August 15, 2008

Things said and unsaid in a record store.

Me: "I love your T-shirt. I've had that record since the 60s. Love the artwork."

Record Store Guy: My friend made it for me. I don't know where she got the picture.

Me: She probably downloaded it from the internet.

Unsaid thing: And yet here I am, buying a CD box set from you, when other people are downloading their music from the internet.

Thing I just realized: I could have save $10 buying it on Amazon.

Explain: The continued existence of record stores.

40 comments:

LutherM said...

ANN;
Ella used to sing it - does it fit you ?

I am not such a clever one
About the latest fads
I admit I was never one
Adored by local lads

Not that I ever try to be a saint
I'm the type that they classify as quaint

I'm old fashioned
I love the moonlight
I love the old fashioned things

The sound of rain
Upon a window pane
The starry song that April sings

This years fancies
Are passing fancies
But sighing sighs holding hands
These my heart understands

I know I'm old fashioned
But I don't mind it
That's how I want to be
As long as you agree
To stay old fashioned with me

MadisonMan said...

Being able to touch the item before you purchase it. That's why brick/mortar stores persist.

And being able to interact with an actual live human during purchase. Could you have had the same interaction with the Amazon sales people? I think not.

corporate law drudge said...

When I buy a cd I make a copy for the car and a copy for my stereo, and rip it at the maximum sampling rate to my ipod. I haven't figured out how to do that on itunes. Is it possible?

There's also that serendipity in discovering and liking a previously unknown song on an album that you bought because you liked the hit. This doesn't happen when you cherry-pick singles off itunes.

So for me it's amazon or the record store (usually, ugh, circuit city). I guess we need record stores to keep Amazon honest.

bill said...

If anyone was taking a survey -- I'd estimate I get about 50% of my music from used CD stores (cheaper than downloads), about 25% directly from the artist (small artists, figure they get a bigger cut that way), and 25% downloads (iTunes and Amazon). Physical CDs are immediately ripped to the computer, then the CD and liner notes are stored in a notebook. Jewel cases are mostly thrown away. I kinda hate the artists who use the cardboard jewel boxes because they don't fit in the CD sleeves in the archived notebooks.

And I still buy the occasional vinyl.

gophermomeh said...

Because it's fun to be social and have shared interests, or not.

Middle Class Guy said...

I was recently through the Gold Coast in Chicago when I saw an over the top, beautifully designed, turntable. It was so well designed that one had to look twice before you realised what it is.

I guess some people still like to play records.

J said...

Record Store Guy: "Can I help you find somethng?"

Me: "No thanks - I'm familiar with the alphabet."

"Being able to touch the item before you purchase it. That's why brick/mortar stores persist"

MM's on the money here. This habit may change over time, but it won't anytime soon.

"And being able to interact with an actual live human during purchase"

On the other hand, except for checkout I view this as the single most unpleasant aspect of shopping. I don't view shopping as a social experience, don't consider attempts to forcibly impose a social component on an experience I don't consider social good customer service, and I can't recall a single instance of a store employee's input on a purchase decision having any value at all. Harrassment from salespeople is the primary reason men don't like to shop. Why retailers can't figure that out is a mystery for the ages.

Simon said...

corporate law drudge said...
"There's also that serendipity in discovering and liking a previously unknown song on an album that you bought because you liked the hit. This doesn't happen when you cherry-pick singles off itunes."

Bingo. What's the best song on U2's Pop album? It's If You Wear That Velvet Dress, which was never a single, which you'll never hear on the radio, which is unlikely to be featured on some TV show. You only know it if you bought the album. Ditto Terminal Frost from Floyd's Momentary Lapse of Reason, and about a billion others.

Nevertheless, that goes to buying whole CDs rather than where they're bought, and I took the latter to be the focus of Ann's question.

Simon said...

[Two versions of the afore-mentioned If You Wear That Velvet Dress: the original album version, which I find hypnotic and compelling, in a kind of otherworldly, tripped-out way, and a slinky big band version with Jools Holland's orchestra]

veni vidi vici said...

The interacting with live humans is less about interacting with staff than with other, likeminded folks with shared interests, as noted above by gofermama.

