Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jock Honors Amoeba, Explains Death of Music Industry

One-time journeyman basketballer Paul Shirley recently posted a tribute to Amoeba music on his ESPN.com blog. A nostalgic ode to record-buying by a guy who's clearly a huge music fan, Shirley's piece inadvertently addresses two important reasons for the downfall of major labels and the CD format they held onto for so long.  

For Shirley, shopping in Amoeba took him back to a time in his life when a record store was about discovery, a visceral experience that brought him closer to the world of music.  

I remembered why I like to do my music shopping like a bipedal organism.  It's fun to be at record stores.  I like the posters.  I like the clacking sound the CDs make as people bang them together.  I like watching the nerdy girl's eyes light up when she finds an old PJ Harvey album.  It's all tangible; it's real reality, as opposed to the virtual kind offered up by a computer, a mouse and a credit card. 

We hear and read a lot about how the music industry alienated hardcore music buyers like Shirley and, in doing so, practically killed themselves.  As Steve Knopper points out in his new book, Appetite for Self-Destruction, by letting the musical homes of Shirley and other loyal fans shut down, they turned away the very people who were willing to keep the CD--and its tasty profit margins--alive. 

Another one of "big music's big mistakes," as Knopper calls them, has been keeping the price of music too high.  Shirley's trip to Ameoba reminded him that, as a youth, he "could rarely justify paying $12 for a new album." People like Shirley love to explore and to share their discoveries, but with discs priced at $12--typically more--and with their stores shuttered, they'll save their money and go online, where they'll quickly find trying out music at home for free isn't so bad.