Record fair- craving the physical object in a digital age

by Jason Gross

8 November 2005


Riddle me this.  CD’s are supposed to dead.  Vinyl is supposed to be even more long gone than that.  So why is that WFMU just had its most successful record fair with over 4000 people attending their show in Manhattan?  Granted that it’s gone from bi-annual to an annual affair (so as not to interfere with FMU’s spring but still, you have to wonder why thousands of people would still cram into a convention center to worship what’s supposed to be a bygone media format.  I mean, could you imagine having an MP3 fair… offline, that is.

Some record companies and artists (notably Garth Brooks) have cried about their music being resold though thankfully, they haven’t taken to shut down fairs like this.  You think that some tiny little voice of reason is saying “Hey dummy, these people love music and want to keep buying it!”

I myself walk into the FMU fair always thinking that there’s nothing else I could possibly want to buy after some 30 years of music hoarding but I’m always wrong.  I wind up buying a new pile of records that I didn’t even know that I wanted before I walk in there.  This time it included Joe Ely’ s Live Shots, Music for Computers, Electronic Sounds and Players (including Charles Dodge), Neville Brothers’ Fiyo on the Bayou, Good to Go (a D.C. go-go collection), the Windbreakers’ A Different Sort…, Root Boy Slim’s first album, Tom Johnson’s An Hour for Piano (with Frederic Rzewski), the Reds’ self-titled album, Yung Wu’s Shore Leave (aka the Feelies) , Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Music from the Penguin Cafe, the Motors’ Tentative Steps, Robert Fripp’s God Save the Queen, John Cale’s The Island Years and the Minatures collection (which I already had on CD but wanted the vinyl copy for the poster).

Again, try to imagine doing this in a digital realm.  E-Bay does sell CD’s burned with Windows media files but how soggy is that compared to getting a real CD or album.  Yes, we people at these record fairs are a bunch of obsessive geeks who still crave the physical object when it comes to music but so what?  What’s so bad about that?  Sure it bucks every trend that’s supposed to be happening in the music biz now but who said that these trends were worth following or that it has to make sense for all music fans?  It doesn’t and I for one am thankful that I’m not alone in thinking that.

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