I have nothing against record stores on principle. I’ve spent many happy hours in record stores—and many tedious ones as well, thanks to having a dad who brought me on weekly father-son outings to browse literally every CD Best Buy had in stock.
Nor do I have anything against records. My first music player, except for a clock radio, was a record player that I’d use to listen to the Star Wars soundtrack, the read-along records tucked in the back of storybooks, my cherished “Ghostbusters” 45, and flimsy little plastic records advertising Time-Life music compilations. (You were supposed to use a penny to weigh them down, which I did diligently.)
But I left records behind once I could afford CDs, and I left CDs behind once you didn’t need them any more, and going back to vinyl (or, lol, CDs) just doesn’t appeal to me.
I mean, I get it. Records are kind of gorgeous, and there’s a definite retro swank to busting them out at parties. But I’m sorry: I live in a studio apartment, I don’t have a record player, and I don’t know where I would even put one if I did—let alone all those records.
Even a year or two ago, you still had to buy music on an item-by-item basis, in some format or other, unless you were going to outright steal it (not that I’m above that, but that’s another story). Now, though, with Spotify, it’s all in the cloud. I know it’s not all in the cloud, but I’m not inclined to support a system where artists hold out on the cloud so they can sell limited-edition seven-inches for the record player I don’t fucking have.
I know unique merch is a major income source for artists, and physical artifacts like records and tapes can be fun items for artists to trade to grateful fans in exchange for lunch money. I’m happy to support artists, which is why I just upgraded to Spotify Unlimited. I like the idea that if I listen to Billy Ocean’s greatest hits a dozen times and the new Tanlines album only once, Billy Ocean gets twelve times as much as Tanlines—instead of me paying the same amount to each artist.
Some of the coolest people I know work at record stores, and I do enjoy visiting them. When called upon to purchase music as a gift for someone who’s less cloud-ready than I am, I still enjoy that little thrill of ownership: no matter what Dr. Dog do from here on out, my uncle will own that copy of Shame Shame and can listen to it as many times as he wants forever.
Now that I can listen to so much music streaming online, though, I look at the mountain of media I’ve accumulated—from the You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown record I had as a child to the press copy of Corporate Callosum that some band called With a Gun For a Face just sent me—and I can’t bring myself to miss the days when my music was embodied in physical form. It was a pain in the ass, and I can’t get excited about a day meant to celebrate it.