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With so many major music retail chains closing up shop, primarily as a result of the ever increasing ease of online purchasing, I believe we will also soon witness a case of history repeating itself.
In my opinion, history will repeat itself at the retail level in the form of new independent "Mom & Pop" music stores, albeit with one important difference...their operations will run much smarter. Smarter in terms of the type of product stock to carry and based on its quality, popularity and demand. But, isn't this how stores have always run, prior to the age of digital enlightenment? Well, yes, and no...
Yes, because this is how it all began, well intentioned, no less. However, as nature often subscribes, it quickly got out of hand in accordance with its growth, bigger money being infused into it, along with politics that go along with big money that serves to keep "lesser players" out of its game.
For instance, at one point records would "ship gold" or "ship platinum" to retailers solely based on an arbitrary number that labels would cite to retailers, so that they could be guaranteed to sell due to how well the labels' big publicity machines had done their jobs in advance of release dates through their pre-release campaigns. These arbitrary figures would, unfairly, qualify artists for rewards that they would later prove to not have earned.
These groundless and absurd figures were often based on the popularity of the artist. Simultaneously and unfortunately, music was also beginning to experience a significant loss of artistic quality and creativity. This was in part due to talent now being "made" in the studio through the wizardry of technology, but which lacked the ability to reproduce itself through live performances or because non thinking labels decided it best to streamline their tour expenses by sacrificing crucial live aspects, i.e., background singers and major instrument parts.
However, fans were not stupid. They felt a double impact through a lack of the complete music that they had become accustomed to hearing on their high-priced recordings, as well as the price-gouging tickets they were forced to pay in order to see their unfulfilling and unsatisfying musical heroes. Never was this more evident than in "returns" from stores to distributors and subsequently, to labels.
Another major reason for returns was that labels had begun a sort of "economizing" in the sense of cheating the consumer. An example would be the trend of placing one or two great songs on a recording, while the remainder of the repertoire would be musically horrible.
Naturally, these differences were noted. Word spread that although certain acts sounded great in recordings or their one or two lead singles sounded wonderful, for the most part they were a bust and were not worth the big dollars they were demanding from live performances, nor were they worth the purchase of an entire album.
Thus, began the "radio taping," whereby people would simply record their favorite tunes from their radio stations, saving themselves the trouble of dealing with wasting their money on inferior product. This was the precursor to illegal digital downloads that we have recently seen, and the reason the RIAA did not intervene at this time was because it simply had no way of detecting, tracking and proving it.
All in all, stores felt the brunt of all this politicking and greed through a dramatic slowdown of record sales. And while the industry did enjoy a brief stint of success afterward, "the people" were beginning to speak a message that they were not stupid, and were seriously becoming both disenfranchised and disenchanted with the way things were going and headed. For the most part, this would be an ongoing downward spiraling trend that continues to this day. łThe people" have had the last laugh as major labels revert into their shells from losing their artists to technology, while shuddering for their mere survival in the only historical way that they can ... by consolidating.
In short, for success in this century, independent music stores, as all other aspects of the music industry, will need to ensure that their "checks and balances" systems are far more reliable and solid than in the past.
One major way to do so is a very simple one. Regardless of your function in this industry, think "quality" as opposed to "quantity." Quality product will always last, while quantity will, inevitably, always return to serve as a nightmare.