Forward by Angela Quinn
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?‘” When Martin Luther King, Jr recited those words in 1957 to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama, he was speaking to the need for people to give back in whichever ways they can, for this is the very foundation of a community. King and his wife Coretta Scott King most certainly stood for community, as one of her most well-known sayings is, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” So what exactly does the King family have to do with some Facebook group about vinyl? Everything.
The King family is just one example of influential individuals who saw the value in positive community for all; everyone deserves to have some place, whether it be virtual or not, where they can belong and be treated with respect and dignity. For many of us, that place has been online vinyl and music groups where we hope to be accepted and respected by others in the mutual bonding over our passions for music. Music is one of the most uniting forces in the world, but it can also be used as a tool by some to divide. Some of the vinyl and music spaces out there are pretty awful places to be, where people attack one another, criticize equipment, and look down up one’s musical choices, as if to say that the person whose soul this music touched someway is insignificant, when the only thing of insignificance in those scenarios are the wasted two minutes spent dishing negativity out into the world. On the other side of every music post is a human who is taking the time to share their happiness with others, and that’s an act of community and human connection which should be valued as sacred. If you are one of the people out there rolling your eyes about how I just compared “some stupid groups on Facebook” to the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr, then you are in most need of community, for you clearly don’t get it what these spaces mean to people, and you’re clearly missing out.
The world is full of constant noise, some of which can cause undue stress and emotional harm. How many of us just stop to sit and think, without immediately getting the urge to pick up our phones to fill the void? Why do we have that reflex, such that the realization of a phone left at home immediately exhibits discomfort? Perhaps it’s because we’ve learned to rely on that form of connection with the world, and the Internet has allowed us to find our “tribe,” one we’d rather not spend the day disconnected from. The truth is that, in some ways, we need that “noise,” and the more we aim to seek out positive noise, the better off we will be. For many of us, our tribes and sources of desirable, positive community “noise” are the online music groups we frequent, some of which are such magical places full of learning and connection- so long as the community is committed to ensuring that these positive vibes are constantly spinning along with the spinners. Some of these spaces stand out among the crowd because they are run by admins who are committed to community. These admins get what community means for people’s souls, and why positive, safe spaces matter. Andy Meredith is one of those people.
Andy’s group, #NowSpinning, is positively one of the best music and vinyl groups out there because it is a true community. It’s full of people from all walks of life, who are free to post about whatever they choose and aren’t limited by overbearing rules or stifling negativity that makes them second guess every comment for fear of returning to discover that their post is not only removed, but they themselves have been removed from the community, often with little to no explanation. That kind of stuff simply doesn’t happen in #NowSpinning, which has consistently grown since its inception in October 2019. Every day, the group is full of interesting conversations and magnetic, positive energy. People need a community like this at all times, but especially during one of the most stressful periods people have ever lived through. Roll your eyes all you want, but a positive Facebook group where someone can just hang out and take their minds off life for a little while is one of the strongest forms of medicine that someone can ingest, and that line is being written by a nurse.
Individuals who understand the value of community, and work hard to promote positive community, are worth celebrating. One of the most important missions of Vinyl Writer is to put the spotlight on positive community leaders and to promote positive community. Andy Meredith is most deserving of this spotlight. Cheers, Andy!
Andy, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?
Thanks Andrew for this opportunity for me to talk a bit about myself and our music group. 2020/2021 has definitely been a roller coaster. Probably a lot like other people, I’ve had my good days and bad. What has gotten me through this year most has probably been my wife, my dogs and music. Sometimes even in that order. I’ve really expanded my social media network on Facebook and Twitter (I feel too old for Tik Tok, and Instagram is just sexy people not really eating sexy foods), to the extent of joining a group of people unified simply by having the same first name. That’s been a real trip.
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by music since I literally was a baby. My folks loved to go out to listen to live music, and didn’t always succeed in finding a babysitter. My first really vivid memory was me dancing at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, maybe age 2 1/2, because my sister wasn’t born yet. My grandmother lived with us for a very long time, and would sit with me listening to the radio. She played organ and piano in her church, so that helped me a lot. Growing up, we went to a lot of Country music festivals, and we saw acts like Johnny Cash, Willie and Waylon, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, etc.
I slowly grew out of Country music, and through friends developed a taste for Rock, Pop, Rap, New Wave, Punk and more. My friend Robb bringing over a copy of Born To Run probably had the biggest impact on me, when I was 14. It’s been all downhill or uphill from there.
You founded #NowSpinning in October of 2019, right? What led to you founding the group?
