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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2011/02/28
by Mike Gruenberg

The Record Store Experience

In My Life

I’ve never really adjusted to buying music at a “big box” store. I like to buy electronic stuff at stores like Best Buy, but when I am there and looking at the latest laptop while passing through the CD section, it’s hard for me to take that part of the journey seriously. There is a certain sterility and overall coldness to a big box store. Target, Wal-Mart, all have their place in the American shopping experience. I just don’t think that the buying of music has a place in those outlets. It’s like the difference between going to your favorite uncles’ house for Sunday dinner as opposed to eating a pre-wrapped sandwich at Starbucks. Not the same!

For me, buying music needs to be a complete experience. I need to see a full selection of the artists’ works. I need to have a knowledgeable salesperson available who understands the type of music and artist I am looking for and who has the time to discuss all aspects of the music with me. I need to be in a mellow environment where other like-minded people are looking to have the same music store experience as me.

Recently, I went to record store in Fort Worth, Texas called Doc’s. Clearly, it was off the beaten path and it certainly did not look like much when I got out of the cab. However, once inside and browsing at Doc’s turned out to be a great experience. They had LP’s, 45’s, CD’s, posters, t-shirts, books, etc. Everything was perfectly categorized, easily found and dusty. It was a fulfilling browsing experience. And sure enough, I found a rare Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band LP there.

Unfortunately, stores like Doc’s in Forth Worth, Music Exchange in Boise, Infinity on Long Island and Ed’s Record Paradise in Silver Spring, Maryland are outnumbered by the big chain stores that sell everything including music as opposed to my preferred establishments that sell music and music related items and nothing else.

However, I am old enough to understand and have certainly witnessed technological progress in my lifetime. It looks like this internet thing is going to catch on. It looks like my i-Pod will continue to store my music library although I am amazed that to date, I have close to 20,000 tunes on that 4” by 2 ½” device. That being said, I fully embrace the new technology, but wonder how a person can buy music today and just download it and not be interested to hold the CD/LP in their hands and want to read about the artists’ music that was just bought by looking at the cover of the record.

I was therefore thrilled to learn that late last year, SONY Music launched a new Pop Market store
. It’s part old school and part new school which shows that everything old is new again. The concept here is to conduct limited time sales of deluxe physical packages of music through an on-line environment. In essence, this takes the place (although nothing ever will) from the now departed Tower Records, Virgin Megastore, HMV Store, etc. SONY obviously understood that people will always want to own special music collections. They also realized that they have an enormous catalogue of rare music that could be offered at a reduced rate since they are selling it themselves and not using a middle man which only jacks up the price of the music. SONY’s marketing is using the strength and far-reaching scope of the internet to make their collections available. Furthermore, their research concluded that the rise of downloadable digital music has impacted the sales of multi-artist box sets.

Voila!

It works like this. The Pop Market site advertises daily deals for a limited time span. To participate, you need to register on the site and you will be informed of the daily deals through e-mail, Facebook, etc. Since the deals are for a limited time only, a clock on the site tells everyone how much time is left to make the purchase at the advertised price.

They recently offered a 43-disc set called “The Genius of Miles Davis” of which the allotment set aside for the customers sold out very quickly. Given the length and breadth of the SONY catalogue, one can expect some very unique and aggressively priced collections to be made available. Today, on the site there is a Johnny Cash special sale collection available to commemorate his 79th birthday. Customers have the ability to not only take advantage of the daily deals, but also be able to scan through the entire SONY catalogue.

It may not be the same record store experience that I recently had at Doc’s, but since I have stores like Doc’s available to me, I will use SONY’s Pop Market site in addition to my record store browsing to find that rare music to continually add to my collection.

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