When was the last time I went to the store to purchase a CD? I asked myself this question as I made my way through the electronics department at Wal-Mart this evening.
I saw a couple of young boys with their noses pressed against the iPod case, and a few people scavenging through the DVD bargain bin. Yet there were dozens of kids crowded around the demo Wii, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 units doing everything in their power to convince mom or dad to buy a game.
But I didn’t see a single person in the music section. Not one. It was a ghost town. I walked over to the large music display featuring what appeared to be the hottest CDs from today’s new artists. The only artist I recognized was Taylor Swift because I have a friend who
thinks she’s hot likes her music. I looked around a little more and noticed that every other CD I picked up feel into one of three categories:
- Past American Idols – What planet am I on when Ace Young has a CD?
- High School Musical Soundtracks – Imagine “Grease” with bad singing and acting.
- Miley Cyrus – Only a trip to rehab will save our ears.
If iTunes has made the music store obsolete does it follow that it’s made the music SECTION obsolete as well? There’s a part of me that misses the hours I spent discovering new music at the tiny Graywhale CD exchange store near the University. I’m convinced that had I spent the same number of hours studying I would breezed through college. But I was having too much fun sampling new music and seeing how much I could get for my well worn copy of Great White.
Every CD exchange store employee I’ve met has that trace of arrogance and Graywhale was no exception. Just above the listening station hung a sign that read, “NO AIR GUITAR ALLOWED” which made me smile each time I carefully placed a CD in the changer hoping to find another Jackson Browne, Pink Floyd or Pearl Jam. Behind the counter was another sign that said, “TRADE ANY CD FOR STORE CREDIT” and under that someone had written, “EXCEPT HUEY LEWIS”.
Now we have iTunes and Rhapsody and Pandora and Last.FM. Not to mention P2P and Bit Torrent which allow the computer savvy music fan near limitless avenues to pad his collection. But with all this fancy new technology I wonder if there’s something lost in the person to person recommendation? I know services like Last.FM try to do something similar but it doesn’t quite feel right.
I miss the days when a customer at Graywhale would tap me on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I see you’re listening to Grand Funk – if you like them then you’ve got to give this a listen”.
With apologies to Don McLean, the music never died. But it does has a new address.