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Music

Negotiating the Dense and Boorish Clots, Or Shopping for Music

Introduction by Justin Cober-Lake - In this first of two installments of our look at music shopping, Zeth Lundy explains to us the need to continue seeking missing treasures the old-fashioned way. He might provide hope to Mike Schiller, who bemoans the death of the record collector in the age of easy searches and instant gratification. Mark Harris point out that physical stores aren't helping their own cause by letting genre distinctions shift in irrational ways. Still, Andrew Gilstrap argues that we have to keep supporting our local record stores, and Matt Cibula gives us 21 very good reasons to keep digging through the stacks.

NEGOTIATING THE DENSE AND BOORISH CLOTS,
Or Shopping for Music
:: 22.Dec.04 part one
This PopMatters Special Feature Section edited
by Justin Cober-Lake
(PopMatters Music Special Sections Editor)

I get excited whenever this time of year rolls around. With holidays abounding, I get to indulge my most essential consumerist impulses without a twinge of guilt. As the realization sets in that these goods won't actually remain in my hands, by joy wanes, yet I persist, encouraged by the knowledge that I can still pick up a few things here and there for myself. Most of those purchases come from music stores, which are becoming an increasingly complicated category. With a deep supply of experienced consumers on hand, PopMatters presents its take on the current joys and trials of shopping for music.

We're all driven by our love for music, but we've each had to search out an individual way that we're comfortable with acquiring it. While some of us have latched on to the Internet as a godsend for the frustrated and hermetical, others view it as the archenemy (along with giant retailers) of the true music devotee. The low prices and unlimited stock of the Internet work against the local record store, where the quest for music maintains an almost mystical center.

We've also learned, though, that those local record stores are as much sources of mockery and snobbishness as they are founts of enlightenment and reward. The record-store clerk, even before finding its quintessence revealed in High Fidelity, has become a mythic figure. The clerk disdains helping you, laughs at your selection, and has a superior intellect; yet this clerk also possesses the objects (some still unknown) of your desire. [For what it's worth, I once had a sweet clerk sell me the copy of Greetings from Michigan that she had reserved to purchase herself; while the transaction was going on, her sidekick explained how Sufjan Stevens was simply the name Cat Stevens had taken when he converted to Islam. See, not all clerks are evil or geniuses...]

In this first of two installments of our look at music shopping, Zeth Lundy explains to us the need to continue seeking missing treasures the old-fashioned way. He might provide hope to Mike Schiller, who bemoans the death of the record collector in the age of easy searches and instant gratification. Mark Harris point out that physical stores aren't helping their own cause by letting genre distinctions shift in irrational ways. Still, Andrew Gilstrap argues that we have to keep supporting our local record stores, and Matt Cibula gives us 21 very good reasons to keep digging through the stacks.

In our section second, we'll tackle Amazon, a dearth of stores, the joys of shopping, and the emotional pleasures of stuff. But for now, onto today's collection, which, incidentally, is provided to you absolutely free of charge.

Although you can look up my wishlist at Amazon if you feel so inclined...

   � Justin Cober-Lake, PopMatters Music Special Sections Editor


"The Plasticine Aroma of History" by Zeth Lundy
My affinity for record store hopping isn't merely a Captain Ahab fetish by any means; it's more a willingness to stay in touch with the aura of a place that feeds my habit. Resigning oneself to a life of online record shopping is like claiming to be a movie buff, but simultaneously refusing to watch films that are letterboxed, subtitled, or in black and white. Sometimes you've got to work to obtain that which you desire -- sometimes effort is demanded from you -- and frankly, if you can't stomach it, then you don't deserve it. [Read Essay]


"The Obsolescence of Collection (A Eulogy)" by Mike Schiller
We are the lost, the wounded, the hungry, the forgotten. We are the unmentionables of the music world, beasts of burden whose ultimate, lofty goals contribute nothing to the corporate bottom line.... We are the music collectors, and technology is killing us. [Read Essay]


"Bobby Brown Ruined My Music, and All I Got Was This Lousy CD" by Mark Harris
Over the last couple of decades, the alignment of popular musical genres has shifted. What used to be called hip-hop is now R&B. What used to be R&B is now jazz. What used to be adult contemporary is now country. What used to be rock is now punk. How am I supposed to invest in a genre when it won't stand still? [Read Essay]


"Cranks and Bargain Bins: You Owe It to Yourself" by Andrew Gilstrap
A quick check in the free-weekly ads for the local mom and pop shops reveals pretty much what I expected: the lowest price for the U2 is $12.99, which means that, at most, if they got a decent price from their distributor, that store might be making a buck profit for each disc sold. [Read Essay]


"'Yoink!' I Whispered; My 21 Greatest One-Dollar CD Nabs" by Matt Cibula
Here are the 21 greatest one-dollar CD nabs I have made in my life, at various music stores around the Midwest. Don't tell my wife. [Read Essay]

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