The Rise of Covid-Delta
It’s been 18 months now since the Covid-19 pandemic has spread like wildfire around the world. Impacting all cultures, if not equally. In most cultures, obeisance to the gods of capitalism have meant that flattening the curve of spread has failed. Given the choice between pretending that nothing is wrong, and keeping that money flowing into coffers – which seems to be the only value Western culture has. At least according to its gatekeepers. Western culture has opted for money over life itself.
Any attempt to counter this phenomenon has been met with organized resistance from a smaller, but very vocal minority with the media at their beck and call. The very idea of civic duty and responsibility has been attacked and mocked by those who would profit in the face of death. I’ve lived long enough to see the astonishing spectacle of disease prevention be attacked on a political basis. Meanwhile in the last 18 months, as of today, this disease has killed 673,985 Americans. Roughly one in 500 US citizens are now dead.
I got my vaccinations by May. And once the vaccines were flowing down to my tier [last] by that time, we supposed that things might start to be getting better. In June, my wife was thrilled to see that Khraungbin and Lee Fields; two of her recent musical investigations were playing a show together as a fundraiser for the Raleigh United Way to help revitalize the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. We bought tickets for us and our friends to attend the outdoor show at the Red Hat Amphitheater. We’d seen OMD there in 2016 and it was a large [6000 cap.] venue in the middle of the city. I felt that an outdoors show would be surely a viable thing by the end of October! We bought our tickets with confidence. And maybe a little spring in our step.
Then In July, Sparks announced their 2022 US tour and a date with our name on it was in Atlanta in March of 2022. They were playing a new 2,200 cap. indoor performing arts center that looked very nice indeed. And tickets were even priced below $50 each – a steal! But on the time between buying those tickets and now, the recent mutation of Covid-19, Covid-Delta, has spread like wildfire throughout the US. Especially the Southeast where I live. As we can see in the graph below, the amount of weekly deaths due to the much more powerful Delta variant has skyrocketed in two and a half months to eight times the nadir of the death curve [at roughly 1.6K death/week] from last July. We are currently having 13.2K deaths/week with no end in sight.
The Live Music Experience
In a matter of weeks, we have gone from being excited to see Khraungbin/Lee Fields with our friends and having another glorious Sparks show to anticipate to knowing that there’s no way in hell we will be traveling to see a show, even outdoors. The Covid-Delta strain is just too virulent for me to tempt fate.
As of tomorrow, it will be exactly two years since the last live concert I have seen: Les Filles de Illigahad at The Mothlight. It was at my favorite local venue which no longer exists, due to the pandemic. As a person who’s consumed by a love for music, and has spent a lifetime waiting long years to see my favorite bands, has this been a difficult time for me? That would be an easy “no!”
Given how much I love music, going cold turkey on concerts for two years has been so easy that I haven’t really noticed it being a problem. I have a significantly larger problem with
A] missing work due to quarantine due to catching a virulent disease or
B] dying because of it.
Maybe I’ll revisit these words with a steaming plate of hot crow, but if I never see another live concert again for the rest of my life I’ll be more than happy to have merely survived this pandemic without having a punishing bout of long-Covid symptoms that scientists will be studying for probably beyond the rest of my life.
In fact, the upside of the pandemic has been that I’ve seen several streaming live shows that, given the thousands of miles that have separated me from the artistes performing in them, I would have otherwise never experienced in any significant way! I really loved the Midge Ure 1980 show. Sure, it was weird seeing a hot show with no crowd feedback [in fact, no crowd…] but I coped somehow. What about the other side of the music lover’s coin? The purchasing experience?
Shopping For Music
After all, I am a person who actually blogs about traveling to other cities and buying discs from outside of the local hunting grounds. I carry within me the memories of some truly transformative music shopping experiences. How have I reacted to living in a time when this is not possible? Surprisingly well.
From March to December of last year, I still managed to spend $779.88 on music with only one purchase made in an actual record store. Technically, not even in the store. For the 2020 Record Store day event, I was able to send my request at a certain time on RSD 2020 via email to Harvest Records. I wanted the clear vinyl “Roxy Music” Steven Wilson remix LP and the clear vinyl “Sleepwalk” 12″ from Ultravox. Within minutes I heard back with a link to buy, which I did. I paid online and drove to their pickup area to have the discs delivered to my waiting car.
