I got an e mail from A guy called Frank the other day who told me about a pretty good record score in Richmond. This score of a 50 cent record led to a discussion about digging in the field versus digging for records on e bay. I think that digging for records can be hard work, especially if someone has dug at the place before you (which is the case in a lot of places). A lot of times it’s right place, right time. You do have to have knowledge though, players, producers, record labels, and the like. A good digger knows regions, who played with who, where a particular record label is based out of, etc. This helps in wading through the bullshit. When I first started digging, as I said in my post about portables, I didn’t know much. I bought a lot of bullshit records. I didn’t know what the hell I was digging for, except for maybe some James Brown records or Golden Age Hip Hip. What I really wanted to know was what records people used. I went to my local shop after seeing Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” figuring I would find everything I was looking for, and well, I didn’t. Back then, when sampling was kind of legal (see Biz vs. Gilbert O’Sullivan which changed that) and you had no idea what records some obscure samples came from, lest they came from Al Green, or JB, or Dyke and the Blazers (if you even heard of them), you might have had a chance to score decent vinyl. In the late 80’s and early 90’s when I got into UBB and those Paul Winley comps Super Disco Breaks, I started to learn more and more. Then all those comps started to come out: Diggin’, Dusty Fingers, and The _____________ Collection, that show cased artists such as De La Soul, Jay Z, A Tribe Called Quest, etc., so if you couldn’t afford, let alone find the originals, a working DJ could use that. Hell, you could even dig beside your favorite Hip Hop stars at Rock and Soul in NYC and get a ton of bootlegs to keep up. As long winded as that was, what I’m trying to get at, is that digging was tough, and if you didn’t know what you’re doing you’d end up with a lot of crap. Fast forward to 2011. The digger has choices. There are a million blogs, good blogs that break down Hip Hop records, samples and the like. I mean you can hear a song with your phone, use Shazam! and search for the thing with the app, and by the time you get home either download it or get online and buy it on e bay. Now, is this cheating? A lot of people will say yes, some say no. Here’s my take on Digging in the field vs. digging online at e bay.
It’s no secret that I put up mix track lists, playlists from live gigs and the like. I had a guy in Virginia after a gig ask me one night: “Why do all you guys put your play lists up?” I said, “Why not? Are the records I spin a government secret?” “I just think it’s weird”, he replied. Ok, fair enough, you think it’s weird, but I wanna share music with people. My opinion is, you may know what record this is, but good luck finding it. I am not the holy keeper of all vinyl. I want people to hear these records, so why would I hoard them or not tell people what they were? You may have the title, but going and digging certain records up probably won’t happen. Digging for vinyl is a passion. To me, there is no better feeling than finding a record cheap and being able to preserve it. With FMF, I have that forum. Plus, the name Flea Market Funk is about finding records I bought on the cheap. Do I profile records that I have bought off of e bay? Yes I do. I have bought under 10 records off of e bay, and I have profiled them. The most I ever paid for a record was $38 with shipping, and it’s because I got totally caught up in a bidding war and pulled the trigger at the last minute. I don’t pay a lot of money for records. I’d rather have 100 dollar 45’s that are good than 1 $100 that is good. Weird reasoning I know, but I don’t have the money like that, let alone drop $100 or that $1200 for an impossible gasp! 45 to dig up in the field. When I met Keb Darge, we spoke on collecting and buying records. He said he was done paying big money for records, and I told him how much I ever spent on a 45. He said “Good fer you lad! You’re smart.” At first I thought he might be taking the piss out of me, but he was dead serious!
Do I think e bay is cheating? I don’t believe so. There are rules to digging, but in this day and age, you must use the resources you have to get what you want. I say do it your own way. I mean, e bay gives you an advantage for sure, but then again it’s really another type of digging. Does it make things easier? Yes. Provided you have the duckets to win the auction. Does it make you any less a digger? No way. I say more like well rounded. You’re pulling not just from your local shop, or a digging trip a few hours away. You’re able to dig globally, without the travel. I can’t knock anyone for that hustle. If you’re a true digger, you dig. You buy on e bay. You trade with other collectors, DJ’s and producers. You find good records, not schlock vinyl. I suppose it’s what you do with your finds that is what counts. I prefer to share, and most of the people I am associated with DJ/ collector wise do the same. What good is a record that is squirreled away in your house that no one ever hears because you want to be the only one with it? Music is meant to be heard and shared IMHO. Let’s face it, there are only so many records around, and the chances of you digging up some Africa only pressed 45 without traveling there to dig are pretty slim. However, the guys that do travel to Africa, to Turkey, to the ends of the earth and uncover these gems to bring back to us get the maximum respect. Not many of us get to do that, so the scraps left here in NYC or the Allentown Record Show or FMU after the Early Birds get in are what we have to deal with. Will you dig up a copy of “Iron Leg” by Mickey and the Soul Generation on the East Coast in the field, even though it’s a Texas record? You may, and it has been done. I’m just saying you can only dig so much before you have to look online to get stuff on your wants list. As Nas said: “Who’s world is this? The world is yours……”
So to conclude, e bay may give you a bit of an advantage than let’s say the guy who just buys from record stores, boot sales, and flea markets. On the real, who cares? It’s what you do with the music you find what counts. A true digger digs. A prominent digger once said: “I honestly feel that the people who dig don’t stop digging because it’s a part of who we are. People who don’t, you don’t have to, it’s not gonna make a bad DJ good, but it will make a good DJ better.”
A good take on digging from DJ Shadow:
Support your local record store this weekend, it’s Record Store Day! You can go online anytime, those records will still be there, your local record store may not. Keep Diggin’!
Digging is Digging, no matter where you dig. I respect those old skool cats keeping their records/breaks secret, but it’s all about the turn on. It brings a smile to my face every time I get someone giving me a HUGE thanks for turning them on to a record. I hit on my all-time favourite record, so far, thanks to you. Each time I play Lee Williams & The Cymbals’ “I Love You More,” I’m eternally giving props to Prestige for sharing it and bringing it into my eardrums. Nothing better than that, eh?
Peace and SOUL,
well thank you dave…i’m always willing to share!
well said Jamison! thanks for your thoughts. I’m wondering what percentage of diggers end up posting the gems to make some cash—as I did. Part of me says, “keep it you fool” yet at the same time, I got bills top pay; kids future; etc. I could take a stack of wax to the record store and get 15% of what its worth or post them on ebay or Discogs. While I don’t feel this is wrong—I get the sense that some diggers may view me as more a vulture/gypsy/mf’er. But you know what, since I started digging i’ve found lots of the classics I grew up on and maybe 50 X more stuff I had never heard of and most of it I still have (taking up space, making the lady edgy). IN closing, a few sales on ebay is another way to free up space for more records, like the 6 I bought today at RSD.