This is most richly experienced when buying vinyl, in my experience.

I used to stop at Tower Records every Friday on the way home from work, check out what's new, spend a nice time trolling the dance music section, listen to the CD's on the listening posts, etc., and usually walked out with something. Since they closed it, I go to Amoeba once in awhile but not as frequently because it's out of my way, but I end up spending more time looking at used stuff to pare down my "want list", and I have tended to fall out of touch with keeping up with new releases by artists I really enjoy.

On the other hand, Amoeba has a big vinyl section for electronic dance music, new and used, so it's a great place to spend time going through the stacks and looking for hidden gems. On more than one occasion, I've been implored to buy some $3 12" single I've never heard of by another music lover for whom the track was magic/meaningful (note this happens a lot with instrumental/trancey stuff); I have not been disappointed with these recommendations yet, and some have caused me to hunt down other releases by the before-then-unknown-to-me artist.

Maybe it's just me, but the Amazon "recommended for you" bot program's selections do not have the same effect on my likelihood of purchasing.

MSD said...

Two words: High Fidelity.

Jeremy said...

I find pandora or last.fm to be much more reliable in recommending something that I'll like then the high school flunky at the record store trying to push the latest Panic At The Disco album.

Jeff said...

A visit to the record store is a journey of making connections. You walk in, and you probably have your purchase in mind. You hear what is playing on the store's stereo. That song makes you think of an artist you haven't considered for years. You look for that artist's CDs, and along the way discover three others you might be interested in buying. Then the next song comes on (the stereo is on shuffle). The process begins anew.

Repeat until satisfied. You can do a similar thing on Amazon, but it just ain't the same.

Trooper York said...

Hey bill is that where you get your Yanni albums?

Stupe said...

You're concerned about saving money on music....yet you didn't experience the same concern, and qualms, while buying an overpriced pantsuit at huge retail markup ?

You don't mind grossly overpaying for fabric, ---and all because the Clothes Shop gave you a glass of water....

....yet you expect your music to be priced dirt cheap ????

Maxine Weiss said...

It's in the absolute worst neighborhood there is. But, apparently, Mother and son don't mind venturing into sketchy territory....

http://www.musicmanmurray.com

bill said...

Trooper York said...
Hey bill is that where you get your Yanni albums?


Yes, Trooper. You got it on the first guess. Any other questions?

TMink said...

"I guess some people still like to play records."

Yes, we do, and I am one of them! I am currently ripping my vinyl at 24 bits and 96k hertz. The resulting files are HUGE but sound great. Well, they still do not sound quite as nice an the original vinyl, but they sound much better than cds.

Vinyl it the only playback medium that has shown growth. From 1% to 1.5% mind you, but growth!

I am also ripping my cds at full rez, they just sound so much better and terabyte drives are under $200.

Vinyl no longer rules, but is certainly still lives.

Trey

Trooper York said...

Just testing dude. I know you read my comments you John Edwards you.

Can't we all just get along?

Plus reading your blog you definitely seem more like a Hanson fan.

vbspurs said...

Explain: The continued existence of record stores.

Like everyone else, my answer is about the shared social experience.

This week I've been sick in bed. It's a point of pride with me, that I've seen EVERY Top 10 summer movie, and many others besides.

Since I couldn't keep up my pace of watching the latest crop, I could've downloaded them on Btjunkie, but I didn't. I paid my 9 or so dollars, I queued up for the popcorn, I sat behind a rail placed by a stupid architect during "Mamma Mia!" because the showing was packed...but I didn't download them.

I have Swing Vote, Pineapple Express, and though I REALLY don't want to see this film, Travelling Sisterhood, still to watch.

And I will do so at the cinemas for the same reason that Music stores like Spec's still exist:

Sharing stuff together when you WANT TO, is part of the fun and freedom of life.

Cheers,
Victoria

bill said...

TMink, what's your vinyl-ripping set up? I'd been without a turntable for awhile before picking up an Ion USB turntable last year. Quality is decent enough, it's simple, and I get to listen to records that haven't been pulled off the shelf in 10-15 years. Also use Click Repair, which does an excellent job of cleaning up some of the worse for wear records.