Well, that’s not a completely true statement. I didn’t start the group. I was invited to join it on the day it was formed, and inherited it about a month later. By then, I had sold my vinyl collection, so I didn’t have anything to play. That’s why it’s not strictly a vinyl group. I wanted it to be a music group, where no one got hung up about vinyl, sound systems, the proper pluralization of vinyl…
So, what I wanted the group to be was something a bit different than the other groups I’d been in. Fun, lighthearted, educational, community-centred…and above all, free from judgment. To that end, our first members were my friends and family, so it was a solid frame to build a group around. The timing ended up to be absolutely perfect. Three months after beginning, most of the group members were working from home and craving conversations and music.
You’re closing in on 1,400 members in your group. Why do you feel the group has been so successful? What sets it apart from other more restrictive groups?
Well, the answer to that is absolutely in your question, Andrew. I hope that the group never feels restrictive…feeling like you can’t do something is horrible. Early on, most of my post comments were centered on encouraging people to do stuff that other groups frowned upon. I used a lot of humour towards that end. If you didn’t feel like posting anything yourself, I would run daily questions where everyone could participate. And pets. Almost everyone has one it seems, and I like to see other folks’ puppies, kitties, and lizards.
In a year, I have only deleted two or three comments, and have yet to remove anyone permanently. It’s a daily occurrence in other groups I’m in. I think it helps that, since day one, I have been an avid supporter of all genres, not just the ones I like. Leadership from the top is essential for things like that.
I’m always thinking about what the members want, because it’s their group and not mine or the admins’. When I noticed that our group was only about 5% female, I went about inviting more women, and sought to include them in group decisions.
Above all, after encouraging members to contact me with any comments or concerns, I absolutely responded to them whenever they did. So far, I’ve been able to address most concerns before they became conflicts. I don’t have a spotless record on that, and a few friends have departed disappointed, and I feel bad about that.
One of the things I enjoy about #NowSpinning is the rules are both positive and inclusive. You allow the members to talk about anything and even sell records within the group. I’ve also noticed you allow them to promote their own stores, brands, groups and music. Why do you feel this approach works so well?
People don’t just listen to music, and I encouraged them to talk about the bands they’re in, the books they’re writing, the shows they produce, the stores they run, etc. I still didn’t want to turn the page into a sales or auction site per se…that can become a bit busy…but everything else was golden.
I started out with the basic precept that “Music Matters,” and everything flowed from there. As a fan of Jazz, I’m really not big on structure. So I listed all of the ways music touches my life, and figured that most people felt basically the same way.
Also, I am definitely not a strict person, and can be easily swayed with an impassioned and convincing discussion.
Your wife Sylvia is a moderator. She seems very supportive of the group. Do you two enjoy sharing music with one another?
Hmm…I guess the short answer is yes. Like most couples I think, our musical interests could easily be charted in a Venn diagram. We each have our own interests, and there’s a small area of agreement in the sweet spot, and those are the concerts we go to together, lol. I’ve probably introduced more music to her than vice versa, but that doesn’t really matter. Good couples don’t keep score.
Syl is very supportive of me and my pursuits, as I am with her and hers. I honestly wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. She would probably be most happy with me doing a daily radio show or podcast, but she knows that the group is enough for now.
Your admins are Jim Marshall and Michelle Taylor. How did you all meet and come together within #NowSpinning?
This goes back to the origin story of the group. I “met” Jim in another group over five years ago, and we’ve slowly become real friends over time. We met in real life about two years ago at a record show, and he was one of my obvious choices as a co-admin when it came up. I met Michelle through Jim, as they’ve known each other for years. It helped too, that she responded about 30 seconds after I posted my request for new group moderators, so her responsiveness and enthusiasm were big draws, too. Since September (I think), we’ve developed a really strong working relationship and rapport.
I think the overarching theme of #NowSpinning is community. Real community. Not BS masked behind a paywall. What are your thoughts and ideas regarding that? What’s your endgame goal for the group?
We members of #NowSpinning really only have our love of music which unites us, so it is absolutely a community.
As for my endgame, I fully expect to be voted off of the island sometime, when someone figures that they’ve had enough of my post-hippie love-in going on.
Before that, I would like to start a podcast with a rotating slate of member spotlights, similar to this interview. I also have an idea for a feature like NowSpinning-to-go, where I would turn the results of a daily question like, “What’s a great song about cars?” into a playlist on Spotify/Apple/Amazon, that folks could listen to when they’re doing stuff. That’s still in the early stages (i.e., I haven’t told anyone but you) of that development for now.
