Another Record Store Day has come and gone, with vinyl enthusiasts flocking to their nearby record stores to pick up the latest special releases and perhaps an extra goodie or two as well. The extra traffic coming through the doors is a boon to record stores struggling to stay in business as digital music downloads proliferate and flourish.
Not all of the record stores are so fortunate to still be around. Melody Record Shop, a family-owned business that had been selling music to its loyal customers in Washington, DC for 35 years closed its doors for the last time a few weeks ago, explicitly citing the competition from the Internet as the reason why they were forced out of business.
Having grown up spending lots and lots of time browsing the stacks at places like National Record Mart, Mook’s, The Record Exchange and even Sam Goody, there’s a part of me that’s awfully sad to see the demise of record stores everywhere. A trip to the record store was always like a little treasure hunt and I would always leave with something new and exciting. I could (and did) spend hours browsing through artists familiar and new, looking for something new to experience and great deals on used albums. One girlfriend even refused to go to record stores with me after awhile because she would get bored while I combed the entire store. Suffice to say, that didn’t work out.
When I saw that Melody was going out of business, it made me a little sad. In part, that’s just my general regrets about the demise of record stores anywhere, but this one hit home a little bit because this particular store was less than two blocks from my apartment. I would walk past it every day on my way to work. Now, it’s just an empty storefront with promotional materials for albums that came out late last year posted in the windows until a new tenant arrives.
Even though I have a general sense of regret that Melody is gone, I can’t really get too upset about it. Even though it has been so close for so many years, I don’t think I actually bought something there more than once or twice. Back when I lived in San Francisco, I would trek about ten blocks to Amoeba Music and before I knew it, I had dropped $100 or so. Amoeba might (literally) be the best music store in the world, but I probably wouldn’t shop the same way today, even if it were still right down the street.
Truth be told, I like buying music online. At first, it was buying new and used CDs from Amazon. They simply have a selection and prices that can’t be beat. Then, they started to offer daily deals on mp3 albums for $3.99. I had resisted buying digital albums for awhile for several reasons, but that’s a price point where buying the bytes becomes competitive with and perhaps superior to buying the disc. More recently, the daily deals have increased to $4.99 – similar to Amazon’s typical 100 monthly albums for $5. This makes it a closer call, but with prices like these, I’ve been buying (at least) one album a week for the last year or two.
There’s definitely something that I’ve lost since I stopped visiting record stores, but I certainly don’t miss the $18 CDs, the awkward categorizations or the diminished opportunity to preview what I’m buying. If I were a vinyl collector, this might hit home a little harder, but I’m not (yet), so it doesn’t. I will, however, light a candle and pour out a 40 for the countless record stores that won’t be around to celebrate another Record Store Day. At the same time, I’ve already been fully embracing the future of music buying. It’s pretty good too and it’s offering me a good experience too.