As Ron Burgundy would end his broadcasts, “Keep it classy,” and arguably that’s what Dolly Parton, whose exaggerated presence is such that it provides a whole extraordinarily level to that state of being, proved she lives in that manner as when, this past week, she gave a pass to her nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The first definition for “Hall of Fame” in the Cambridge Dictionary is:
“a building that contains images of famous people and interesting things that are connected with them:
“You really know you’ve made it when they enshrine you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” [italic in the original]
Which seems rather unusual from the intuition that numbers Stephen Hawking, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin and Sacha Baron Cohen among its alums.
You might think that they would have had it “when they enshrine you in the UK Music Hall of Fame.” The problem there is that the UK Music Hall of Fame, founded in 2004, ceased to exist in 2008. However, it wasn’t a real building on the Thames or the Cam, but, rather, simply an awards show that was broadcast on Channel Four.
Perhaps the Brits know something that those in Cleveland don’t.
Here’s something to ponder:
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame refers to those musicians who are inducted into it in a given year as classes, as in “The Class of 2021.” (Which includes, in case you were wondering, which you probably aren’t, Billy Preston, Carole King, Charley Patton, Clarence Avant, Foo Fighters, Gil Scott-Heron, Jay-Z, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, Randy Rhoads, The Go-Go’s, Tina Turner, and Todd Rundgren, an indication that they weren’t just stretching things this year by nominating Parton.)
Another Cambridge grad was Bertrand Russell, who created what has come to be known as “Russell’s Paradox.” As he wrote:
But normally a class is not a member of itself. Mankind, for example, is not a man. Form now the assemblage of all classes which are not members of themselves. This is a class: is it a member of itself or not? If it is, it is one of those classes that are not members of themselves, i.e., it is not a member of itself. If it is not, it is not one of those classes that are not members of themselves, i.e. it is a member of itself. Thus of the two hypotheses – that it is, and that it is not, a member of itself – each implies its contradictory. This is a contradiction.
It seems to me that many of the people who “have made it” by being in a given class of inductees don’t necessarily belong to the class of rock and roll musicians (or who qualify for the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which “shall be given to non-performing industry professionals who, through their dedicated belief and support of artists and their music, have had a major influence on the creative development and growth of rock & roll and music that has impacted youth culture”*).
Dolly Parton knows what category or class she is part of: the Classy. And there is no contradiction.
Jack White, who is certainly in the category of rock and roll musician, and who, has also worked with the most awarded female country recording artist, Loretta Lynn (sorry, Dolly), operates Third Man Pressing, a factory in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. It makes vinyl albums—for a wide array of artists.
The “Year-End 2021 RIAA Revenue Statistics” reports:
“For the first time since 1996, both CDs and vinyl records experienced revenue growth in the same year. The resurgence in vinyl records continued for the 15th consecutive year, as revenues grew 61% to $1.0 billion in 2021. The last time vinyl records exceeded $1 billion was 1986. Vinyl accounted for 63% of revenues from physical formats, and 7% of total music revenues.”
(Streaming? 83% of all revenues.)
So it isn’t much of a stretch to say that vinyl is back. But there is an issue there.
Which leads to how White, too, showed himself to be classy.
Last week (clearly a big week in class) came out with an open letter to “our collegial big brothers in the music world, Sony, Universal, and Warner,” asking that they pony up some of their considerable wealth and, as he did back in 2017, build pressing plants.
“To be clear, the issue is not big labels versus small labels, it’s not independent versus mainstream, it’s not even punk versus pop. The issue is, simply, we have ALL created an environment where the unprecedented demand for vinyl records cannot keep up with the rudimentary supply of them.”
As the clubs and other venues open up for acts both large and small, there is an increase in the number of musicians who are hitting the road. And as they perform, it is a situation where selling merch is going to bring them more revenue than they are likely to otherwise get from the night on the stage.
Although T-shirts are by and large the biggest seller for performers, it is also the case that approximately 10% of the take from merch is music, vinyl and CDs.
According to White, the turnaround time for vinyl is on the order of nine months. Which essentially means that were someone to put in an order right now, their records would become available. . .at Christmas. If musicians who are getting ready to go out touring don’t have their music available on those folding tables, then their Christmas isn’t going to be particularly merry.
Which means that those big labels need to start making press capacity available sooner rather than later.
(Here’s something to think about regarding LPs: They generally weigh from 80 to 180 grams. They are, by weight, essentially made with polyvinyl chloride, a.k.a., PVC. Which is primarily made with petroleum. Not only does the limited supply of pressing operations lead to scarcity, which the law of supply and demand means increased prices, been to a gas station lately? Yes, it is like that, too.)
*This clause is curious: “a major influence on the creative development and growth of rock & roll and music that has impacted youth culture.”
Why is it that there are two distinct classes “rock & roll” and “music” categorized? Is “rock & roll” to be considered as something other than music that is affecting youth culture, and music different? “Rock & roll” is certainly a subset of “music,” but that isn’t implied in that clause.
Of course, this could be nothing more than sloppy copywriting. But given that last year’s induction event was held at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, which has a capacity of 19,432, and given that the cheap seats were $50, even if COVID required a 50% capacity limit and all seats were cheap seats, the take would be just under $500,000, so you would assume that there would be enough in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame budget for proofreading.