Wednesday, October 30, 2019

2019: The Year We Stopped Buying Music?

The only person who buys more records than we do: Sir Elton. 
As a voracious music consumer, I thought that I was what the music business coveted: Easy money.

With no wife, kids, or mortgage, I could easily drop $300-400 a month on new CD purchases alone. When you add in the mountain of used product, numerous rock magazines (many available via import only and, therefore, quite costly), concert merch, and ticket stubs, it is a miracle that the rent check never bounced.

Around the turn of the century, though, there was a noticeable sea change when the industry seemed to suddenly stop giving a shit about that trusty Male, Aged 25-34 demo that still dropped substantial sums on physical product.

Meanwhile, the same Napster that had given everyone with a wi-fi connection access to free music was costing me more money than ever because I could now hear all the albums that I'd been staring at in the bins over the years. Plus, I could hear new releases without having to touch a sticky set of broken headphones down at the Tower or Virgin Megastore. Those albums that met my strict criteria for "not sucking" were duly purchased.

For another decade or so, all this free music, combined with my proximity to an Amoeba Records location (L.A., baby), was putting a serious dent in the amount of money I was able to spend on overpriced coffee.

As a musician, myself, I always prided myself on either buying directly from the artist or, at the very least, buying a new retail copy so the label and, to a much lesser degree, the artist got paid. Hell, I could walk into a store called "Second Spin" or "Recycled Records" and still only buy new releases.

After all, it was what I, the aspiring artist, would want others to do if the shoe was on the other foot, yet there I was, standing in front of a ginormous Amoeba new releases display featuring a full-priced Weezer CD for $14.99 while, on the other side of the same store, I could grab that same disc from the used section and pay $6.99 or less.

I fought it for as along as I could, but the debate that took place on my shoulders between the angel and the devil was not even close. Ultimately, being able to buy twice as much music eventually won me over to the dark side of used titles.

Even so, I was still buying a considerable amount of new releases at regular price or worse. Fer instance, If I happened to be killing time while my girlfriend browsed for books, I might go home with a copy of Summerteeth purchased at absolute "Why in the hell are you buying music in a big box bookstore?" retail.

Or I'd see a movie at the art theatre on Ssunset Blvd. and walk directly across the concourse to a Virgin Megastore to buy the soundtrack, price be damned.

Then came Spotify, Youtube, and all the rest, which, again, provided a gateway to free sounds.

This time, though, these popular streaming sites are operating with the music industry's full blessing, leading those of us who still buy music to feel as if we're going well out of our way to preserve a business model that even the music business itself does not want.

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