Unopened

“Another issue is the fact we don’t have many record stores left. The experience we all grew up with of spending the afternoon browsing music in a record store, doesn’t exist anymore. So let’s wake up. Yeah, sales are down. But how many stores do we have? I wouldn’t be surprised if some smart young business person finds a way to open 25 or 30 wildly successful new CD stores. Because there is an audience for them.” – Scott Borchetta, President/CEO Big Machine Records, Think Tank: A Music Row Special Report, August 2007

Record/CD stores drove me crazy.  Because I love music, I always wanted to go to them (when they existed) and check out the selection.  But, it never failed, I left disappointed.  Maybe it was cooler before when vinyl was the thing – at least you could see real cover art.  But, looking through a bunch of CD cases to see what was new?  You could listen to a few CDs through greasy headphones that had been on who-knows-who’s head before you and usually never the one you wanted. 

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the idea of the record store, but not much more. 

Even when the stores started to get digital sampling stations where you scanned the barcode and heard the music, it was always a few seconds and, knowing the record company it was the intro or instrumental section, not anything helpful like the chorus (this still drives me crazy on the iTunes store – think about what you want people to hear!!).

The one exception to this was Blockbuster Music’s (remember?) short-lived program to let people listen to any CD in the store.  They opened the package for you and you listened and then they sealed it back up in their own plastic.  This was amazing!  I would go up almost every night and listen to all kinds of albums.  I discovered David Wilcox and listened to his entire catalog.  I bought several of his CDs.   I always went back to the rack, though and bought the unopened copy.  Thus, this was the fatal flaw in Blockbuster’s strategy: people listened and then didn’t buy.

People talk about the “scene” at record stores.  But, as a kid (and even an adult) breaking into that scene can be quite intimidating.  But most of the music stores I knew were chains where the “scene” never existed.

What kills me about Scott Borchetta’s quote above is that it is so off-the-mark.  So many people running record companies are so out of touch.  It has been this way and continues.  When will the new generation of leaders take over the music business with new ideas and exciting visions?  When will they choose to make music rather than computers and software?

So, I’m all for retail music stores and digital music stores.  Just don’t make people walk or surf into a store and leave without the experience of amazing music.  If we do, the music and  the wallets will stay unopened.

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