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Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time Paperback – September 6, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Courtney Smith

Q:What do you want readers to take away from Record Collecting for Girls?

A: I want people to really think about what music they like, how they listen to it, and why. I would like them to end up feeling even closer to the music they love, and discovering things they had no idea they loved because something prompted a spark. After someone reads "Top Five Lists," I love to hear that they started making their own list—and that they want to send it to me, and talk about it!

I’d also like everyone to dig out their most embarrassing guilty pleasure (mine is the Pussycat Dolls, as you’ll soon find out) and tell me all about it.

Q: I’m not a girl. Is there anything here for me?

A: While there are a few "girly" things in this book, most of it is for anyone who likes to talk about music more than is socially acceptable. It happens to be told from a female perspective, but anyone who can stomach listening to a lady talk for 200+ pages (and in this day and age, I would hope that’s everyone) should find something that reminds them of an awful--or awesome--thing they’ve done, and the soundtrack that was playing when they did it.

Q: How did your background in the music industry affect your writing?

A: The first thing it did was give me lots and lots of crazy stories about musicians— some of which I couldn’t dream of retelling, because I would get in too much trouble. Early on, I learned that meeting your idols is almost always a bad idea. Except Elvis Costello who is, of course, charming and wonderful and generous and the greatest person ever.

The weekly debates at MTV over which videos to add to the lineup--I called it MTV Fight Club--heavily influenced the way I evaluate music, and gave me quite a lot of insight into how different musicians are marketed. It was always fun when the debates turned into passionate arguments and forced me to look at music analytically, as well as from the perspective of a fan.

Q: You seem to take music very personally. How did you decide what to include from your own personal life in your essays? Was there anything off-limits?

A: Look, after my friend Gina made me admit to liking the Pussycat Dolls, it was pretty clear nothing was off-limits. That, more than anything, is what I was embarrassed to write in the book, but it had to be said. "Guilty Pleasures" is all the better—and all the more absurd—for it.

In an early draft, "Rock and Roll Consorts" was based around a playlist from my relationship with a rock star, but I sounded so bitter and insane that I scrapped it before the book was even a proposal. There is no way I would ever tell anyone what was on that playlist; after writing it down, I realized it was much too personal. I’m sure there are people who wish I were as private about all my relationships, but those are the breaks!

Q:What's been the response from your friends and industry associates who've seen themselves in your essays?

A: My mom was annoyed that I implied she had mom-like taste in music in "Guilty Pleasures," but she understands it was done for comedic effect. For the record, she has very good and rather adventurous taste in music.

Most of the people in the book saw I wrote about them in advance, so there won’t be any big surprises. A few people corrected my memories of events, which I very much wanted them to do. Historical accuracy is important. Only one person asked me to make any changes—and rightly so—but on the whole, everyone was extremely indulgent and told me to write whatever I wanted. Even though a few friends told me it was weird, they still can’t wait to read the whole book, which I am taking as a good sign.

Q: Come on, now. What do you have against The Smiths?

A: Seriously. Think about your mindset when you listen to The Smiths. Do you not put them on when you’re depressed and self-indulgent? When you feel the world has done you wrong? When you feel unloved and sulky? I absolutely indulge in The Smiths now and then, when circumstances demand it. However, a totally-in-love superfan? No, I don’t want to date that. It’s just not my cup of tea. We can still be friends though. Possibly.


"Girl music nerds have been debating Beatles versus Stones and curating their collections for as long as male music snobs, but that perspective has been on low rotation; hail, hail, Courtney E. Smith’s Record Collecting for Girls, a mix tape of female rock history, playlists for getting busy and coping with heartbreak, and essential info such as how to decode a dude’s CD collection (Yo La Tengo = romantically hapless; Leonard Cohen = asshole)." —Vanity Fair


"Courtney Smith has smarts and sass in spades. Her insights are as hilarious as they are thoughtful and when you finish reading this book, you’ll feel like you just got home from a perfect night out with your best friend. And you’ll want to listen to Prince. Full volume." —Megan Jasper, Executive Vice President, Sub Pop Records


"Record Collecting For Girls is an invitation for all of you stereophiles, (who happen to be female), to make your own top five lists, and then, armed and ready with the book's fun facts, to argue their merits to the ever present boys' club of music snobs in your life."  —Sarahbeth Purcell, author of Love Is the Drug and This Is Not A Love Song "Insightful and hilarious...Smith easily blends her own musical coming-of-age narrative with rock history...This is a book for anyone whose day has a soundtrack and for whom music reigns supreme." —Publishers Weekly

"A melodious road map...There is much here that is both interesting and infomative." —Kirkus


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Original edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547502230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547502236
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Courtney Smith has more than a decade of experience working in the music industry. She left MTV after spending 8 years as a music programmer and manager of label relations, where she was one of the executives who decided which videos went into rotation on all of MTV's 20 music platforms, including programming MTV2 Subterranean (the only nationally broadcast indie rock video show) and mtvU (a 24-hour college music channel) and created launch programs for emerging artists like mtvU's Woodie Awards. She has played an important role in deciding what music entered the pop cannon for the last decade.