This was by far the kindest, most humane experience of Record Store Day I’ve ever had! Every other RSD event was like fighting a school of hungry piranhas for raw meat, dangled just above the tank! This year I have spent a lot less on music and I’m basically happy with this turn of events. As I am aging, I find this easier, and easier to do. My friend Mr. Ware is several years older than I am and he’s reported on the phenomenon of losing the obsession with building a collection and I’m here to report that I seem to be falling right into that trend, no matter how much I may have thought “no way” to myself as little as a decade ago.
This year I have been to Harvest exactly two more times for pickup of a previously bought disc. This year’s RSD was different. Eight people were allowed in the store to pick from the RSD stock at a time. I waited about eight minutes until it was my turn and was actually inside of the store for a few minutes to buy the Harold Budd album I wanted. It felt weird to do even that much, with everyone in the store masked, of course. It was still qualitatively better than the pre-2020 RSD experience. Far better.
One of my pet peeves is the practice of traveling to a distant city and shopping in a store. where I spend a lot of money on things I see there that are of interest, but not necessarily on my want list. My want list contains the title I actually obsess over. And spending $100 in a store on exactly none of them gets me nothing but cognitive dissonance that makes me $100 further from actually ordering any of those want list titles [which are generally never seen in American stores]. So the usual shopping circumstances normally bring me only more music anxiety. I am spending much less yet focusing on mail ordering things that I really want…if I deign to buy anything at all. The facts are that I have years worth of records bought that I still need to listen to. I’ve never spent less or been happier about it! So how are the rest of you reacting to the new and different circumstances? Discuss below.
Interesting, I’m back to attending gigs and have been to three so far after 17 months away. First was China Crisis, all indoor but none crammed with people really.
I have a long stretch of gigs, some rescheduled multiple times, that take me through to October next year. I’m double jabbed and reasonably relaxed about attending live events.
I will maybe be a little more selective about what gigs I attend rather than just going ahead and buying tickets as a reflex action.
I’ve only had two actual record shop trips in the 18 months and doubt that pattern will alter. But I have bought a lot of stuff partly because ordering online when you are at home a lot is just too damn easy, my intention now though is to buy less, let’s see how I do:)
I have noticed though that I’ve made decisions to not purchase some reissues I would have once purchased without question, or I’ve bought the cheaper ‘abridged’ version.
I’ve never been one for needing everything by an artist and have always got a lot from cheap charity shop CDs as much as from expensive box sets!
As I have some likely changes in my life coming up that will affect money flow this may all be to the good!
SimonH – I have been one for needing everything by an artist. I definitely have the collector’s sickness. But you mention something that never fails to annoy me. The “Cheap Charity Shop CDs” that I near so much about from British people yet are nonexistent in America. At least in the hellhole where I live. Allegedly, everyone and their pet ferret have dumped their CDs which now sell for next to nothing in charity shops. Where I live, it’s almost impossible to find any used CDs. The record stores got rid of them years ago. They took up space better used on infinitely more valuable new LP stock. In fact, there’s only one record store remaining that even stocks CDs in a dwindling digital ghetto! That store will now take your cassettes but will refuse CDs!!!
Locally, there’s a single used bookstore that still has a lot of used CDs, but they are all $5-10 each; the same as ever. No steals there! The actual “charity shops” in America are all like the Goodwill chain. I have gotten exactly one CD I wanted in 20 years of stopping into a Goodwill store just to see if I could find anything. And three records. Every Goodwill or Salvation Army store [their competition for donations in America – both businesses have their roots in evangelistic movements, as well. There are no secular charity shops in America that I’ve ever seen.] will usually carry bins of the exact same gospel records and MOR LPs from roughly 1955-1975 that such stores have had for my entire lifetime. All drawn from a pool of the same 50 albums that every family donating their dead loved one’s material goods pulled from the small pile of 10 albums that their relative had for 40-50 years unto their death. The CDs [if there are any] generally follow suit.
Good to see that I’m not the only one cutting back.
I’m lucky in that I have a very good books and music charity shop 5 mins away (secular:)) granted many times there’s nothing of interest but then you will go in and something random like say, a Pale Fountains cd will appear for £1.50. It’s nearly the only way I get that surprise purchase rush any more these days!
