NYCD: The Blog

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


It's that time again, when we write something along the lines of "Wake up, folks! Time to start buying CDs and enjoying music again!" And, as usual, we'll get responses like "Hey guys, great email! I read it while I was burning my friend's CD collection onto my hard drive and checking out the new Playstation game. Keep up the good work! And let me know when someone starts making good music again!" Not to mention a few, "How dare you say to me I don't enjoy music anymore? Why, I just downloaded a song by the Shins the other day!"

As music retailers who are suffering through the worst time for our industry since we opened over 13 years ago, we can't help but take the turn of events a little personally. And it's not just us. The people behind the scenes -not the creepy, money-loving putzi who don't know the difference between Bob Dylan and Matt Dillon, but the die-hards who create and produce the music you "used" to love - are all suffering right now, as well. Why should anyone care about these people, or us, for that matter? Well, maybe you shouldn't. You've got your own fish to fry. But that doesn't change the fact that at one time, the same people who drooled over a Johnny Cash box set, and its wealth of unreleased material, now seem to think anything more than buying "I Walk The Line" for 99 cents on iTunes is unnecessary.

Somehow, we are being led to believe that it has become as dramatic as Sophie's Choice to decide between buying a CD, seeing a movie, or owning the second season of "Grey's Anatomy" on DVD. Don't get us wrong -- just because the economy seems to be getting better doesn't mean you are required to spend your disposable cash on a CD. Just don't blame the musicians. Don't blame the record execs. (Not this time, anyway.) And don't blame us. Just a few short years ago, "unreleased bonus tracks" were three very exciting words that got people all sweaty and happy. Now, those words get the proverbial "eye roll," as if we're trying to sell you a hot Rolex or asking you to play three card monte.

What happened?

It seems that people are trying to find ways to not WANT to buy music anymore. We have heard excuses ranging from downloading, to the tired ol' "CDs are too expensive." (No they aren't. They haven't been for years, now. While people were busy not going to record stores, the prices generally came down.) Another common reason for this drop in music sales seems to be the endless choices of entertainment. Video games, computers, and expensive toys seem to be giving music a scary run for its money. But wait, haven't video games and computers and movies been competing for the music fan's dollars since the '80s?

The single most blasphemous excuse, and the most inaccurate, is "There's no good music to buy." Have you bothered listening to some of the music you bought 20 years ago? It was CRAP! Try telling us the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack is better than anything that's out there now. Seriously, try getting halfway through "Neutron Dance" or "The Heat Is On" without gagging. So it's not like you haven't settled for garbage before now. Besides, there's plenty of great music out there to buy. There always is. It's not about "settling" for anything. It's a matter of caring enough to look for it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a personal anecdote about my recent music shopping habits.

I used to hit the record stores on Tuesdays (Repo Records in Bryn Mawr, PA during college; Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis during grad school; various shops on St. Marks and your UWS store up until two years ago). Each week, I would spend $20-40 at the store.

Now, I use generally use bittorrent, Amazon, and bands' own websites to get music. My friends also share plenty by burning mp3-ladened cd's. I refuse to buy tracks at iTunes--don't care for the DRM restrictions.

Bittorrent is great for popular new releases. I recently downloaded three Hold Steady records, the new Barenaked Ladies, Bloc Party, and surprisingly, the wonderful new Eddi Reader album. I bought Sloan's new 30-track masterpiece back in October through MapleMusic. Picked up Spiral Beach's new-wavy cd at the Sloan concert at Bowery Ballroom. I drank too much beer at the Brother Kite show and had to pick up their album through Amazon. And I was forced to drop 15 euros at the Galway HMV for Kris Drever's debut album.

I'm still a huge music fan. I listen to my ipod at work 3-4 hours a day. And I still buy some cd's, but I also download a lot more. I probably spend $20-40 a month on physical manifestations of music.

I don't envy your predicament. I'm sympathetic, but the death of the record store as we know it is progressing swiftly.


3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's my personal anecdote:

I used to buys tapes, then CDs... never more than one or two per month, and usually used, because that was all I could (barely) afford. I can't tell you how frustrated I was when I got a shitty album. There goes my music budget. Even then, the stuff I listened to was pretty safe and mainstream.

Then Napster came along and I could sample music to my heart's content. I discovered tons of great music that I would have never found in a record store - West African funk, little-known South American ambient acts, etc. There's no barrier to trying. If you don't like it, toss it, with nothing but time lost. That made me much more adventurous with my music and really broadened my tastes.

I told myself that I would pay for the stuff I liked, but I never did. I feel bad, but what can I do? First off, I have no need for CDs. Rare tracks? I can find almost anything online. Box sets? I can save the $80 that Cash box set costs and just download a torrent of every track he's ever recorded. At this point, I have more music than all but the richest and most obsessed CD collectors ever had. I couldn't pay for all that music in a million years.

The expectations have changed. The CD distribution model is not workable after Napster. I know record stores are hurting, but I can't say I care a great deal. They never worked for me (and I'm sure many others) in the first place.

4:54 PM  

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