I wouldn't think it was a waste of time.

Then, which is it? Is the event more worthwhile because you were paid to attend? Or is the event worthwhile in spite of that? You don't get it both ways.

miniminimarket said: "Anyway, how is going to this and then discussing it any more a waste of time then discussing it here?"

I should have elaborated that I don't consider a paid music critic or the owner of a music-related magazine creating work product to be a frivolous self-indulgent waste. It's your job. Whether or not the work product has value to me in particular doesn't matter, because it's honest work for pay.

Still, I'll remind you of my earlier comment, with emphasis for clarity: "Maybe the 'little asshat tea party' guy should send in his 'white whine.' Because 'It's so unfair that I can't get invited to a private listening party to hear a song by Sufjan Stevens' would certainly be the day's winner."

Also, the minute you attempt the "No one at MetaFilter is ever allowed to cry 'petty meta bullshit' when I don't agree with them, since the mere fact that it appears here with comments equals petty meta bullshit" argument, you've lost.

miniminimarket said: "Do you have too much time on your hands? Should you consider volunteer work?"

Seriously? "I'm rubber, you're glue" is what you went with here?

As a matter of concrete fact, at this very second I have nine other windows open on my desktop, in which the business is exclusively pertaining to a fundraiser event that I am helping coordinate to raise money for families with kids battling cancer. The beneficiary agency helps out those families by paying for things like COBRA extensions after the parents lose their health insurance because they got laid off for exhausting their PTO to be at their kid's bedside.... high school graduation parties for kids too sick from chemo (or quarantined by reduced immune systems) to go to their own graduations... and funerals, for the families whose kid lost the fight -- except, they already are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt thanks to all those medical treatments that didn't work.

So if you'd like to throw any of your enormous cred as a Real Music Writer Who Is Completely Entitled to Her Gold-Plated Opinion toward getting any of your employers or sponsors to donate goods that can be auctioned or cash to this agency, you feel free to MefiMail me. I can hook y'all up. It's even tax-deductible.

Either way, I think can forgive me for taking a few minutes here and there to pop over to MeFi for a mental break, can't you?
posted by pineapple at 9:36 AM on February 10, 2009


"All these unsubtle mentions of all the listening parties you went to, and how they all sucked makes me think you would be upset at being left out of anything. Those kinds of listening parties are nearly always invite-only, and mentioning them, bragging about how disrespectful you were, is pretty elitist, even if the bands you saw/listened to were not very cool and you think they deserve it. At least this Sufjan thing is open to everyone."

Uh, I went to them because it was my job to go to them. If something interesting happened, I wrote about it (assuming it happened before deadline). But it almost never did, especially compared to, say, record release shows (where usually anyone could get in) or a couple of band rehearsals that I got invited to, where it was almost invariably really cool and I often felt vaguely guilty about it being something limited, and tried very hard to share the fun of being in a tiny space hearing the bands that I liked working out new material.

So yeah, I was being disrespectful. But I don't mind disrespecting bands or the PR process, because there's always so much more out there that I do respect about music and musicians. And most of the folks that I do respect are trying hard to get their music heard by as many people as possible, not setting up artificial barriers so that they can feel special.

Especially now, when there's more great music released in any given year than anyone can find and listen to, and people who make great music never have to give me sandwiches and free booze in order for me to proselytize as hard as I can for them.

And frankly, I realize that this may be off-base, but I feel like I'm getting the exact wrong attitude from you about listening parties—It's not a journalist's job to be deferential and respectful of bullshit. It's a journalist's job to be skeptical of the pitch, to work against the sycophancy that pervades these select groups in order to be honest and critical. That's why there is such rapid backlash against folks like The Black Kids—bloggers and new music journalists who want to be the first to hype something so they're remembered as crucial to the success of someone else, or thought of as one of the elite. Fuck that, it distracts from praising them that needs praise and scorning them that needs scorn, which is hard, honest work.
posted by klangklangston at 9:50 AM on February 10, 2009


I wasn't trying to question whether you can spent time commenting on things on the internet, obviously I think this is okay. I just wonder why you would throw the whole "maybe you should be volunteering instead" argument at someone else spending their time commenting about things on the internet, as you're spending some time doing. Writing here or writing elsewhere seems equally valid, and doesn't need justification. Also, you don't have to justify your time.


Then, which is it? Is the event more worthwhile because you were paid to attend? Or is the event worthwhile in spite of that? You don't get it both ways.

I think the event is worthwhile on its own.
posted by miniminimarket at 9:53 AM on February 10, 2009


And frankly, I realize that this may be off-base, but I feel like I'm getting the exact wrong attitude from you about listening parties—It's not a journalist's job to be deferential and respectful of bullshit. It's a journalist's job to be skeptical of the pitch, to work against the sycophancy that pervades these select groups in order to be honest and critical.

You're right, you absolutely have to be skeptical of their pitch/event. But to talk about how you threw the CD out as soon as you walked out, ate their free food, forgot people's names, etc. just seems like you're going out of your way.
posted by miniminimarket at 9:57 AM on February 10, 2009


miniminimarket said: "Also, you don't have to justify your time."

Of course I don't. I just thought you would benefit from a direct demonstration of how silly I found your "Yeah... well... shouldn't YOU be volunteering????" response.

