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New Music Tuesdays

The back story of my album reviews

Issue of Valley Media Street Date

Street Date July 20, 1999 issue. Photo by Tony Kulzer

From the early 1990s through the turn of the millennium, I worked for a music distributor. During this time, Tuesdays were the day all of the new releases came out, and the Fridays prior were when we received our shipments of these new albums. Because most music is sold digitally now (and likely to help curb file sharing), the industry recently changed Street Date to Fridays.

Street Date; That is what the industry refers to this day. Street Date was also the name of a weekly publication put out by Valley Media, the aforementioned music distributor. Besides a comprehensive list of upcoming new releases, the publication featured editorial content and sold advertising to the various record labels and distributors we worked with.

Record reviews by Valley Media staff were a part of this. If by “part of this,” you are unclear as to whether I mean the editorial part or the advertising part, the answer is yes. While it wasn’t explicitly said that a label or distributor was paying for a review, we were certainly encouraged to make them favorable. To the credit of the Valley Media marketing team, they did seek out employees who enjoyed a particular artist or album to write the reviews, and I was regularly called upon to write reviews for some of my favorite indie releases.

I liked doing it. I liked the exclusivity hearing new music from my favorite artists before it came out. I liked deeply analyzing an artist’s work to find something interesting to say about it. And I actually did like keeping it positive.

I have reviewed albums on this website in the past, but there has been a recent sea-change for music in my life. I signed up for that new Apple Music deal.

I’ve had a free Spotify account for a few years, but I have always been reluctant to switch to the subscription model for music (which is typical of old dudes like me). The liberation I experienced when I ditched physical media for the digital music lifestyle is still very fresh in my mind, though: All of your music at your fingertips without having to scan through a huge shelf (or hallway) of alphabetized CDs, put them away between listens, and the ability to bring your entire music collection with you. Everywhere.

When Apple Music hit, I signed up for the free trial, and it all finally clicked. I listen to a lot of music. Someone like me can easily rack up a hefty monthly music bill if one didn’t also have my self control.

So now that I suddenly have access to all this new music, Street Date has been fun form me again. I like drinking coffee on the couch with my wife in the mornings, and going through all the new releases, then doing it again when I get home from work over a few beers.

Finding something interesting and sitting with it all weekend gives me enough time to really listen, and publishing my review on Tuesday is my tribute to the good old days.