And The Child plays old Disneyland 45s on a Cabbage Patch Doll portable record player. Of course I rip 'em so we can play them on the iPod in the car.

There's a lot of great stuff that will probably never be digitized by the recording companies.

Beth said...

I buy cds for the same reasons corporate law drudge offers - I rip them for a couple of ipods, two computers, and keep the cd for when any of those things inevitably crash. And I like the stores that let me listen to some tracks before I buy something. I buy lots of stuff I'm not familiar with through that method-I'm willing to be seduced.

I'm of mixed feelings about the retro t-shirts I see all over campus. I commented on my student worker's Dead Kennedys t-shirt and he patiently started to explain to me that they were a punk band ... I actually said "Shut up, you little snot." Affectionately, of course.

Smilin' Jack said...

Thing I just realized: I could have save $10 buying it on Amazon.

Explain: The continued existence of record stores.


You can drive to a record store and overpay for a CD. You can pay a little less at Amazon, and wait several days for your music.

Or you can download it all for free from Usenet, get it now, delete the stuff you don't want, and burn your own CD with the stuff you do want in the order you want.

Of course, that's illegal. On the other hand, did you really obey all the traffic laws when you drove to the record store?

Simon said...

Re vinyl, I'm reminded of 3d Rock:

Dick: [examining a CD] "Such primitive technology. I wonder if the people on this planet will ever discover the superior sound of vinyl."

Stupe said...
"[Y]ou didn't experience the same concern, and qualms, while buying an overpriced pantsuit ... ?"

We won't know if it's overpriced until we see it, now, will we?

chickenlittle said...

bill said: "There's a lot of great stuff that will probably never be digitized by the recording companies."


e.g.
I digitized my vinyl version with "Sound Studio", which came bundled with MAC software. I laboriously eliminated some of the rude pops, but otherwise love the crackling warmth of well worn vinyl.

glenntkenny said...

Me: "I love your T-shirt. I've had that record since the 60s. Love the artwork."

Record Store Guy: My friend made it for me. I don't know where she got the picture.

Me: She probably downloaded it from the internet.

Unsaid Thing, Record Store Guy: Yeah, whatever, grandma. Cash or credit?

chickenlittle said...

Burn!

Trooper York said...

Ouch!

Sigivald said...

Corporate: Well, An iTMS purchase should sound just like a "maximum fidelity" (Which is itself undefined; which format, what bitrate? Lossless? Who cares, unless it's the best-mastered Classical or Jazz in the world, and you have the world's best ears and stereo?) rip from some other source (see above caveat, but suffice it to say your car stereo is not good enough to reveal a difference).

And it can burn CD copies of playlists just fine, so there you go. I'm confused as to why you even had to ask "Is it possible".

Ann: Re. your final question, two or three semi-related things come to mind:

A) Being able to ask someone passionate about music, who's available and there to answer your questions, "I like X, Y, Z. What do you suggest?"

B) Hearing the in-store music. This has deeply rewarded me a few times.

C) Happenstance. You're non-zero probability likely to find something interesting just browsing.

(Online sources, of course, have "also-bought" links which perform some of the same functions.)

And then there are the specialty record stores, which can have things that you simply can't get online.

Obscure limited-release drone, noise/experimental, or black metal recordings are often released in limited editions that a specialty store might stock, but only a small number of them might eventually make it to iTunes or Amazon - but that's an admittedly limited market.

John Stodder said...

Explain the continued existence of record stores? What records stores?

In California, the greatest record chain, Tower Records, went out of business two years ago. So did most of the great independent stores, like Aron's. Yes, there is a counter-example, Amoeba, but its existence sort of makes the point. For the entire 10 million-plus Southern California market, there is one Amoeba. Here and there you see a smaller used-CD and LP shop, but I'm convinced most of them are fronts for some other kind of business.

I surely miss the days when I could waste time going through stacks of records. Living in Berkeley, within a few minutes walk from every apartment or dorm room I occupied, I could get to Tower, Rasputin's and Leopold's, and probably one or two others. I didn't just discover new artists that way, but whole new genres that I never realized how much I could enjoy.

