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A music lover, on the record

By Anna Marden
Globe Correspondent / September 17, 2011

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Q. The title specifically references record collecting, but the book discusses a huge scope of music consumption and interaction. Why did you use that vocabulary?

A. If you read the essay on the death of the record collector, I’m all about getting over the idea that record collectors are just people who buy a bunch of records. I think it’s dumb. I think it’s more about the way you talk about music and the way you’ve collected music. So I wanted to open it up and not just make it something that is exclusively for people who collect vinyl albums with a certain completest mind-set and give other people who maybe feel excluded from that world the idea that they can be included and that they can talk about music.

Q. “Record Collecting for Girls’’ has a pretty interesting organizational style. Can you explain how and why you created the chapters?

A. My editor and I had lots of debate about what order the chapters should go in. It changed vastly from when I first wrote the proposal. My editor and I sat down with a puzzle of all the essays and figured out which order to put them in. So there’s not two super depressing or super personal chapters right next to each other. Then, there’re these little interlude chapters that are very short that are more of the how-to stuff in the book. Like, if you don’t know how to use music blogs or how to find free music - they’re very short little palate cleansers, almost like sorbet.

Q. You also added relevant playlists to the end of each chapter. How do those fit in?

A. That was my editor’s idea. A big part of why I worked with the specific editor that I did is because she doesn’t know as much about music as me, so she could tell me when I was getting too boring and educational. We debated a bit, but ultimately I’m really glad I [included the playlists]. A lot of people have said they wanted to stop and listen to the [mentioned] songs while they were reading the book and that the playlist really helped, because they could go use Spotify or YouTube and make the playlist and listen to it while they were reading. I think that’s really cool.

Q. What kinds of research did you do to prepare for writing the book?

A. For some chapters, I did tons of research. The very first essay I wrote was Beatles versus Stones, and I didn’t have an opinion on that question. I had avoided answering it. But I read the huge 900-page Beatles biography and about five books on the Stones, and I read some books on marketing in the ’60s to wrap my head around how Beatlemania happened. For the essay on where have all the girl bands gone, I actually started that thinking it would be a play on Beatles versus Stones, but it would be Go-Go’s versus Bangles, and I started doing a lot of research reading old magazines with interviews from the ’80s with both of those bands.

Q. Do you have any upcoming writing projects in the works or in mind now?

A. The next thing that I really want to write is a book about country music for people who don’t like country music. Sort of explaining the eccentricities and weird lifestyle choices about it that you wouldn’t necessarily know about if you weren’t involved in it.

Interview has been condensed and edited. Anna Marden can be reached at

Courtney Smith
Smith is a self-proclaimed music nerd who has had a successful career driven by her passion. She worked at MTV as a programmer for shows like the indie-rock video program “Subterranean’’ and as a label relations manager who helped bands like Death Cab for Cutie and the Shins find their fame. After more than a decade working in the male-dominated music industry, Smith was inspired to write a conversational new book about music from a female perspective. “Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time’’ is in stores now.