Monk, I enjoyed your rant about the lack of charity shops where you are, I didn’t realise it was a U.K thing. Any crate digger worth his salt will have a charity shop round but you will have to beat the Dealers first, who try to hoover up the best stuff. One of my favourite local charity shops has hundreds and hundreds of CDs, so many that sometimes I can’t be bothered looking through them all . CDs are 5 for £1. Most charity shops sell CDs for £3. Always check the LPs, because just sometimes hiding behind The best of Don Mclean or Rugby Songs Vol 2 can be found a gem. The best find I have had in a charity shop is the LP “The spiders from mars ” , That’s the red one with the red spider on the cover…. for £2. Happy Days.
Ade.W – The best CD deal I ever got was at a yard sale in Akron a few years back. I looked at the small pile of CDs across the street from my in-laws’ home and got The Rolling Stones’ “Forty Licks” 2xCD for 25¢. In theory, there are millions of CDs out there that no one wants… but how do I obtain them?
Well since I’m mentioned in your post, I reckon I need to chime in. I’ve never had the comprehensive “collector’s sickness”, but moving in collector circles with heavyweights like The Monk and the late great Ron “The Man” Kane, I’ve always considered myself to be the lucky kid who got to sit at the grown up table at holidays. I have curated some pretty complete vinyl collections on a handful of artists, and own a significant but manageable collection of shiny silver discs.
But yes, as I’ve gotten older, money management and time management factor into my music hobby. I remain in Central Florida and fortunately there is no shortage of used CDs, ranging from the $1 – $10 range, but I rarely crate dig any more as I just feel I have enough. I will purchase through mail order or will be gifted enough new releases to keep me happy. Concerts? Again less important and unless I have a seat, it ain’t gonna happen. I’m too old for that s**t.
And I have to mention a significant epiphany I had earlier this year. I went to a fairly large CD/Vinyl store with my 23 year old son who has chosen to build a modest vinyl collection. He pulled a title that I had because he felt he should have one for himself. That moment drove home that what I have will be his some day and why not sooner than later. I told him to go through my vinyl and take it now. He took about a third of it. I don’t play them (he will), I just “have” them. Why? I’m seriously thinking about selling off much of what remains. I’m getting older and time to downsize in more ways than one.
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Mr. Ware – Great food for thought. That’s what we are trying for here. And I find that even my status as a non-breeder [who never put kids through college] had no bearing on my age dimming my ardor to collect. But please, I’m just a middleweight. Pretty much in the mean average of collectors that post on Steve Hoffman Forums. Yes, Ron was a heavyweight. He had easily 6x my collection. Though we are planning to paint the interior of our home next month and I’m afraid I will see where the weight of the collection has pulled down the flooring from the walls once we move that stuff out of that frightening room. I may need to shore up the floor somehow!
What happened with Ron’s collection? Was it all sold? Just wondering. Thanks.
blureu – Welcome to the comments! Ron’s collection of 30,000 titles went to Rockaway Records in Los Angeles. They had a special tribute on their website from late 2017 for a while. I was in L.A. with Mr. Ware and chasinvictoria for the two tribute concerts for Ron. One of them was held inside of Rockaway! As of nine months after he died, much of it was sold off, according to Rockaway. They were at a loss as how to price a lot of it since there was little precedent for much of Ron’s collection. The honchos suspected they ended up giving a lot of rarities away for a song. Even I bought a few of Ron’s records there!
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Hi Mr. Monk,
I might be an outlier here. But for me, I am doing
all I can to stimulate the economy with my purchases.
Starting from 2013. I average about $200/year until
2017. There was 2015 where it was about $600. This
was repeated in 2018, and 2019.
Then when COVID hit, and I was employed, I spent
about 5x that amount, and was about to catch up on
about 90% of the remaining items, and boxsets I was
This year, has been more of the same. However, due
to my father passing away. I feel that life is short,
and theres not really much more time for me to find
things, and get things to enjoy. So now, I’m looking
for the high end items, that I never had, in the
range of $200-$500 for the holy grails. If I can
get them great, if not, time to move one.
So, my budget this year, will double from last year,
or possibly triple. I want to knock out all the wishlist
items I can find, and then coast with the super cheap ones.
I still am getting several hundred items in the US, for
$1-$5, and many at the low prices from UK sellers on discogs.
