The OiNK After Tomorrow: Thoughts on Moving Forward

Meanwhile, Southern California is on fire / photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

On the off-chance you haven’t seen it, there’s a lively comments discussion brewing on yesterday’s much-dugg post (hey there, dudes – stick around, will ya?). There’s a lot of smart, passionate things being said, and it’s worth a read – thanks to those of you who took the time to offer cogent arguments and not make snarky jokes about buying CDs if you want CD quality. But as is often the case on the Internet, the main idea I wanted to get across got a little lost.

Adam Ferrell of Beggars Group – as nice a label guy as I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my six years in music journalism – pointed me in the direction of the MP3 store as the one-stop shop I was begging the record labels for, and it almost fits the bill. It carries both mainstream (read: RIAA) and indie releases in a high-quality, DRM-free MP3s at reasonable prices – at $8.90, there’s no good reason for you not to pick up Belle & Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister if you don’t have it already. I’ve been cruising around it all day and I should take back what I said yesterday about there being no real alternatives – this is certainly a good first step.

But then I searched for Palace Music, hoping to fill some of the gaps in my Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy/Will Oldham catalog, and nothing. Yup – Joanna Newsom’s albums are available, but much of the rest of the venerable Drag City Records catalog just isn’t there. Jim O’Rourke’s Insignificance? Nope. [Continue reading…]

I’m not going to go label by label or downloading service by downloading service, but (and this is cross-posted from here) the fact that people are obviously happy to download something for free doesn’t change the fact that there is no legal alternative quite as good as OiNK in terms of selection (both genres/artists and file quality) and I can’t understand why everyone is so quick to shout OMG PIRACY and not say, “Hey Drag City Records, how come you guys don’t have all your stuff on Hey estate of Luiz Bonfa, why are all his records out of print when you can upload MP3s once and sell them forever at a total profit?” (DJ Rupture wrote an excellent article explaining why he, as an artist, appreciated OiNK for many of these reasons.)

I know there are a million miles of red tape here, but it’s certainly frustrating if I want to get a ’50s jazz record and the only way to find it is scour OiNK or bossa nova blogs and still sometimes not be able to find it. I don’t have a vinyl player and I’m not going to spend an hour at Amoeba digging for Amigos Interpretam (okay, actually, I already did – haven’t checked eBay yet, though). Why not just put all the back catalogs online and let them sell in perpetuity? And why are people not complaining about this? There are certainly movements toward making music more available – TuneCore is the service I’ll be using to get my album on iTunes if I ever finish the damn thing – and while the availability of out-of-print and obscurist records is hardly a pressing issue, those are what I spent most of my time on OiNK and beyond looking for. That said, I’m also the guy who thinks Jon Brion should do what Phish does and start selling all of his live shows on his website rather than [sarcasm]selfishly keeping them all to himself[/sarcasm]. Just put it all out there, dudes!

Another thing that’s been brushed over is that it was easier and faster to download a properly ripped CD from OiNK than figure out how to rip that damn thing yourself with all the right VBR quality settings, which is why it’s great that many labels are including MP3s with a physical purchase, but I digress.

(You can purchase Bonfa’s fine Solo In Rio 1959 from in both CD and MP3 formats; I highly recommend you do!)


Critical Backlash is a column where we complain about things.