Monday, April 29, 2013

Record store closures, downloads next to go?

SPIN's article about the final days of Bleecker Bob's record store in New York should be bronzed and archived for future generations who won't have any idea what record store culture was aside from "High Fidelity" (assuming anyone still cares about that movie in twenty years time).  Maybe kids will ask their parents where they got all those vinyl records and CDs (assuming there will still be machines capable of playing CDs in twenty years time) that clog up so much room in the basement, and the ensuing stories about dad's favourite second hand vinyl shop that will seem as quaint as drive in movies and roller skating parties do now.

All the characters in the SPIN story -- the 50-something clerk with no last name who seemingly has no job prospects or ambitions beyond  working in a music store, the hippie founder, the workers who "specialize" in buying a specific kind of music or music memorabilia -- are becoming extinct.  Everyone who frequented music shops knows these kinds of people, they're the same in every city.  And everyone says the monoculture is dead!

I'm actually quite sad about all of this, I mean, it's a huge chunk of "my youth" that's been decaying for a while and will eventually go missing.  But at least record stores will probably outlive downloads -- Steven Hyden summed up the situation recently on Grantland in a "future of music consumption" article that masqueraded as a tribute to Record Store Day.  More specifically, vinyl will survive yet another supposed threat to its existence.  Tapes were supposed to be more portable and less fragile, CD were supposed to sound better, downloads were supposed to be the ultimate in convenience, and all of them were supposed to make vinyl irrelevant.  Instead, after hitting a low sometime in the early 90's, vinyl sales have been slowly rising ever since.  As Hyden points out (and of course it's obvious to anymore who has ever left their house to buy music or practically anything else from t-shirts to fruits and vegetables), the process of buying the music is enjoyable and will be nearly impossible to deprogram out of some people.    

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