Friday, January 18, 2008
I'm terribly sad that New World Records is closing up shop. They were always good corporate citizens, for one thing, happy to come through with donations for arts organizations' fund raisers, and pleased to promote local musicians. I felt their absence immediately when they moved from Elmwood to Hertel-- the store was a haven, a place to duck into if you were kicking around Elmwood, and if I walked out with a new side eight or nine times out of ten, so much the better. I'm also sad because it is pretty clear that this sort of Championship Vinyl business is on the way out. "The Gift Shop on the Titanic" is how they describe themselves, but it's worse than that-- they are in the buggy whip business. I didn't make the move from LPs to CDs for a long time, and now CDs, which once seemed so space age are as dated and outmoded as Tang. The artifact aspect of purchasing music is fading out even more quickly than I would have guessed, and I hate that. I liked 12" record jackets, with their interesting art and useful gatefolds. I liked the rituals associated with playing an album-- slipping out the inner sleeve; being careful to hold the record by the edge and the label to avoid fingerprints; maybe brushing it off with your Discwasher brush. I liked that music was in a form that had a discrete beginning, middle and end, and that the LP form obliged you to listen to the music in a linear manner. I liked that fact that you could exercise creative dominion over your music by crafting mixtapes-- something of a lost form now. A mix CD feels disposable, and lacks the rigid structure of a carefully composed tape. And iPod playlists are not the same thing at all. The future is inevitable, and with it is always change. We'll download music to chips behind our ears soon enough, and I'll bet we won't have jet packs or personal hovercraft then, either.