"I've been lucky to be able to do this," says Charlie Manning. "It's not like it's not a job you ever think, 'Gee, I gotta go to work today, how crappy is that?' It's fun. It's like going to your house ... and seeing a lot of people and a lot of people that have become your friends. Time flies by and you just don't expect it to change. And I guess that's probably one of my personality flaws. I think everything's going great forever and it's going to stay that way forever."
This is from an NPR article on the closing a local record store in DC. I know I worked in a big retailer, but there were days I really felt like it wasn't that bad, even as I was personally embracing new technology. The industry as a whole was filled with a lot of hubris, and that has not helped a lot of these smaller retailers, just like how the book industry did a lot to hurt independant retailers to the point where they might not be able to find a real niche with the changing technology.
There's just something special about taking something that you love, putting it in another person's hand and saying "You got to hear this." Or walking into a place and hearing something you've never heard before and realizing you need it in your life. It's a lot like love at first sight, or being introduced to a girlfriend. (I'm thinking of you, Norah Jones).
As I read this, I also thought about Blue Note Records, a record store that used to be in North Miami Beach where I bought a lot of vinyl, and where I first heard Norah Jones playing a week or so before the release of Come Away With Me. I was enamoured, and one those psycho sales people that pushed it on everyone when the album finally dropped. I never imagined it would become as big as it did. Then it did.
And I'm still eargerly awaiting her next album.
In a Borders Books and Music in Aventura, I first heard Porcupine Tree playing in store. I'd never heard a band that so closely seemed to capture whatever has been playing in my head for years. That said, they had a music manager that well curated their Progressive Rock collection. I'd go in there, and I'd always find something I'd need to take home.
Hell, from bosses and fellow employees, I learned there was more to certain genres and even 80's New Wave than the few hits we hear on the radio. Intellectually, I knew, but in actually listening and embracing the styles, I great expanded my understanding. Its easier to hear where a lot of things that are currently popular come from.
In hindsight, I probably spent way more money on music than I probably should have. However, either a big retailer like FYE, or the long lost Borders, or smaller retailers there's something to be said for the exploration.
Online, using a lot of the new music applications and services around, you can do it. Somehow, it just seems harder to really share the things you love. The music snobbery is taken to a higher level. The trolling gets old. The sheer "wow, dude," that is experessed when hearing something completely new that sings to part of your soul is just lost. However, using Spotify, I've found some really cool stuff I'd never even heard of before. Even on Amazon, I've found some good stuff. Still, it just isn't the same of accidentally findign something because it was playing in a record store you walked into....
Maybe, one day, we'll be able to figre out the best of both worlds.