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Paperback Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small Book

ISBN: 1565126246

ISBN13: 9781565126244

Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small

Merge Records defies everything you've heard about the music business. Started by two twenty-year-old musicians, Merge is a lesson in how to make and market great music on a human scale. The fact that... This description may be from another edition of this product.


Format: Paperback

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Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Inspiring, Fun Behind the Scenes Bookumentary

Preface: Superchunk is my favorite band. But this book -- told via a well-crafted string of dialogue from musicians, producers, A & R reps and friends -- is not just about Superchunk. It's about a community of musicians who got together with the sole purpose of creating and sharing music.("Come on, fellahs, let's get together and write a song!") I think of Merge as the big brother who lets you peek at his LPs when he's not looking and might let you make a mix tape to share with your peers. (That's how I learned about Iron Maiden as well as Anvil. Remember Tank: The Filth Hounds of Hades?) Through my interest in Superchunk (thanks to a mix tape from Todd -- forever grateful), I discovered a lot of other great bands on the label. Certainly it helps if you are a fan of any of the featured bands: Superchunk, Magnetic Fields, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel, Lambchop, Butterglory; but it's a great story and gives insight into the changing music industry (the decline of corporate rock). I also like to think Our Noise might inspire you to get off your butt and make Your Own Noise heard -- whether it's home-brewing, writing songs, RPGing, gardening, knitting whatever. (The perfect graduation gift? Required reading for Harvard MBA?) Now, perhaps this book would be boring to many people. After all, I grew up with Merge discovering the bands, seeing the shows (Halloween at State College changed my life). But, I just love how the story is revealed with honesty, humor, thoughtfulness in their own words. Who is they? A lot of different people. In fact, there is very little narration. This book is really well constructed, much like a documentary film. The relationships are vivid and real. There's a lot of pride, but little pretension. Great photos, too. Mysteries still remain. Like why was that guy yelling hot dogs and hamburgers at Merge 10?

The Story of the Little Label that Could

For an essential part of the music industry, independent record labels have a short shelf life. Most either serve as clearing houses for great bands that jump to the majors once they start to generate buzz (IRS Records) while others pay for artistic freedom with a leaky business model (Factory). It's harder and harder to for indie labels to survive in the post-Napster era, but one humble label from a small North Carolina college town is doing just that. "Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records" chronicles the labor of love that is Merge Records, founded in the dark days after R.E.M. signed to Warner Brothers but before Nirvana made alternative rock attractive to the majors. John Cook, the primary author, constructs the book as an oral history, with input from Merge's two founders Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance. As the book goes through the sometimes turbulent, sometimes transcendent, but always interesting history of Merge and some of its most prominent artists, it's clear that McCaughan and Ballance have learned the hard way how to stay viable as a business when major labels with more cash and attractive enticements come calling on your best-selling artists. McCaughan and Ballance started Merge in 1989, as a way to get their records (as the band Superchunk and other side projects) out without having to make the compromises that major labels would force on them. In time, other groups with simpatico interests were drawn to the label, from the Magnetic Fields to Neutral Milk Hotel. Merge finally broke into the mainstream to a large degree with the success of Arcade Fire, whose two albums for the label ("Funeral" and "Neon Bible") rock harder than anything the Jonas Brothers could even dream of achieving. Throughout the book, Cook interviews those closest to the Merge Records story, including the major-label executives who tried to lure away some of Merge's biggest acts once the alternative "boom" kicked in with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Merge hasn't had all the resources of major labels (such as signing bonuses and, in the case of Arcade Fire during their tour for "Funeral," the means of replenishing albums to meet the demand once the initial pressing sold out), but they do have one up on the majors in this respect: they put out music that they love, by artists that they respect, and they put all their efforts into making sure that it gets heard. In analyzing the go-for-broke (but financially savvy) approach of Merge, Cook contrasts it with the excesses of the post-"Nevermind" music world (when record labels combed Seattle and Merge's home base of Chapel Hill for any group that wore flannel and long hair). The ability of Merge to thrive in that era, and to survive the fall-off when record sales for the majors started to plummet, is testament to the founding ideal of McCaughan and Ballance. For all their success, however, they have occasionally run into the same issues as befall other indie labels in the past, from disgruntled former clients to

Our Noise

This books is amazing. Well written and great photos that shows Merge from the beginning til now. This books has alot of behind the scene info that alot of us record collectors crave which helps make it great. If you are a fan of Merge Records and/or Superchunk this is a must read.

Raleigh wasn't dark, angry

"Raleigh was dark, angry and punk - more leather jackets and houses with spray paint on the walls. Chapel HIll was collegiate and hip" Really? Having been part of the Raleigh scene in the mid-80s, I testify that we were far from dark and angry. I remember laughter, overflowing parties, bands in basements hoping to play the basement of the Fallout Shelter. The author seems intent on making Raleigh sound like a town of mines and soul crushing factories. Chapel Hill was an over-priced smug little town. And those kids in Chapel Hill wore leather jackets while skate boarding in front of the courthouse. They went tattoo crazy before Raleigh (if you don't count Simon Bob Sinister) Maybe a book will come out about Wifflefist Records to set the story straight

Brilliant Must Read for Any Fan of Music

An absolutely fascinating account of the life of independent label Merge Records and the band (Superchunk) that gave it life, over the past 20 years. What was started by Mac and Laura of Superchunk fame to put out 7" records of their bands and their friends' bands in Chapel Hill, NC, in the late '80s has become one of the most influential and successful independent labels in the music business. While other labels and major labels are imploding with massive sales declines in recent years, Merge soldiers on during its most successful era ever, with only one guiding principle - they put out the music of bands that they like, regardless of commercial viability, and will stay with the band as long as the band wants, regardless of sales. Profits are split 50-50 with the artist (major labels are more like 85-15) and there is never any thought of interference or suggestion of what the artist should do. As a result, some of the most successful albums in indie rock history have been released on Merge, including Neutral Milk Hotel's immortal "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea", The Magnetic Fields' 3-CD "69 Love Songs", Spoon's "Girls Can Tell" and The Arcade Fire's "Funeral". The book consists largely of interviews with those involved over the last 20 years (the bands, the Superchunk members, friends, family, roadies, etc.), told in an impressive narrative form that reads as a fascinating story of a group of music outsiders who learned how to make the music they loved outside the corporate system, and make enough money to survive for 20 years and counting. The history of Superchunk is intertwined with the history of Merge (it's about a 50/50 split in the book), so for any even casual fan of this classic band, this is a must-read. But the story of Merge is equally fascinating, as are the in-depth chapter-long discussions of several Merge artists, including The Arcade Fire, Spoon, The Magnetic Fields, Matt Suggs, Lambchop, and Neutral Milk Hotel. I can't recommend this enough.
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