Sure shipping is higher, but averaged out, it really makes
no difference, so you can’t get those items here anyways.
i am not missing out on going to stores, or so called
charity stores, when you have amazon and discogs to buy from.
I’m ready to knock off all those rare promos, and items
where theres only 1 person selling it. So hopefully it
will pay off this year.
Also, bought a new Japanese VHD player, which is another
obscure video format, which has some music titles on it
also. There’s always more to discover.
I didn’t go to too many concerts before, so that hasn’t
really changed anything for me. And I rarely went to the
movies. So for me, this whole health issue hasn’t impacted
me in anyway, but good for the economy, as jobs are plentiful,
and I have multiple options now, which weren’t around before.
I do work in person, and would never work remotely.
take care, and thanks for all the interesting articles.
negative1ne – Rock on with your bad self, sir! I’m glad someone is still spending freely for building their collection. And as you note, you are making up for lean years of strict budget. I’m lucky in that I can’t think of too many holy grails that I lack for over the years.
Just three come to mind:
• Billy MacKenzie – Pastime Paradise UK promo CD-5
• Associates – Country Boy German CD-5
• Associates – Boys Keep Swinging UK 7″ on Double Hip
That’s all that easily comes to mind. And could account for $1000 better spent elsewhere. And you’re right. Life IS short. I’m sorry to hear about your father.
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Time is very short. I think we all feel that as we get older. In fact I sometimes cannot believe how fast time is moving.
My habits have changed in the last few years and it has nothing to do with the pandemic.
I stopped more or less going to concerts a long time ago. I only make the exception if it is a massive production or if it is a band I have never seen but wanted to. I think Roger Waters was the last concert I attended and what a concert it was. Events start far too late for me ( and I felt that way in my youth as well but I had more energy) Too loud and parking hassles.
But the pandemic would not stop me from seeing a show if I wanted to attend.
Streaming concerts with no audience leaves me cold. I tried the Midge Ure concert. No thanks.
True. It may the only opportunity to see an act that would never travel to your city. Streaming with an audience is more interesting. That I could see. Perhaps multiple days in the same city or venue. But nothing can duplicate the live experience. I have seen hundreds if not thousands of shows so that is it for me.
My purchases have gone down to nearly $0. I used to buy from Bandcamp every week as digital is now my primary source of listening. Yes. I used to be a collector. I still have a CD and record player. I still have my core collections of vinyl and CDs. But it no longer interests me. Physical copies. With the exception perhaps of the odd box set here and there. Such as the rumoured Ultravox Rage in Eden box. I’m there for that.
But streaming has replaced nearly all my purchases. I will not get into royalty rates and how Spotify is destroying an artists living. I know Monk has some opinions about this. There seems no point to me if listening to music is your key goal why you would not stream provided you have the bandwidth for it. The only reason I would say no to Spotify was that it is lossy MP3. But that should change any moment. Tidal. Apple and more are all lossless now. In fact I sometimes will listen to a track or album and say to myself this is great I should buy it. Then I go to my in house collection and find out that I owned it all along.
I did buy a re issue on coloured vinyl of Kraftwerks Computer World a few weeks ago. I had already a few copies of the original but thought it was a nice package to have. At a record store.
I was quite amazed at the vinyl selection. But the prices are out of whack on new copies. $35,$55,$85 etc.
I have never seen such charity shops in Canada or the USA besides Good Will. Plenty of used CDs in the stores still at reasonable prices.
So all in all the pandemic has had zero effect on me as far as my musical adventures.
Jordan – I have problems with streaming in that there are “no limitations” and yet there are still limitations. Vast chunks of IP are in the game, but not everything. What cycles in and out of availability due to legal issues is under constant churn. Nothing would anger me more than wanting to hear something that reached the end of its license and was taken down. Not having absolute control over my entertainment yet outlaying a monthly music bill would really annoy me. The mechanism of purchase forces me to curate and focus my listening which is half of the fun. Also, I have the collector’s mentality and streaming does absolutely nothing for it. And finally, all that data bandwidth would cost me much more than I am willing to pay for phone service.