But apart from the sensual memories of those stores, am I really so much worse off now? My iPod is full of stuff I didn't know anything about a year ago. My local library has a lot of interesting CDs you can check out for free for three weeks (and rip). The web is loaded with sites extolling new or vintage music. It's a lot more useful than trying to divine if I'd like something by staring at cover artwork. Maybe not as poetic, but if the point is to enjoy great music, we're living in a golden age.

blake said...

I occasionally go to lunch with more pop-savvy friends who would pick out a stack of "essential" CDs for me.

The Internet is great, on the other hand, because you can get music that would never be found in stores.

blake said...

Hey, wait.

There's music on Usenet?

I thought it was just porn?

Or was that the Internet?

RR Ryan said...

It's the randomness of the experience.

Ann Althouse said...

"Unsaid Thing, Record Store Guy: Yeah, whatever, grandma. Cash or credit?"

Uh, Glenn, you're not very observant (for a film critic). The guy was wearing a Neil-Young's-first-album shirt and didn't seem to know how his friend got a picture of it. You think he was a young guy or an old guy?

And this is an arty, specialized Madison record store, not some big chain.

You missed the picture entirely... old man.

Old man take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that's true.


Uh.. wait... that doesn't work. I don't like that image at all... in the vicinity of Glenn Kenny.

Who, btw, looks like this and is obviously old (though not as old as he looks).

Mrs. Ethel Chintzi said...

"And this is an arty, specialized Madison record store, not some big chain."

Doesn't that go without saying?

I think we all well know, by now, you'd never compromise your idiosyncratic, hip, image by blogging a chain store (chain restaurant) experience.

dick said...

When I was in Rio on vacation a couple of years ago I asked the guys at the hotel desk to recommend some music and they made up a big list for me of artists to look for. I went to a fantastic music store called Modern Music with my list and found a great guy who spoke and read English fluently. I gave him my list of names and he helped pick out some of the best and then recommended a couple more for me. They also had a restaurant/jazz show going on where they sold the privately mastered recordings and I ended up with some more. I came back with a ton of great recordings and a new friend just by going to that record store and also had some good meals and saw some great musicians. Can't find that with Amazon for sure.

Revenant said...

I can't remember the last time I bought a CD in an actual store. Amazon is almost always cheaper and gives excellent recommendations.

vbspurs said...

Modern Music

Dick, if that's the big music shop in Copacabana (a few yards away from the Copacabana Palace Hotel, where RFK stayed in '65), I know it so well.

The people are awesome there!

Kev said...

I may have said this on a previous thread, but I still buy a considerable amount of actual CD's vs. downloads, if for no other reason than the lack of liner notes on the latter. For us jazzers, it's important to know who played on the record besides just the named leader; the sidemen make an equal contribution, in most cases. And there's still something impermanent about an mp3 or even a burned CD (says the guy whose old computer crashed twice, taking his entire iTunes library with it; granted, that computer didn't have a CD burner like the new one does).

But (scooting back on topic), even when I do buy real CD's, most of them come from Amazon or Barnes and Noble's website. The only true CD stores I visit anymore are of the used variety. I go to my neighborhood B&N to use the listening stations on a regular basis, but most of the cool stuff I find on there is never actually in the store, so I have to go home and order it off the website. It's a Catch-22: The store's selection is bad, so I buy more stuff online, so the store doesn't sell as much, and their selection stays bad. (The store closest to me "rewarded" its customer base this week by replacing an entire aisle with audio books.)

One more thing: If I'm about to see an artist live, I definitely buy a real CD; it's not like I'm going to get them to sign a burned copy after the show...

Kev said...

One more thing:

Harrassment from salespeople is the primary reason men don't like to shop. Why retailers can't figure that out is a mystery for the ages.

Amen to that. If you want to be The Clerk That Makes Kev Happy, here are a few rules of thumb:

1) Don't jump in my face the minute I walk into your store. I might just turn around and walk back out (yes, I've actually done this). I'm not saying don't greet me; please do. I'm just saying don't pounce.

2) That being said, I would like to know where you are in case I have a question. (Do this one thing, and I'm a happy camper.)

3) Two words: Don't hover.

Does this make me a Grumpy Shopper, or just a typical guy?