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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Do Music-Lovers Still Need Record Stores? I miss New World Record. I'm sure I'm not alone, and I'm sure that the other people who feel the same were never going to be able to keep the place going-- they were in the buggy-whip business, and a neighborhood store like that, even in a neighborhood like mine, is going to have a tough time. Even the proximity to Buff State couldn't save it, since college kids are the exact demographic that has abandoned buying music as an artifact. These days I find music several ways: XM Radio has stations that play new things that I like, for example. (Would I have picked up on the Avett Brothers via The Spectrum? Probably-- I'm pretty likely to give any song that references Brooklyn a chance. XMU is also useful for those times when I'm wondering what the hell Pitchfork is on about.) Deep Tracks and Underground Garage both reconnect me to things I haven't listened to in a while.

And there are websites, of course. Popdose, is very useful; so is Aquarium Drunkard; and I am also fond of Rollo & Grady. Any Major Dude With Half A Heart overcomes the clunkiness of its off-site download process by providing well-researched content and unusual selections. (I particularly the regular feature on Answer Songs.) Something Else! services my jazz interests, although this is an itch that I mostly scratch in other ways. Heather Browne's I Am Fuel, You Are Friends is always charming. Of course, what I'm realling doing here is listing my current "preferred gatekeepers", but anybody with an appetite for music always has such.

Was there ever a time when I needed a record store to guide my purchasing decisions? I am not so sure I did. Back when J&R was a store I'd visit a couple of times a week (it was across the street from my office, okay? And near the courthouse.) I was reading Christgau and Giddins,and Greil Marcus, and Rolling Stone wasn't useless. Dale Anderson was the Dean of Buffalo rock critics when I was a law student; and it really was a kind of golden age for music criticism generally. We didn't ask the people in record stores for advice-- what we were really looking for from them was a little validation. For me that is the big thing that's been lost in my music purchasing, and although I miss it I also understand that validation is not much of a business model.

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