Nov 15, 2010

Death of a Record Salesman

I do not care if I’m stuck in the 20th century; I still buy CDs and I’m proud of being that stubborn that I want to occupy space and waste plastic on something I could get digitally. I love the experience of buying a new album, unwrapping it, breaking the plastic seal and popping into a CD player. Call me a dinosaur, but I like interacting physically with the music I’m listening to and I love listening to whole albums instead of living in an eternal shuffle.

The fact that I was unable to find a CD store on my honeymoon is a true testament that the times aren’t a changing, they’ve flat out changed and what was once considered standard for any mall is quickly becoming a niche. One that is constantly contracting to the point that if you want to buy a CD, you have to go out of your way to find a decent record store or bend to the will of the Almighty Targets and Wal-Marts.

That Tower Records went under was bad enough, that they closed the Virgin Megastores is a crime against assholes like me who’d rather spend their time in a record store than shopping for clothes. My problem with listening to digital content is that I honestly think people take for granted what they hear. There’s no sacrifice to listen something you ripped off the Internet. I had to pass countless hungry weekdays just to save money to buy a CD. I still remember my buying experiences and the stores where I bought most CDs which I did buy at a store. Specs, FYE, Tower, Virgin, small record stores in NYC, record stores off the beaten path in Madrid. Every trip I’ve ever gone on, I’ve tried to buy at least one album so that the experience sticks that much more in my mind. My first time to NYC? David Bowie’s Earthling, Hackers soundtrack, and Villains by The Verve Pipe. My first trip with Mrs. Joker? Phil Collins Hits live and Kings of Leon. My second trip to NYC? Jet, Pearl Jam, and Elbow. My trip to Spain? Pearl Jam bootlegs and Mercromina.

Every time I’m on a plane, I’m listening to my beat up 90’s CD player which is still going strong. You know, the type that sucks up 4 AA batteries and has to be cradled so the disc doesn’t skip. That’s my experience with music, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My mix tapes? If I still had a tape player in my car, that’s what would be on.

That’s because technology shouldn’t replace enjoyment. The latest gadget or digital trinket means about as much to me as android technology. I don’t want my entire collection at the palm of my hand. I want to know the label by memory. I want to read the booklet. I want to smell that delicious freshly pressed new CD smell. I want artwork to mean something. I want the CD to have an interesting print. I want to feel my music, and the stores I used to get my fix on my trips are slowly fading the way of the dodo. But there are 29 shoes stores opening. I don’t care about shoes. I also don’t care much for digital readers. I want my books in tangible, dust attracting form because I want to feel what I’m enjoying and not simply fall into a tendency of having everything in my life turned into electric impulses.

Maybe I’m alone on this… but something tells me I’m not completely alone.

So to any and all who still support your local record stores:



RestrictionsApply said...

Thank you for this post.
I too am rather old school when it comes to these kinds of things, and I find it funny that we now consider CDs a thing of the past. I just read a news item regarding Facebook’s new messaging service, in which the author hints that email is also becoming a thing of the past.

What I miss most about record stores are the midnight listening parties. New albums are released on Tuesdays, and on Monday, at the stroke of midnight, records stores would have listening parties, with hundreds of people crammed into the place, new music blaring throughout the entire city block. The camaraderie, the conversations, the shameless promos and giveaways, the hook-ups… it was always an event.

I was there, at State Street Vinyl, when Metallica released “Load”; when Pearl Jam released “Vitology” and “No Code”; when Prince officially released “The Black Album” and “Gold”…

However, in defense of the digital divide, the Internet has helped me discover new music precisely BECAUSE exploring and taking risks doesn’t hurt my bottom line as much. If I really like what I downloaded illegally, I’ll buy it legitimately – as was the case with Jack White’s stuff.

Also, downloading makes getting a hold of rare tracks, live bootlegs, and obscure shit so much easier. Where else can you buy a Muppet's 30-second sound bite? Where else can you get that version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” Queen did on Saturday Night Live?

But yes, I do miss cracking open bullet-proof jewel cases. And let’s not even get into the smell of vinyl…

Joker said...

The mere fact you were there for Vitalogy and No Code speaks volumes as to why I consider you a true friend.

Don't get me wrong, I've also found a ton of new bands thanks to the net and Audiogalaxy specifically. But I've always been a random music lover in the sense that I look for the tracks on the surf vids I love and have been able to enjoy great australian bands like Spiderbait and Grinspoon, and new bands like Deadletter Circus, or old bands like Sugartooth and Kik Tracee. The point is that some of the most satisfying listening experiences in my life have come from buying new music and popping it into a player or buying 20 bucks worth of used cds and seeing if I chose right. Thing is I remember most information and entertainment I consume and I think that's been lost a bit. Loyalty to favorite bands is not exactly something from the past, but I don't feel as many bands generate the material or the following acts like Pearl Jam have been able to generate.

As for bootlegs, I agree we're just able to find pretty much anything we want, but I'm the type of cat that loves pulling out a CD no one knows about so people will ask who the hell is that. I'm not saying down with downloads, I'm just saying I just wish it wasn't such a hassle to find record stores so I can continue enjoying my own trip down music lane. :D

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