As a veteran record buyer, times have changed quite a bit from when I first started dabbling in vinyl digging. Gone are the days of trekking into the city in my 1974 Audi Fox to wander aimlessly through stinky record shelves in hopes of finding gems that were actually affordable. Tracking records down in the 90’s meant dedicating hours per week reading through the weekly music rags, writing down the items I wanted, checking my list, editing it twice, then hurriedly rushing down to the local shop to give my want list to the bleary-eyed store owner.
Then came the hardened scrutiny of the local punk rock store from which I ordered all of my favorite electronic records from — if I was requesting anything other than music that came from guitars I was looked upon as a tasteless cockroach. Phrases like “what’s an Aphex Twin?” and “how the hell am I supposed to say ‘Autechre’?” were phrases I heard more than once. These discerning and intellectual questions were important steps in putting each and every record I own into a historical context. Listening to records wasn’t just an activity where I sat in a room and enjoyed the music, but a social experiment where I could be accosted at any time by offending others with my musical inclinations. Long story short, it forced me to get outside and interact with the world around me. It was a required motivator to bump my ass out of the house and otherwise turn the solitary exercise of record cataloging into the practice of socializing and getting yelled at by people in a face-to-face way.
In 2016, it’s difficult to imagine going back to those times, however, sometimes I wish I could. My daily routine now consists of internet, internet, internet, and then, oh yeah…the internet. The rare times I actually feel nostalgic and fool myself into believing I’ll find a good deal in a brick and mortar shop typically ends in myself asking a disappointing “you want how much for that dollar bin trash?” type of query. Part of why I feel a connection to my records is due to the effort it took me to acquire them. Going to record shows, visiting other countries, stuffing them into suitcases, and mailing them back to myself are all parts of why the physical satisfaction of holding my records in my hands make them so much more special. Digging for records now just consists of rolling out of bed, scratching my ass, contemplating pajamas over actually getting dressed, and then stumbling to my computer to make a purchase. Hey, I do it all the time, and love it — the ease and simplicity couldn’t be better. Adding to that, I can’t remember the time I actually bought a record in a store. Why hassle with going to a store and realizing it’s not in stock if you know you can just purchase it online and quickly get back to your toaster waffles and bloody mary in the comforts of your own domicile?
After vast experience with both activities, I can’t decide which one I’d rather participate in. I reckon I miss the old school way, but what practicality is there in that method any more? If a seller can reach the entire world by listing their wares on Discogs and getting a fair price, why the hell would they bother stuffing it into a bin in their local shop and only reach an extremely limited audience? An interesting case in point is Record Store Day, and how stores continually cease attempting to sell records in stores in favor of jacking the prices and selling online instead. When Record Store Day first started it was devised as a way to revive the industry, and it worked. It got people away from the internet to make their purchases, and forced us all to interact with the community around us. The internet has a way of taking over, though — how many of us actually avoid the suffocating Black Friday/Walmart hysterical stampede of RSD in favor of just paying a few extra bucks to order it online instead? I’d be a liar if I said I don’t do this because, well, crowds. No thanks. If my options are getting trampled by a herd of vinyl-clutching slack-jawed elephants vs. calmly perusing the internet on a quiet Saturday morning at home then I’ll take the latter option every single fucking time. Which makes me a contradictory bastard, I know. I still miss the benefit of going to the shops, though. The effort. The personalities. The discovery. The fairly-priced records. Being pushed out of the way by an OCD record snob reeking of unwashed linens of various varieties. Wait, I don’t miss that last part at all, actually.
So what do you all prefer? Online, or brick and mortar? If both, what is the percentage breakdown? Would you rather buy online and forego all humanity, or are you like me and wish you could find more of what you want in stores? Someone please explain to me how to balance this out, because as of now I’ve got no clue how to do it.