I hate cell phones and never wanted one, but last year I got a refurb iPhone for $65 becaue of the UK trip I was planning would have absolutely required a smartphone. Now that I have one I wasn setvice without contracts and as cheaply as possible. I buy service from a carrier that gives me 1GB over 60 days for $25. Streaming music, even if I liked the notion of renting my music [just typing that makes my blood boil!] would cost me a lot more. If I put that $50 more a month in phone charges I would end up paying into buying music I then have that music for the rest of my life, and there’s a lot more value there for me.
Aside from a friend’s store that I frequent once every month or 2, my music shopping has been limited during the Covid pandemic.One of my very favorite stores in the New England area, Welfare Records, just re-opened in June, so I made a massive haul there including some of my own Core Collection artists (Wall of Voodoo/Stan Ridgway, the Units) and some V/A compilations that have been on my want list for a while (Methods of Dance, Sharp Cuts). I’ve also visited the Bull Moose chain that operates out of Maine and New Hampshire (I primarily visit the Portsmouth and Salem locations in NH), though I buy more movies than music there (I’m a horror/sci-fi/fantasy connoisseur in that realm, along with cult movies and the occasional mainstream/classic title that catches my interest). I’ve not attended any live shows at all during this pandemic, and don’t plan to anytime soon unless an artist on my must-see list comes around these parts (and the venue has strong safety regulations in place).
It’s been incredibly frustrating seeing people actually protesting mask mandates and refusing to respect the safety of their fellow citizens, at least from what I’ve glanced on news broadcasts. I thankfully haven’t run into many of these poor souls in person, at least where I live (north of Boston). Credit that to higher vaccination rates and a more informed population than some other parts of the U.S. I’ve been fully vaccinated since early June, but I still wear my mask(s) when I go someplace indoors. I was far ahead of most people as far as using hand sanitizer, since I always carry a spare bottle wherever I go. I’m a safety first type of person in that regard.
Zach – You mention Stan Ridgeway. So much of his later material is hard to source! Which “Methods Of Dance?” The CD or Vol. 1/2 LP? I have them all. And I’m jealous of you getting “Sharp Cuts.” I really want to hear the one Bates Motel song that the Gleaming Spires reissue didn’t have. Not to mention getting the early Suburban Lawns cut! I saw that in the cutout bins allover in the early 80s. How I miss the phenomenon of cutout bins. If you’re young enough, you have no idea of what that is.
Labels produced a ton of issues 40-50 years ago. Back then probably 90% of all music failed to show a profit, but the industry was propped up by the hits it managed to have. And the industry was so profitable, that no one cared about the waste. Labels would delete titles that failed to sell in sufficient numbers from their catalog. Things that retailers could no longer order for sale. This became deleted stock. The deleted stock was sold to wholesalers for dimes on the dollar, which in turn was sold to record stores cheaply. The guys at the end of the distribution channel made a little money off of the Label’s losses, and the label took a tax break for their losses. Everyone benefited [except maybe the artist, whose debt to the label was not helped at all by this phenomenon]. This provided a wealth of brand new records as little as a year old, that stores sold well below the suggested price point. $1.99-$3.99 when albums were $6.98-$7.98 list prince.
These records had a notch usually cut into the cover to prevent records stores from returning them to the labels for a refund, hence the term “cutout.” Sometimes a hole was punched or drilled into covers at a far corner as well. If you had “unusual” tastes that didn’t follow popularity, the cutout bins were a godsend! Music budget got stretched pretty far thanks to cutouts! And there were also the phenomenon of import cutouts! [insert a chorus of angels here…] Records that major importers bought to re-sell in America, but didn’t take off. These were sold just like major label cutouts. Import 12″ singles would be $1.99, not $4.98-$6.98. I remember seeing the many, many copies of Eurythmics “This Is The House” UK 12″ that I didn’t buy for $1.99 at the time that could have been sold for $50 each 20 years later! I already had one! So the cutout bins were like your stalwart best friend during the 70s-90s. Even major chains like Camelot Music [r.i.p.] had cutout bins in the 90s where you could get CDs in their longboxes [with a notch or punch taken out] for $0.99-$4.99 when CDs were $14.98!
Where was I…? Oh yeah. Anti-vaxxers. I live in the southeast, so you can imagine how bad things are. Some of my neighbors are Q-anon, anti-vaxxers and Oathkeepers! I’ve been fully vaccinated since May and like you, a mask when leaving my house is mandatory. My county has a mask mandate, but not the county where I work. At work I am often the only person in the room with a mask.