Have you ever flashed a lighter in front of a millennial in appreciation for the music that was on? They will look at you like you are a lunatic. They live their introverted, complicated, technology filled and often depressive lives on the Apple iPhones. They wouldn’t know what to do with a lighter even if they had been somehow convicted of felony arson.
The concept of the record store is about as equally complicated for the youth of America these days. Generation X spent every penny they could beg, borrow or steal at places like Tower Records, Sam Goody or Virgin Mega Store in hopes of growing their music collections larger and larger. The money spent was impressive. When we were in college here in Los Angeles, we’d travel to mainstream and boutique record stores all over town buying, trading and going ga-ga over Compact Discs. Meaningful car payments were made not lease a 3-Series BMW but buying Sting, Rush or Peter Gabriel records.
Collecting records died as people literally stole more and more music from peer-to-peer services like LimeWire and Napster. These crappy MP3 rips (today’s MP3s aren’t bad sounding at all as they are far more evolved as a compressed music format in 2022-23) than they were back in the day. What the problem was is that the morons that ran the music industry couldn’t get away from the Goose That Laid The Golden Egg in that they couldn’t tell an artist like perhaps Elton John that he couldn’t have the same cut of an album sale in that his albums were worth $9.99 not $16.99. Consumers spoke more loudly than pony-tailed, coke-snorting Baby Boomer record executives when they took to their dial-up Internet and started paying ZERO to download the same record. Did it have cover art? No. Did it have 16 bit – 44.1 MHz resolution? Nope – it was a crappy MP3 but just as many of us did when recording our favorite songs from FM radio to an internal cassette deck inside of our 1980s boom box – it was free so crappy resolution was somehow OK. The record industry needed to price music correctly but they failed and their sales went domestically in the United States in the late 1990s from $38,000,000,000 to $11,000,000,000. Ouch. 85 precent of those 38 billion in sales was from Compact Discs. Less than a decade later the landlords were boarding up Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard and sub-leasing the Laurel Canyon Virgin Mega Store for a Bed Bath and Beyond or some bullshit like that.
Collecting music today is a complicated value proposition in that streaming services from the likes of Apple, Amazon Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Pandora, Spotify and others offer – for about the price of ONE Compact Disc – access at CD quality or higher… to EVERY recording ever made. Inside. Why collect music, some argue?
Others who are burned out on digital devices, “blue screens” and new technology are reverting back to playing LPs. Yes, vinyl records. The retro, anti-technology is as easy to understand as why The Unabomber was sending explosive devices in the U.S. mail but it IS happening. (the record collecting – not the bombs as they caught that guy in a shit-hole shed in Montana years ago and stuck him in a hole in the ground prison cell under a mountain in Colorado). Vinyl has very limited dynamic range thus can barely playback HALF of the dynamic range of a hard-hit snare drum when a Compact Disc can capture it all. Vinyl has a “warmth” to its sound so says “audiophiles” but that is actually distortion from the physical stylus vibrating in the groove of the 100 year old vinyl technolgy. So why would an audiophile think that they need to spend $10,000 on an audiophile grade preamp or monoblock power amp that have 0.000000% thrermo-harmonic distortion? They shouldn’t because vinyl is anything but Hi-Res. Today’s digital files that cost as much as CD or that can be streamed at places like Amazon Music and Qobuz are EXACT replicas of the master tape. Not a bit of sound is missing but audiophiles are, yet again stuck in the past. They always have been and always will be. A new generation will need to take over for them and that revolution is already underway.
The concept of collecting music might be best put on a local hard drive or on the cloud. Compact Discs are sonically superior to LPs. HD files are even better and they go on the cloud or your three terabyte local solid state hard drive with ease. You can buy used CDs on eBay.com or at the local record store for a dollar or two. They can be borrowed (and actually legally ripped) from a local library. For $100, you can have one HELL of a hard drive filled with music.
These are some new ways to look at music collecting in the modern world.