From headphones to vinyl, Local Spins’ gift guide offers ideas for the music lover on your list: local products supporting Michigan’s music scene or representing unique gifts curated by a local expert.
It’s long overdue.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
But after a pandemic-impaired year, the first-ever Local Spins Christmas Gift Guide still comes at the perfect time — a breath of fresh, COVID-free air.
Of course, it’s only apropos that Local Spins would focus attention on Michigan-based products for the music lovers on your holiday shopping list — or in a couple of cases — gift ideas curated by local experts such as DJ extraordinaire Todd Ernst. Regardless, there are only 19 shopping days left before Christmas, so get rocking, rolling, scrolling and clicking now before it’s too late.
RECORD STORE ROMP
It’s been a challenging 2020 for independent record stores, so stay local for your holiday purchases. Here are three West Michigan retailers to consider and remember, gift cards always bring a smile on Christmas Day. – R.O., J.S
Vertigo Music – A staple for Grand Rapids music fans, Vertigo Music is a wonderland of recorded media, new and used. Its sprawling aisles cater to any taste, and the thrill of hunting for sonic treasure is a gift that extends beyond space and time. Curate your own gift combo, or choose a gift card.
Corner Record Shop – This Grandville shop has a massive inventory of new and used vinyl, cassettes and vintage audio gear.
Green Light Music — Kalamazoo’s version of record central has great online offerings, from releases you can pre-order to featured albums for purchase.
VENUE-LOVERS MOTHER LODE
There’s no groovier way to support local concert venues derailed by COVID than to buy — and flaunt — their T-shirts and merch. Plus, your gift recipient will be considered a forward-thinking fashion icon. – J.S., R.O.
The Pyramid Scheme – One of Grand Rapids’ favorite spots to grab a drink, catch a show and run into local music makers and other creators, The Pyramid Scheme has hosted some of the area’s most memorable touring and local shows. The venue also has an array of hip merch to outfit both trendy millennials and punk-rockers alike. T-shirts and posters feature vibrant, eye-catching designs that pay homage to both the landmark venue and the city.
Price: $12-$30 for T-shirts; $15-$30 for posters
The Intersection – Even the Local Spins publisher proudly displays his distinctive “SECTIONFAM” shirt. That’s because 100 percent of proceeds go to the venue’s hourly employees.
Price: $20 per T-shirt.
EARFUL OF ECSTASY
If the last 30-plus years as a DJ has taught me anything, it is that your hearing is paramount and your headphones are not something to take likely. Bose, nope. Beats by Dre, not a chance. Hands down my go to brand for the past 15 years has been Audio Technica; the sound quality is darn near perfect as it comes, and their build quality is second to none. Below are two that will guarantee a smile this holiday season. – T.E.
Best Overall – Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT – The ATH-M50’s have been their performance and studio flagship for several years. While they are not technically noise canceling, they are noise isolating by virtue of their closed ear design. A few years back they came out with a wireless bluetooth model which rates at the top of the list anywhere you look. The great thing about these is they can be used both wired and wirelessly, as some feel bluetooth diminishes audio quality.
Price: $179 ($199 list price)
Best Value – Audio Technica ATH-M40 – The ATH-M40’s are considered the little brother to the aformentioned above, but coming in at only $100 they are no lightweight. I use these in my personal studio, as they seem to have a flatter frequency response and less ‘color’ than the 50’s. I bought these for our teenage son a few years ago, he still jokes to this day how big of a difference they were from his previous gaming headphones.
There’s no better place to download digital music and support local artists than Bandcamp.com. Not only does Bandcamp make it easy for artists to offer their music online but it frequently hosts special Fridays when Bandcamp relinquishes its share of purchase proceeds to the artists. For artist and album ideas, check out recent Michigan album reviews at Local Spins here, with more to come this week. – J.S.
Bandcamp Gift Cards – Literally, hundreds of Michigan artists have tracks and albums available on the website, so purchasing a gift card for the music lover on your list is an investment in local music.
Price: $10-$100 per gift card.
MICHIGAN MUSIC MAVEN MERCH
Speaking of supporting local musicians, the Michigan Music Alliance (based in Grand Haven) is all about that: It has created a fund to provide financial assistance to musicians who’ve lost income due to COVID. – J.S.
‘Support Michigan Music’ Merch – Michigan Music Alliance offers T-shirts, masks and stickers that give the music devotee on your list a chance to show off their love for Mitten State artists. The “Support Michigan Music” T-shirt and masks are a must.
Price: $20 for T-shirts, $10 for masks, $5 for stickers, $30 for a gift bundle
CAPTIVATING, COLORFUL CALENDAR CACHE
Sure, it’s our calendar. But we’re very proud of it and this annual gem is a unique gift for Michigan music lovers. Not only does it feature more than 20 Michigan acts and the splendid images of our intrepid team of photographers, but lists currently scheduled 2021 music festivals. – J.S.
Local Spins 2021 Calendar – Michigan band photos and festival listings galore to help count the days in style in 2021. Plus, a portion of proceeds goes to support a good cause: Access of West Michigan’s anti-poverty programs and Kent County’s food pantry network.
Price: $15; 2 for $25
MORE GREAT IDEAS: LUTHIERS & MUSIC LESSON MAGIC
There’s literally nothing like bestowing someone the opportunity to enrich their life by learning to play music — whether it’s a child or an adult. Opportunities in West Michigan abound, with dozens of musicians offering private lessons and music schools/academies providing invaluable instruction in everything from playing guitar to singing. Purchasing lessons for one of your loved ones is a unique gift. And during a trying time for full-time musicians, many are pivoting their skills to teaching and giving lessons. Seize the opportunity while touring musicians are hunkered down at home. Many can be found online here: https://lessons.com/music-lessons#popular. Oh, and Michigan boasts dozens of incredible luthiers who create handmade instruments that make a statement. Many can be found in this online directory here. Remember, too, that many Michigan musicians silenced by COVID are staging live-stream concerts where you can support them and donate to online tip jars. See a list in Local Spins’ “Viral Virtual Venues” guide. – R.O., J.S
Copyright 2020, Spins on Music LLC