>> I just wonder why you would throw the whole "maybe you should be volunteering instead" argument at someone else spending their time commenting about things on the internet, as you're spending some time doing.

If you think this is "some" time, where [[$SOME = X+1] where X = the amount of time that is 'appropriate'], I invite you to check out MetaTalk.

I didn't throw any argument at "someone else spending their time commenting about things on the internet"... for spending their time commenting about things on the internet.

I was disdainful over a fanboy spending time railing on how unfair it is that he didn't get to go to a private listening party for one Sufjan Stevens track (in Brooklyn! with tea and cookies!). The lack of self-awareness it takes to say that sort of thing aloud as if it were a legitimate problem is stunning.

Sorry if that wasn't clear to you before.
posted by pineapple at 10:14 AM on February 10, 2009


There was a legitimate joy, back in the day, of digging through obscure records to find real gold. And really finding great stuff, not just being a completist. But it was always a very fine line between that and obsessiveness, smugness, elitism, etc.

Back in the mid-70s, I spent a lot of time buying and searching for Hendrix gems in the messy post-mortem albums, and I think it was worth every second. IMHO songs like Pali Gap, Hey Baby, Hear My Train A Coming (electric), Midnight, Roomful Of Mirrors (have you heard the demo version?), Bleeding Heart, Earth Blues, etc. stand with all of his best known songs. But I don't know or care what happened to my original LPs. Mostly, I took that knowledge and have had to find these songs again on P2P networks or new CDs. (Burning a CD for the young dudes at my coffee shop as we speak!)
posted by msalt at 10:20 AM on February 10, 2009


A Venture Bros. cover of Fairytale of New York.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:50 PM on February 10, 2009


i'm all for railing against predatory monopolies and inflated intellectual property but the internet and file sharing has to produce one of the most disgusting senses of entitlement. you bitch and whine about invasion of privacy then someone makes a decision about what to do with a tiny little piece of his own property and you bitch and whine about the fun he's hoarding at everyone else's expense.
posted by doobiedoo at 1:21 PM on February 10, 2009


"You're right, you absolutely have to be skeptical of their pitch/event. But to talk about how you threw the CD out as soon as you walked out, ate their free food, forgot people's names, etc. just seems like you're going out of your way."

I guarantee you that the guys from Widespread Panic can remember neither my name, nor the name of the publication I was writing for. I am willing to bet that the memory lapse happened that very night. At least my screw-up was just asking them about some song that had been done by some other band that I didn't know or care very much about. (My editor liked jam bands; I think they can be OK live but are pretty interchangeable and that they unduly dominated our local coverage/scene. I had to cover more of them than I ever wanted to and never said anything interesting about any of them.)

I make no apologies for loving free food, and considering free food and booze to be frequently the absolute best part of a PR event. Especially major label events and video game events (my advice for any aspiring media journalist would be to go into video game coverage, since while the opulence of music PR has faded, video game PR is surging).

And no, I didn't throw the CD out immediately, I lost it nearly immediately. I'm sure that it's somewhere in a pile of promos that I'll never listen to and can't sell. Do you want my copy of "The Business" by Yung Berg? In it, he tells a woman that he is going to give her the business, by which I believe he means his penis.

It's silly, not right for the folks who sent me, and it was watermarked. He got to our listening party an hour late, shook hands (leaving mine coated with lotion—Yung Berg has hands that are baby soft), and talked about how his Transformers bling was made out of white gold and then enamel painted.

But the sandwiches were great, and they had Jones sodas, and I got to meet some guys who run a Japanese hi-def internet hip hop show that they're taking to satellite. Have I now shown enough deference to the process? (I preferred the demo party for a Bioshock expansion pack where they kept promising to let us play but then had a designated play tester run through the game instead, but they made us omelettes to order.)

Regarding promos, filesharing has been a godsend, as music I want to review is often a pain in the ass to get ahold of, especially for the one publication I freelance for most frequently now, which has a lead time of, like, at least six months.

"i'm all for railing against predatory monopolies and inflated intellectual property but the internet and file sharing has to produce one of the most disgusting senses of entitlement. you bitch and whine about invasion of privacy then someone makes a decision about what to do with a tiny little piece of his own property and you bitch and whine about the fun he's hoarding at everyone else's expense."

I can only hope you're talking about the comments on their post, not this one. But yeah, I agree that getting bent out of shape about not hearing Sufjan Stevens means that you should probably realign your priorities.
posted by klangklangston at 3:18 PM on February 10, 2009


A Venture Bros. cover of Fairytale of New York.

Thanks for that! (I really gotta watch seasons 2 and 3 one of these days ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 5:36 PM on February 10, 2009


I'm a public radio reporter in New York City. I'm producing a story for a program called Studio 360 about Alec Duffy and his decision not to post "Lonely Man of Winter" on the internet in favor of listening sessions at his apartment. I think this story touches on a number of issues about music distribution in the digital age. I'd really like to hear from fans who are upset, not only outside New York but outside the U.S. as well. If you're interested, email me at emolinsky@wnyc.org. We can conduct the interview over the phone. Thanks!

www.studio360.org
posted by emolinsky at 9:08 AM on February 11, 2009


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