Joe Sparrow : The Target Shoots First
I recently launched a weekly radio show called The Target Shoots Next, which has a playlist chosen by anonymous music industry insiders, and you can read more about here.
I half-inched the name of the show from The Target Shoots First, a brilliant DIY-documentary by Chris Wilcha, which captures the end of the glory days of the old music industry while he worked at Columbia House music club. Somehow, the young Wilcha was allowed to video everything he did – private meetings and all – at his new job. The resulting documentary, and version of the music business it captures, is a window to another time.
Growing up in the UK, we didn’t have Columbia House, but the equivalent was Britannia Music Club, which operated similarly: you were recruited by a friend (who got a free CD for doing so), and then you ordered cheap CDs from a regular catalogue, mailed out every few months. There was a sneaky – and remarkable – catch. You had to order one CD per month, and if you didn’t, the club would send you a CD of its own choosing, and you’d be charged for it.
The documentary is a brilliant peek into the music biz, capturing all the confusion, bullshit, and guesswork that accompanies building a multi-billion dollar business around art, artists, highly subjective opinions, deeply-drawn emotions, and melodies.
The full documentary is embedded above, or you can watch it on Wilcha’s Vimeo page. There are also some more links and reading below.
Here are some good articles and interviews with Wilcha and some of the key players he filmed:
- AV Club: “Four Columbia House insiders explain the shady math behind “8 CDs for a penny””
- Smug Film: An interview with Chris Wilcha
- Documentary Films: A contemporary review of “The Target Shoots First”