More concretely, I would like to get to the point where the group is self-sustainable. By that I mean that members outside of the admin team routinely post questions or themes, create new features, post music news, etc. It is happening slowly, and I’m perfectly happy with that. I don’t need or wish to be, the group leader. That’s really not my thing.
My understanding is you gave up your record collection. Is that true? What went into that decision?
Yes, that rumour is true. In late summer 2019, I found myself with a literal room of vinyl, and I was absolutely miserable. I was shopping online constantly, and our doorstep and mailbox would frequently be filled with mailers from around the world. I wasn’t enjoying anything about the wonderful records I was buying. At the same time, the literal compulsion to buy more was relentless. It took me a few weeks, but I ultimately decided that the only way to make this any better for myself was to sell everything.
Now, some of those records held huge personal importance to me, including the copy of Jeff Beck Group’s Truth which my dad bought for me just weeks before he passed away. My collection also had some rare gems that couldn’t ever be easily replaced. So I guess it was understandable that many people closest to me, including Syl, thought I was wrong to sell.
But I really do know myself well. If I didn’t get rid of everything, then the change I needed so badly in my life would remain only a band-aid. I had great success quitting smoking cold turkey in 2003, only by getting rid of all of my ashtrays, lighters, stray packs, etc. I didn’t “need” the money from the proceeds of the sale, but we bought a few things to make our lives a bit more enjoyable.
So, it’s been a bit over one year, and I haven’t bought any vinyl since. Made a complete break. I definitely enjoy music more again, and my overall mental health is improved immensely. I do feel very disconnected to the vinyl world though, and I do not keep up-to-date on release dates very well. So I end up very surprised when I see something like Anodyne by Uncle Tupelo getting a vinyl reissue, and ask questions to the other members.
I really hope you weren’t expecting “yes” and “no” answers to these questions. I definitely can ramble on with the slightest encouragement.😉
What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?
Born To Run– Bruce Springsteen, my first real Rock record…because you always remember your first. Also, every song hit me like a brick.
Hunky Dory – David Bowie, was like an invitation to a teenage me that it was okay to be as weird as you wanted to be.
Girlfriend– Matthew Sweet, every song is a snapshot of a specific phase of a relationship, and the soundtrack to my miserable summer of 1992.
The Trinity Sessions by Cowboy Junkies…because Margo Timmons is wonderful.
OK Computer – Radiohead, because I feel every single note in my veins.
Kind Of Blue – Miles Davis, this was my introduction into the world of Jazz, and always a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Fulfillingness’ First Finale – Stevie Wonder. Frankly, this entire list could be Stevie albums, but this one stands out above them all, for me. I just feel so much better when and after listening to it. For an example of what I mean, check out, “Heaven Is Ten Zillion Miles Away,” and see if you don’t feel like dancing everywhere like Julie Andrews in the beginning of The Sound Of Music…
Live – Donny Hathaway. My reasons are deeply personal, but very deep. It is the only record whose cover automatically becomes the group picture of the day. I’m pretty sure it’s been chosen 20 times or more last year.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.
Prince, Bowie, Springsteen, Stones, Otis Redding, Dylan, Miles, Beatles, Tina Turner, Radiohead, Marley…gee, I really should add more artists currently alive, right. Oh, here’s a contemporary choice: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Last question. You’ve done an incredible job with #NowSpinning. What does the future hold for the group?
Thanks for the kind words, Andrew, and for this opportunity for me to discuss #NowSpinning.
I hope that the future brings a more equal group, with a 50-50 representation of women and men; also equally represented in age groups. Also, more non-North Americans in the group. We’re doing okay in Europe, but the other continents have been a slow start. In terms of genres covered, I think we’re already in good shape. It’s still predominately Classic Rock, but we could use some more Jazz fans.
I was serious earlier though. I don’t want to be an admin forever, and I would absolutely step down if it ever stopped being enjoyable and rewarding for me. To that end, putting together a solid admin team is very important to me. Thankfully, I have a huge talent pool to draw upon. There is absolutely no shortage of fun, creative music fans from which to choose.
I have no idea how big the group will get, but I’m looking forward to watching it grow and prosper. I’m trying to come up with a cleaver or insightful close to this interview, but in the end, it’s only Rock and Roll, and I like it. I hope that your readers are curious enough to check us out for themselves. Every music fan is welcome, and encouraged to invite more.
Bye for now.
You can join us in the #NowSpinning Facebook family here.
Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews