25 September 2005

The demise of physical record shops

I'm having a hard time remembering the last time I bought a new cd release in a physical record shop. These days I opt for the cheaper and more practical alternatives online.

For someone who used to enjoy going to the local shop to check out new music and hopefully find the ocassional bargain or two, it's a very sad development and the end of an era. And with digital music snapping up increasing chunks of the market, it seems like there's only one way this can go: even fewer shops with even fewer paying customers.

But it's really the fault of the record companies and shops themselves. I see at least three main reasons why physical shops will only have an even harder time in the future:

1) The lack of instore assortment makes it much less exciting to browse through the racks. Many shops these days focus only on relatively new releases or the charts and if you can't be sure to find what you're looking for in the shop if it's a bit older, you may as well go online where the assortment is always great.

2) A lot of the record shops I go to employ a very young staff and it hits me every time how poor their music knowledge and guidance is. If you're not asking about a relatively new release or something they can look up in the catalogue, you're not likely to get a useful answer. One more reason for doing your own research and subsequent shopping online.

3) The high prices. In my opinion, the record companies have chosen a completely wrong strategy to battle the decreasing record sales. I mean, when it's been proved that a lot of people don't buy new music because cd prices are too high, and that lower prices would most likely mean that more people would buy the original cd rather than download it or burn an illegal copy, I simply don't understand why record companies insist on keeping prices and profit margin per cd very high. Do they really think they can gain the lost revenue via increased margins? I think not.

All in all, my days in physical record shops may not be over, but the visits most certainly can be counted on much fewer hands than before.

Sad...but I don't see it changing.

Le Mec


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