Pause and Play: Saving the Music Business, One Click at a Time

Before the Internet came along to pump information directly into your brain at the click of a mouse, rabid music fans had to rely on good old-fashioned release sheets to let them know when to expect new albums from their favorite artists. You could find them photocopied on bulletin boards at your local record store, or in the pages of Billboard or other industry magazines (such as the dearly departed ICE, which we’ll discuss in just a few lines).

If you didn’t come of age during the pre-Web era, this may all sound a little archaic to you, but the release sheet’s legacy lives on — and its spirit is felt most strongly at Pause and Play, the always-informative, always-updating site that keeps hungry music geeks fed with the most up-to-date information you can find. After years of relying on P&P for release date scoops, we decided we needed to find out more about the site, and lined up a chat with Gerry Galipault, the tireless fan who runs it. Whether you’re a frequent Pause and Play visitor or a new fan in waiting, we think you’ll find this an interesting read — and be charmed by Gerry’s infectious enthusiasm, as well as his dream to help save the music industry.

As a longtime subscriber (and advertiser!) of Pete Howard’s defunct release sheet ICE Magazine, I was really happy to find Pause and Play. To what extent were you inspired by ICE, and what — if any — lessons have you taken from their disappearance?

I loved ICE. Many people probably don’t know this, and I’m pretty sure it’s true, I was ICE’s first Tokyo correspondent, in the late 1980s. I was the entertainment editor and music writer for Pacific Stars & Stripes, the daily newspaper for U.S. troops stationed overseas. I subscribed to ICE, and somehow I think Pete contacted me about contributing on CD news coming out of Tokyo. I had a blast doing it. I might have been the first person to tell him that the Japanese were releasing Beatles albums and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds on CD before they reached U.S. stores.

In our storage unit, I still have a box of old ICEs. I really miss reading it, and I was crushed when it went under. I have always wondered what happened to Pete and if he even remembers me.

Was I inspired by ICE? I’m sure I was, even if it was only subconsciously. When I started Pauseandplay.com in 1997, it was originally just a vehicle for my artist interviews, but eventually it evolved into this massive CD-release schedule. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because that’s where I got the most reader feedback. ICE, though, was a totally different beast … Pete and all his contributors could delve into every nuance about CDs, how they were made, the sound quality, why a certain producer made a difference on a particular album, etc. Who could compete with that? They were on a completely different plane than Pause & Play.

ICE got its start in print and developed a great following, but thanks to the Internet, CD news became more immediate in the mid- to late 1990s. People could get the information with a click, rather than waiting for ICE to come in the mail once a month — even though most of Pete’s CD news was still very relevant. By the time he went online, it was too late.

Still, to this day, when someone mentions ICE, it breaks my heart.

I had no idea about the site’s origins — selfishly, I’m glad you made the change in direction. How did you collect your release information initially, and how has that process evolved? Have you reached the point where the labels are contacting you directly?

At first, I relied on the labels to feed me information, but as time went on, their interest began to wane. I suppose they wanted to control the dissemination of CD news themselves; of course, that’s impossible now in the Web world. Even the littlest guy on Twitter can beat me to the punch on a release date.

After a while, many labels got eaten up in mergers and many of the familiar faces in publicity departments at the labels lost their jobs, so I heard even less from them, and, to make matters worse, illegal downloading went unchecked. They didn’t trust anyone anymore. I knew things had changed the minute that Rhino — my favorite label of all time — was put under the Warner umbrella and they dropped me from their mailing list. There were exceptions, of course, like Legacy. They have never wavered in keeping P&P informed on their releases.

Over the years, readers started sending me e-mails about their favorite artists, giving details on when their albums were coming out — like my now-buddy, Jef Fazekas. He would always keep me up to date on Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Rosanne Cash, Suzi Quatro, you name it. It kind of snowballed from there — lots of e-mails would roll in; I still rely them a lot. And when I linked up with Amazon.com, Pause & Play really took off.

Entertainment Weekly, God bless ‘em, was the first major publication to recognize Pause & Play’s efforts (well, actually, one of the bigwigs at AOL spelled it out for them), and the labels finally began to take notice. They’re getting better about keeping me informed, but there’s still lots of room for improvement. Why all the secrecy still about when an album’s coming out? You would think they would want to generate interest.

