Eulogy for the CD Store
This week, I visited the only remaining CD store within reasonable driving distance of where I live, an FYE chain CD and video store. It was not a great music store, but it was the last remaining new-CD store near me after the Tower Records stores closed down a few years ago. But when I entered the store, it was adorned by a large “Going Out of Business” sign. I was so heartbroken I could not even take advantage of the 50% off sale.
It is odd to despair about the demise of a commercial enterprise, especially when the cause of the demise, the Internet, has helped me discover new music that I might never have found on my own in the record stores. And these chain stores hurt the independent CD stores. But I cannot help feeling the loss from the closing of the CD/Record stores.
On this visit, I purchased Two Men with the Blues by Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis. I still remember the first three CDs I bought when the format was new. They were Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. Before that, I remember as a child saving my money to buy 45 rpm records at a small-town five-and-dime store to play on my portable record player. In college, I haunted the record stores on Coventry Road in Cleveland, discovering European recordings and bootleg LPs. As I moved around as an adult, there were always record and CD stores that were often open late at night where one could find new discoveries, old friends, or comfort from sadness, heartbreak, or loneliness.
In the late 1990s, I discovered the thrill of making my own CDs from selected songs off my other CDs, just as I had discovered mix tapes at a much younger age. My first stereo system even let me record onto 8-Track tapes. And then of course came the iPod and other music players, and everything changed. I have a 160GB iPod that lets me carry around my entire music collection, something I dreamed of when I used to take long drives to visit my family in college and later, where I would have to select the cassette tapes that would fit in a case to take with me.
One loss from the iPod and computerized music, besides sound quality, is that I rarely listen to an album repeatedly any more. There is too much convenience to go to the next album, the next song, or shuffle play. There are so many CDs where I listened to them repeatedly before falling in love with them. I do not know how many times I listened to the CD of Allison Moorer’s The Duel in my car out of convenience while the CD was in the player before something suddenly clicked and I fell in love with the beautiful and powerful album.
I wonder how much music I have lost as the CDs got buried in my digital collection. Last month I read about a new alt-country band that sounded good, so I downloaded their CD from Amazon, put it on my iPod, and then forgot the name of the band and album. So, this potential new discovery sits buried somewhere on my iPod, waiting to be found again when I hear one of the songs on shuffle play. Perhaps I’ll never hear the album in its entirety once. That would not have happened in the physical CD era.
So, I guess things change, life marches on. And there are good and bad things about the new world order. It is okay to be glad one had the chance to spend those days and nights in the record stores and to be sad those days are gone. I wonder if the new generation will know what they are missing. At least we still have the music. And book stores. For now.
Another version of this entry appeared on my website:
Chimesfreedom: Music, Movies, History & Life