Music Doc ‘Where Are You, Jay Bennett?’ Due on Blu-ray April 19, DVD With Vinyl Albums April 23 From MVD

The feature-length documentary Where Are You, Jay Bennett?, on the renown multi-instrumentalist and recording studio savant, will have its Blu-ray Disc and pay-per-view release on April 19 from MVD Entertainment Group.

Four days later on April 23, it will have a “Record Store Day” release featuring the film on DVD along with Bennett’s last two albums Kicking at the Perfumed Air and Whatever Happened I Apologize available for the first time on vinyl.

As a member of Wilco, Bennett was a large part of the genius behind their three seminal albums. He joined the band prior to the recording of their second album Being There and subsequently co-wrote most of Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with Jeff Tweedy (and has been called the sonic architect of both albums). Bennett was also instrumental in the recording of the Mermaid Avenue/Woody Guthrie sessions with Billy Bragg, and went on to a critically acclaimed solo career before dying tragically at the age of 45.

Directors Gorman Bechard and Fred Uhter use a mixture of audio interviews with Bennett, never-before-seen performance footage, animation, and extensive interviews with those who knew him best to give an account of the artist’s life. The offers a look at the other side of the narrative that had been created in the media once Bennett had been asked to leave the band.

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“At the time of his firing, Jay’s behavior was cast in a negative light. But there are always two sides to every story,” Bechard said in a statement. “In this film, we show just how instrumental Jay was to Wilco’s brilliance. How Bennett and Tweedy together truly were one of the greatest collaborative teams in rock history, but also how they were both perfectionists who needed to push boundaries. Ultimately, that was simply not sustainable in a band setting.”

The film, funded completely through KickStarter, is an insight into a piece of American musical history exploring Bennett’s life, his influences, his art, his obsessions, his vices, music, recording, and Wilco and their unfortunate split.

“The animation by Ed Gendron brings to life these amazing interviews with Jay,” Uhter said in a statement. “To be able to hear his voice, to have Jay himself tell his side of the story, talk about how records were made, and what role he played, it’s a priceless piece of music history.”

Bechard is the filmmaker behind 2011’s Color Me Obsessed, a Film About the Replacements.

Retail Icon Tower Records Returns as Online Store

Packaged-media retail icon Tower Records is back in (e)-business — 14 years after declaring bankruptcy and shuttering 200 physical stores in 2006. The Sacramento, Calif.-based retailer, which launched in 1960 in the iconic Tower Records building on Broadway by the late Russ Solomon who died in 2018 at the age of 92, will now market vinyl records, merchandise and cassettes online only.

Russ Solomon

The chain is bringing back its Tower Pulse! music magazine (in digital form), with plans to launch pop-up Tower Records shops (once the pandemic is controlled), and host artist events online.

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“[The launch] has been met with tremendous success, feedback,” new CEO Danny Zeijdel said in a statement. “A lot of people are so happy taking pictures of when they receive an order from Tower Records, posting it on Instagram.”

RIAA: Physical Record Sales Topped Digital Downloads in 2017

In a twist, sales of old-school music records in 2017 bested digital downloads for the first time since 2011, according to year-end data released March 22 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Shipments of physical product decreased 4% to $1.5 billion compared to 2016 – a lower rate of decline than in recent years. Sales digital downloads fell 25% to $1.3 billion.

Vinyl continues to be a bright spot among physical formats, with sales up 10% to $395 million. Shipments of music CDs continued to decline, falling 6% to $1.1 billion. Revenue from shipments of physical product made up 17% of the industry total. Sales of track downloads fell 25%, and digital album sales decreased 24% versus 2016.

The aforementioned stats – however appealing to traditionalists – pales in comparison to the industry’s 800 lb. gorilla: subscription streaming.

More than 80% of total music revenue in 2017 was generated by digital platforms and services.

Streaming music services generated $5.7 billion in revenue. Paid music subscriptions drove the bulk of that — exceeding $4 billion for the first time — and now represent the largest recorded music format by value.

“More than any other creative industry, music companies successfully transformed themselves ahead of the transition to streaming, all while forging stronger relationships with their most important partner: the artist,” RIAA CEO Cary Sherman said in a statement.

Sherman cautioned that growth in music sales has only returned the industry to 60% of its peak 18 years ago. At the same time, he said the burgeoning streaming business inadequately compensates artists.

 “We continue to operate in a distorted marketplace, replete with indefensible gaps in core rights, inhibiting investment in music and depriving recording artists and songwriters of the royalties they deserve,” Sherman said.

The executive said Congress appears ready to pass updated reforms – dubbed “Classics Act” – aimed at better compensating artists at a market-based standard rate. Under current law, legacy artists who recorded music prior to 1972 are not guaranteed royalties when their music is played on digital radio.

“The proposed legislation would ensure that all recordings are treated the same,” Sherman said.