As you’ve noted, the site has grown quite a bit over the years. Is this a moneymaking proposition for you, or still a labor of love? Do you foresee a day when you’ll command a Pause & Play media empire?

It has grown in readership, very much so, but since I’m pretty much a one-man show, I don’t have the time or the expertise to pursue full-blown advertising. I’m the ‘content’ guy, not a ‘money’ guy. I do have an affiliation with Amazon.com, but it’s certainly not enough for me to quit my day job as a newspaperman (which is certainly a dicey profession these days). I like to call it ‘my Amazon money,’ money I can spend on the kids, things around the house. So, yeah, it’s still a labor of love. And I’m OK with that.

If, however, a big entity like AOL, Yahoo, Google, Rolling Stone or Billboard (hint-hint, everyone) were to come knocking on my door and say, ‘We love your site. We want to buy it and have you run it on our site,’ I would do it in a New York heartbeat. I take care of Pause & Play AND have a full-time job … If I was able to make Pause & Play my ‘full’ fulltime job, just imagine what I could do with it, how much I could improve it. I want to do more artist interviews, I want to do more research and call around about new releases, I want more time to meet with the label people one-on-one, develop trust and relationships, travel to all the big music cities.

Music is my life. It has been since the day I first heard Casey Kasem do ‘American Top 40′ on the radio in the early ’70s. I’m going to do this, regardless.

I hope this doesn’t sound trite or like a convenient sound bite, but I have one goal in mind for Pause & Play: to help save the music industry. I want to help make it a well-oiled machine again, because it has given me so much over the years – specifically, the artists themselves. I want to give back, or pay it forward, as it were. Music is a constant in everyone’s life; it never goes away. Hopefully, Pauseandplay.com serves as a reminder that music’s still viable.

It doesn’t sound trite at all — someone’s got to do it. In fact, now I’d like to hear a little about your ideas for the future. What are your plans for the site in 2011? Any goals or changes you can share with us?

I have a lot in common with musicians … I won’t feel I’m a success until I can quit my day job. That, and I have several goals in mind: I want a Pause & Play phone/iPad app … I want to dust off that movie screenplay I wrote 12 years ago that features Todd Rundgren songs, and revisit it … I want P&P to be the first Twitter follower for Eminem, Kanye West and Neil Diamond; between them, they have a combined 4.5 million followers. C’mon, they all need to stay up on whose album is coming out when … And I’d like to go totally against the grain and open a record store, not close one. I’d call it, of all things: Pause & Play Records.

Regardless, I’ll keep on keepin’ on.

Well, to wrap this up, why don’t we talk about what our readers can do to help you reach your goals? I love the site. Like you, I was crushed when ICE went under, and I’ve found your work invaluable. How can we help you conquer the world (and save the music industry)?

Every little bit helps … They should keep their enthusiasm for music. Don’t download illegally (that’s so 2000). Click on P&P’s links. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Tell your family and friends to do the same. Visit a record store; help keep them in business. Go to a concert, buy a T-shirt; keep the bands and venues happy. Listen to commercial radio (even if it pains you), listen to NPR, visit your favorite music sites and blogs (i.e. Popdose). Email me if you think a CD is missing from the release schedule. Email me if you see a mistake. Be respectful, tell your mother you love her, feed your cats canned food, not dry food, tell the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who’s sorely missing from their exclusive club. That’s all.

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  • http://www.theseconddisc.com Mike Duquette

    An excellent chat. P&P was one of my inspirations for The Second Disc, and for that I’m quite grateful. (I would hike to any corner of the U.S. for a Pause & Play Records!)

  • Keith

    Such a great interview – I had no idea Pause & Play existed, but I’m glad it does. I just perused through their listings and saw some exciting releases I had no idea were in the pipeline (Dropkick Murphys, The Bangles, Material Issue’s reissue, etc.). The labels’ insistence on keeping their in-store dates a secret is beyond me. Yet another example of their view that the record buying public is their enemy instead of their customer. And they wonder why people download illegal leaks when there’s no sign at all when the real deals will be overpriced and out of stock at our nearest Best Buy.

    As social media continues to intertwine, I’d love to see online new release news coordinate with special promotions (coupons, special editions or packages, etc.) at indie retailers. Why can’t National Record Store Day be every Tuesday?

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Thanks for commenting, Keith — I’m glad you enjoyed the interview, and excited to read that we helped someone find Pause and Play.