I can’t think of many places on the face of this great world that make me happier than record stores. In fact, they are probably my favorite place to go. I can happily spend hours digging through used bins full of albums by shitty 90’s one hit wonders in hopes of finding a rare or intriguing album that I have been looking for. I love going in to a record store and smelling the vinyl and second had books about music. I love looking at the concert posters and promotional items hung on the walls. I love listening to the cleverly obscure records that the (often) pretentious bastards behind the counter put on as overhead music. I love trying to discover the next big thing. I love spending all of my disposable income on albums and records. In short, the record store is my own personal version of heaven.
However, there is a problem with that. Those dirty little Shangri-la’s that I have come to love so dearly over the years are in pretty big trouble. You see, the problem is that fewer and fewer people are buying physical albums these days. I’m not completely sure why that is. Is it because of digital downloading? Is it because top 40 radio has created a singles based market? Is it because kids these days are just goddamned lazy and would rather sit at home and get fat? Who knows.
Right, so if I don’t understand why record stores are on the brink of extinction, then surely the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) will know what to do. Right? RIGHT?!?!?!
No. They don’t. They haven’t got a goddamn clue on how to fix it. Instead of working on unique and innovative ways to get people to buy their product, they have largely just obscenely punished individuals for stealing or sharing the songs they love. The RIAA hasn’t stopped there though. Last year they went after the P2P site Limewire and claimed that they owe them 75+ TRILLION dollars in damages and lost profits. Really??? That’s nearly five times the national United States Debt!!! Douche move guys.
Personally , I can’t pinpoint when the change occurred either. I can still remember reading the music news in the early 2000’s when albums were being purchased faster than they could be manufactured. Case in point is N*Sync’s 2000 release No Strings Attached. That album sold more than 2,416,000 albums….IN THE FIRST WEEK!!!! Now I’m not going to sit here and debate the musical legitimacy of N*Sync or their records. Go get back issues of Tiger Beat if you want that shit. I will however give them huge props for getting people to go out to the record store to buy up their album. The sales of that album alone kept some of my favorite stores afloat for a while and allowed me to lurk through the used bins for a few more years.
In the decade since though, albums have been selling less and less. Some even embarrassingly so. As a result, many of my favorite record stores have either downgraded or closed. I understand that in the grand scheme of things, that’s a pretty small problem. But for me, it’s a huge problem! Where am I going to throw away my expendable income? Where am I going to get my nerd on? I love reading album liner notes. It’s pretty hard to do that when they are all 1’s and 0’s. I’ve really just accepted that record stores are going to be gone soon unless someone comes along and does something about it. After years of desperation and contemplation about the subject (not to mention the countless beers) I fucking quit.
In spite of my giving up on saving the record store, I still like to check the sales reports every week. I guess I do this for a couple of reasons. First off, I like to pretend I’m a fancy executive checking my personal sales (lame, but true). Secondly, I think I’m a masochist. It hurts me to see something I love suck so much, but I just can’t look away. I suppose somewhere deep down inside I am hoping for a turnaround.
Earlier this week on Tuesday, I sat down at my computer on my weekly self-hate campaign to check the record sales reports. I always start at the bottom of the top 50 in hopes of a surprise waiting for me at the top, which is usually just an exercise in sadness on my part. For the most part, there was nothing unusual on last week’s sales report until I reached the number one spot…
Taylor Swift’s latest album Red shifted over 1.2 million copies. IN ONE WEEK! I nearly fell out of my damn chair when I saw three extra zeros. I had to do a double take and make sure I wasn’t on a still-drunk kind of hangover. I checked other sites, and indeed, the sales figure was correct!
Now, I literately know next to nothing about Taylor Swift. I know that she was the little girl that Kanye clowned a few years ago, and I also remember a song having to do with “Romeo and Juliet”. That’s it. I guess I’m not as current and up to date as I would lead myself to believe. What I do know is that she is probably single handedly responsible for bringing some record shops out of the red (pun intended) last week. And for that, I love her.
I decided to do a little more research about Taylor. Come to find out that she co-writes or writes nearly every song that she puts out. Her songs may not resonate with me at all, but the fact that she writes them gets her all the more respect in my book. Also, from my limited knowledge, Taylor doesn’t need to rely on any controversy to sell her albums. She doesn’t need to parade around being a whore and snorting coke of Ke$ha’s ass to sell her albums. No, her records just sell because she is good at being herself, which is really kind of awesome.
I’m sure I will never own any of Taylor Swift’s albums. I’m sure that I will never see her in concert (unless she opens up for Slayer, in that case, count me in). I’m sure I’ll never own any of her t-shirts or merchandise. However, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for her as I’m digging through the stacks, searching for the old Bass Terror record or out of print Wax Trax! albums. And because of her and 1.2 million of her fans, I can continue to be a nerd for just a while longer…..
How do you feel about Taylor Swift selling a ton of albums? Do you think it will help out the record industry or is it too little too late?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or you can connect with Gutter Bubbles on both Facebook and Twitter.