Smith specialized in grooming upcoming bands and was an early champion of, and has worked closely with, Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins, Franz Ferdinand, Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys, Lykke Li, Bat for Lashes, and more. She is credited with getting MTV to expose and add to their rotation more adventurous music from bands like No Age, Klaxons, Justice, and She & Him. In addition to programming MTV2 Subterranean, she was executive editor and author of the Subterranean blog for three years, from its inception.

The author has spoken as a music authority on panels at the New York CMJ festival, the by:Larm Music Festival in Norway, and on a Twilight Convention on a panel about the music of the Twilight saga (to keep it real).


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Montgomery on September 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
I approached this book expecting rock criticism written by a woman. The first chapter is an excellent essay on that very topic. Sadly for me, the book quickly changes course to focus on the author's love life. Record Collecting reads like a blog to book memoir and as such it's marketing does author and reader no favors. If I had approached this as "My Years At MTV" or "The Guys I Dated And The Music We Listened To" I am certain my reading experience would have been different. Courtney Smith can be entertaining. I might have given it a 3. As a music guide - it's completely lacking. Smith offers little in the way of musical education or expanding one's knowledge base. Her advice is fairly simple, listen to things and see if you like them. Readers expecting a personal memoir will be far more satisfied than readers looking for a woman's take on building a record collection of depth.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Whitney VINE VOICE on December 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I agree with author Courtney Smith that music nerdism has largely been the realm of guys, and that women should come forward and embrace their own musical obsessions. I'm just not sure that Smith is the one I want leading me in the charge. I was hoping that it would be inspirational, give ideas for finding new music, that it would explore new genres and give insight to what connects us to music. Yet the book actually feels more like a printed blog. It's more memoir than true essay. For a book about empowering women's musical tastes it is too boy-crazy. Every essay seems to reference some guy she dated or was obsessed over. I get that the friends (and especially the people that we date) can greatly influence our musical taste, but the boy talk was distracting and I think a more skilled writer could have done it much better.

Where the book does shine is when Smith is revealing and embracing some of the silly but very real idiosyncrasies of music nerds, the idea of a favorite band selling out, or what a guy's favorite band might say about his date-ability. While I am a diehard Smiths fan, I had to admit that she has a point about overly-obsessed guy fans. She admits to some of these foibles in a genuine and humorous way.

The playlists at the end of each chapter are helpful if the reader wants to explore more of the music she references, but personally I didn't feel the need to actually listen to any of the music as overall I had heard of most of the bands she referenced. While I can respect Smith's experience as a music programmer at MTV, I don't feel that experience makes her the right person to lead the charge. As I mentioned before this book reads more like a blog and probably should have been kept in that format.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By The Mariners Fan VINE VOICE on November 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I tried my hardest to finish this book, and it literally took me almost 3 months to do it. I was excited when I received this and dove right in, and in about 20 minutes i put tossed it on the floor. As others have stated, its a book that is more of a badly written memoir accompanied. Her constant attempts at being funny were annoying and her musical taste is well...just as bad as her writing. Granted we all have different tastes in music, but hers was I felt extremely limited to a couple of genres. If you're going to write a book about music, i expect a broader range of it. Plus her condescending attitude was unnecessary, unless it was meant to be funny....which none of it was.

This book has nothing to do with record collecting, or anything other than her musical tastes and her relationships with men. And these relationships seemed like something a teen would encounter, not a grown adult. Overall, i'm really happy I didn't pay for this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By sarabella VINE VOICE on May 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
...but definitely not what I was expecting.

Some decent insights on gender inequality in music and (some of) what influences women in music, but more of a memoir of someone I don't care about and a one reviewer put it "Record Collecting for Girls Who Care What Boys Think".

Overall, I'm kinda bummed I chose this to read over some other great books in my "to read" pile.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have to preface this review by noting that the music lovers I know - no matter the age or gender- usually have strong opinions about which songs and albums they love and loathe. They are prone to spirited and often loud debates about the merits of serious musical artists.

I note this only because I think author Courtney Smith couldn't avoid the inevitable issues that arise with a book like this: opinions about music, stated strongly and directly, will cause a certain percentage of readers to boo and hiss...simply they don't share the same views. I understand this impulse, having been shocked to discover the musical "taste" of some of my friends. The urge to judge was strong but reason prevailed..well, so far.I still have a hard time understanding how a good friend could possibly like the music of...well, never mind. I'm sure you get my drift.

If one uses Record Collecting for Girls as a conversation starter and inspiration to think about "top 5" lists of favorite artists, can be quite a fun read. But it is isn't what I would call a guide ( as the title suggests). Instead, it is a series of often intriguing essays combined with the author's memories of the music which influenced her life. Yes, there are playlists but they are only a part of what is contained in this book and I wouldn't call them guides.

As I read Record Collecting for Girls, there were several topics which kept my attention. I especially enjoyed the piece, "Where Have All the Girl Bands Gone?" with info about Phil Spector ad his domineering personality but also his absolute genius when it came to finding and promoting musical talent. It was a trip down Nostalgia Lane to read about The Runaways, the Go Gos, and others.
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