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Friday, December 3,2010

Goldenrod owner says goodbye to a changing music industry

Music distributor hosts final open house Saturday

by Chris Galford
The business of music has changed a lot over the years, and local distributor Goldenrod Music is just the latest to feel the pinch.

After 35 years in the music distribution business, Goldenrod Music is shifting gears and changing location, as owner and founder Terry Grant (who turns 60 in January) has announced her retirement.


Although the exact direction Goldenrod takes remains uncertain, many of its operations are set to be inherited by Susan Frazier, who has been with Goldenrod since 1980.


On Saturday, Goldenrod marks this changing of the times with its final annual open house. The event includes the auctioning of Goldenrod memorabilia, a “buy five CDs, get one free” sale, $2 compact discs, free food and a listening room for guests to hear new music.


There will be live music all day, kicking off with Ann Arbor folk duo Nervous But Excited at noon, followed by Lansing folk-singer Sally Potter at 1:15 p.m.: blues/ R&B singer-songwriter Nedra Johnson at 2:30 p.m.; and acoustic indie songwriter Ellis at 3:45 p.m.


The change isn’t sudden — it’s part of a trend that's been creeping across the country for years.


“We’re a music distribution company,” Frazier said. “The world’s distribution has changed drastically over the years. People download instead of buying physical CDs, and we’re a company that’s bought those (CDs) and sold them all over the place.”


That change of pace is exactly the reason Grant is getting out of the business. “Most of these businesses are going out of business,” she said. “Retiring is a nice way of saying there isn’t much money to be made in what I do. I could go more into technology, but really, my love is in music, not in technology.”


Grant had never originally intended to become a distributor; she just sort of happened into the business. She grew up loving music, and had grandparents and parents that all owned their own businesses.


“I
thought: I could do work for women, I could improve the lives of women
and lesbians, and I could be in business for myself. That was the dream
career, I have to say, when I look back here on 35 years of work.”


In 1975, Grant started building her business — without paying herself for the first 15 years.


Eventually,
she expanded into other social movements. It was a business, but also a
communal font of feminist, lesbian and anti-racist movements. She built
it up, one record at a time, into a company with more than 400 female
artists on its roster, including Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pat Donohue
and Susan Werner.


In
the beginning, Grant recalled, there were all kinds of musicians
looking for distribution: folk, dance, and jazz. There were hundreds of
distributors doing regional work for that music.


As
time went on, however, companies bought out other companies, and the
focus shifted from regional to national. The power concentrated in the
few, rather than the many.


Grant followed the trend with Goldenrod Music, but now there is only a handful of companies that still do distribution.


Some
of that is due to the fact that there are fewer independent record
stores, too: The businesses are dominated by major chains, and it was
the independents these distributors marketed to. Online, in many ways,
is just another nail in the coffin.


“Independent music stores were our bread and butter,” Grant said, “and they just don’t exist anymore.”


Goldenrod Music’s Final Open House


11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, Goldenrod Music. 1310 Turner St., Lansing Free www.goldenrod.com




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