Posted by: Jim | January 21, 2005


An Open Letter to Brick-And-Mortar Music Vendors

I listen to lots of unusual music. If I were to buy all my music online, this post wouldn’t be happening. Online music sellers know how to position their product, and the virtual world lets a CD be in more than one place at a time.

I’m the kind of guy who usually buys only one thing on impulse, and that is music. I get a bug up my butt and suddenly I think “Oh my God, I need to buy William Orbit’s Pieces In a Modern Style RIGHT NOW.”

So I go to Tower Records. Or any number of other brick-and-mortar CD vendors. And here is where my frustration begins.

A few years ago, probably when they started competing with CD-Now and Amazon, stores like Tower Records started taking it upon themselves to “classify” music on a much more granular level. Artists are now “Folk Music” or “World Music” or “Electronica” or “Trance” or “Popular” or “Classical,” etc.

The problem is, William Orbit could be any one of those classifications. He is all of them. After searching alphabetically under 16 different sections, where did I find his CD? Under “Dance/House.” Anyone who dances to William Orbit’s “Adaggio for Strings” is probably on qualuudes.

Here’s a hint for Tower Records and their competitors: we live in a post-modern world. That means that the lines between everything are blurry. Name any two categories of music and I can name someone who bridges the gap and falls smack dab in between them. Tom Waits is Folk Music AND “Popular / Rock.” Johnny Cash is Country AND “Popular / Rock.” There’s probably someone who plays Digereedoo music in a jazz format. Stop trying to classify everything!

There are only two classifications of music any more: “GOOD MUSIC” and “BAD MUSIC.” There might also be one tiny section in the middle called “Music that is so bad that it is kinda good.” People like Tom Jones go there.

Trust me Tower Records. Just put it all in alphabetical order. Most people don’t browse music and pay $20 for a CD because it’s in the jazz section and the cover looks cool. They have *heard* what they are buying, and you’re only making it harder for us to find it.


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