Not the Last Record Store

Matt YglesiasAfter Matt Yglesias came back from Singapore, the first thing he did was write an article about how old I am, Someone’s Opening A Record Store. You see, I have a pretty big music library that spans many different genres. It ranges from Devotchka to Jacques Brel to JJ Schultz to various Mozart Operas. But I haven’t purchased a single song as an MP3 or through iTunes. I just don’t trust it. I like my little discs that have the songs stored on them. Yes, these discs can be destroyed, but I have no children and I’m not an animal. So I have decades old discs that look brand new. (And yes, I also have vinyl.)

I take these discs, convert the songs and put them on my phone. And I am happy. And if something goes wrong and my micro-SD card destroys them all, I still have my discs. It’s very nice—very comforting for an old man. But do you know what I like most of all: the total lack of licensing software. I assume that what I’m doing is legal, but there is no doubt what I’m doing is ethical. I don’t rip the music and then sell the disc. For one thing, that would destroy my whole old man anxiety prevention program based on the fear that that I will lose my music because of a computer malfunction.

So where do I buy these old man discs? Well, I’m not that old so I often buy them online, sometimes directly from the artists themselves but more often from Amazon. But I also buy them at my hometown shop, appropriately called The Last Record Store. I first visited that store 30 years ago, within days of its opening. And the first album I bought was The Velvet Underground & Nico. They’ve moved since then, but they still run the store the same way. And the main thing about it is that the guys love music—in particular, they love the kind of music that I love. I remember commiserating with Hoyt Wilhelm about the death of D. Boon, the guitarist of Minutemen:

I suppose we could have commiserating over twitter. And there is nothing at The Last Record Store that I can’t find online. But there is something electric whenever I’m there. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who love music. And the physical experience of browsing is something that has never really worked online. That’s especially true in their $5 or 3 or $10 CD bins or their $1 vinyl bins where there is no ordering at all.

I think that Matt Yglesias understands all this. But he’s still being tongue in cheek when he writes:

On my recent trip to Hong Kong I saw a fascinating business in the Pacific Place Mall. It was kind of like a music store, except it was a physical shop. Instead of searching for the songs or collections you wanted, you would browse physically through their inventory. They stocked digital music files the same as any music store, but the files were encoded on optical disks that you could use to transfer the files to your computer. They also had a certain amount of what initially looked like large-format optical discs but were actually a kind of analog music storage format that could be used with specialized equipment.

Yes, I suppose that to the 20 somethings, such a place would seem unusual. And Yglesias can sit back and have a bit of a laugh at the stereotypes of the young and the old. But if physical music stores are really coming back, that’s a great thing. It’s a shame that they have to be combined with “coffee sales.” But that’s probably just my reaction to the musical dreck that Starbucks sells. The main thing, though, is that corporate physical music stores are not going to cut it. Music is a special kind of consumer good. Purchases really do say something about you, and not in the way that AXE Body Wash has sold you the idea that using it will turn you super cool. Music is personal, and I (at least) want to buy it from people who understand that.

I’m not sure that Matt Yglesias understands that, though.

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