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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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All I Want Is A CD
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to review Sade’s Soldier of Love for a publication not titled the Fairfield Weekly. Rather than being sent the album I was sent a stream, which, sadly, has become commonplace, but I loved what I heard, wrote my review, and decided I wanted to pick up the CD. Sounds like an easy enough task, right? Well, not exactly.

I happened to be in New York City that weekend and thought, perfect, unlike at home where over the past decade, or so, I’ve watched everything from Sam Goody to FYE close up shop, New York City is a bustling Mecca of music, surely I’ll find a random place to pick up a very mainstream album that at the time was number one on the Billboard chart.

My first thought was to head to Union Square, but then I remembered that all the Virgin Megastores had gone out of business. That also meant Times Square was out. I was still confident, though. I was covering the SOHO International Film Festival that afternoon. There had to be a music store around there somewhere.

I ended up walking over twenty blocks with a buddy of mine. We didn’t pass a single store that sold CDs. This brought a fairly frightening reality to the forefront - our so-called connected world has created a disconnect for people who have actual paper money and feet that take them walking around town. So much of a premium has been placed on our internet connectivity that we’ve lost many of the things associated with living in a reality that doesn’t involve a keyboard and looking at a screen. A reality that still exists everyday, for everyone.

Some have called downloading a convenience, and I’m sure it is for a great number of people. For those of us who enjoy being outside, however, and away from our computers, what has happened to our record stores has created an incredible inconvenience (FYI - I eventually had to go to a Target to buy the album).

Let me take a second to flip things. Imagine if we lived in a world where the MP3 came first. The only way you could get music was to download it. This is the world major labels, and a lot of artists and critics, think we’re heading towards; a world where the physical product does not exist.

With that as the setting, picture yourself out at lunch with some friends. You’re having a discussion about music and one of your friends tells you about a great new artist they’re excited about. In this world of MP3s you’re going to have to jot down the name of the artist, go home, and download the album. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just walk a few blocks with your friends to pick up that album? How great a convenience would that be? You could continue hanging out with your friends, have the album, and not have to worry about doing anything when you eventually arrive home except enjoy the music.

Or how about this; you’re at work, you hear a song, you want the album. You’re on your work computer, though, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to download it there. Imagine if there was a place you could go during your lunch break, or stop off at on your way home, where you could pick up the album. You wouldn’t have to go from being logged on at work for eight hours to immediately logging on again at home. There would be no waiting for your purchase to download. In fact, you could open up the music and play it in your car!

Wouldn’t it be a radical and amazing prospect to have a place like that, and a format like that, for music?

The point I’m not so subtly getting at is convenience is relative, and I feel that it would be nice to not have to be logged on to do some things, one of those things being purchasing music.

When the major labels decided to combat illegal downloading by undercutting themselves via iTunes, offering up singles for 99 cents when they had cost upwards of three dollars when they were on cassette (cassingle for those want a little flashback lingo) and CD, they didn’t just point a loaded gun at their own collective foot, they pointed one directly at the record stores and the consumers who spend significant amounts of time away from their computers, as well. They created a pricing plan for downloads that wasn’t just competitive with the CD, but drastically beat the CD. What the major labels forgot, however, was that they weren’t in competition with the CD. The CD was, and still is, their product, just like the MP3.

Album sales are at an all-time low right now. I think there’s a chance it could partly be due to a significant number of people not finding the way labels are selling music quite as convenient as the labels assume it to be.

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:45 AM  
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