Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back to the future

On a whim I decided to buy a ticket to see The Mountain Goats in concert. I've heard plenty of good things about them, the ticket was cheap, and I haven't been to any live music this year. Why not?

Their new album was released yesterday, so I wanted to pick up a copy so I'll know some of what they'll play. The band is on an independent label, which might provide a small obstacle to finding their CD, but the label is one of the biggest and most respected in indie rock. Fine, so Best Buy has cut back on the CDs they carry. There's a huge university in town and plenty of record stores. One of them will surely have it.

The first and third places I went were already closed for the day. It's the second one I want to talk about, though. They carry a lot of used CDs and records. Their new CD selection wasn't huge the last time I was there, but it was plenty big enough to have the album I wanted. Imagine my surprise to walk in and discover that the two rows and endcaps of new CDs were nowhere to be seen. Just a single endcap housed all of their new CDs. Vinyl had annexed almost all of the old CD territory.

Perhaps you're unaware that vinyl has been making a comeback. A lot of new albums are released on 12" records again. It's become a trendy thing to collect, and part of it may well be motivated by a reaction against MP3s/digital music files. That this store, a mainstay of the campus area, is stocking more new vinyl than CDs shocked me, though. CDs sales have lagged in the days of the internet and file sharing. Are they so bad that this particular medium will be harder to find?

Sure, I could order the CD from Amazon--and I did--but observing what this store is carrying seems like a canary in the coal mine. Since CDs are usually just a delivery system for tracks that will be ripped to a hard drive, are they on the way to obsolescence while vinyl is being resurrected?

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