God Grew Tired of Us

Record-store eulogies, blogger angst, and other symptoms of a dying industry

Reflecting upon 2006, my overwhelming urge is to shut the fuck up.
Jem Aswad
Brooklyn, New York


Depending on who you listened to, the Tower Records chain closing was either the end of the world as we know it (e.g., the beginning of the final death-knell of ye olde indie record store, as Tower was, technically, an indie) or one big jeez-it-took-this-long? If I recall correctly, Tower's woes began back in the early '90s, so it's hard to feel sympathy for a business that can't get its act together in over a decade. Indifferent staffers, an increasingly poor fill to what was once a legendary deep catalog, and product priced at list up to the very end all contributed to making Tower a non-player in the end. You can take that as a wake-up call for other stores and small chains, or you can simply chalk it up to the fact that consumers' habits have changed. Stick a fork in the record store's ass, folks: This sucker's done.
Fred Mills
Asheville, North Carolina


And though you won't find it listed as one of these celebrity deaths in 2006, the demises of both Tower Records and CBGB are the year's single biggest disappointments to me. Oh, the former was inevitable, as we've all been witnessing the death of music stores this entire decade while forecasting the ultimate demise of those remaining. But Tower was the last national chain that actually bothered to stock all the up-and-coming nobodies who needed the shelf space most, and I bought plenty of records and then CDs there. Furthermore, it was always better selling a magazine at one of their stores, which were all about music, than at some faceless mega-chain/mall bookstore competing with Popular Mechanics, Field and Stream, Yachting, Golf Digest, and Star. Indeed, the music-magazine world has already been severely hit by Tower's shuttering. There goes 1,000 sales for me personally, and it is my fear that without their steady sales and revenue, a number of good music magazines still fighting the good fight with competition from free Internet content will also disappear. Walking past the Tower store at Broadway and Fourth this week, and peering through the window at all the ghost-like empty shelves still sitting there as the space awaits its next tenant, was pretty chilling.
Jack Rabid
Brooklyn, New York


When Time/Spin/the IRS declared YOU as their person/place/thing of the year, what they were really saying was, "We give up. Will you pay us if we continue to come into the office?" There exists the sense among critics that, our power long diminished, we no longer have anything to offer the world short of our own half-advanced careerism. Gatekeepers are passé, and the future is tumbling in front of our muted eyes.
D. Strauss
Berlin, Germany


I felt my blog was pretty legit when Stereogum linked me. But I knew I really had a voice when the frontman from an obscure indie band that I dissed e-mailed me with a detailed expression of his disenchantment.
Kenyon Hopkin
Kings Park, New York


I wonder if the record companies will ever get the fact that the same people who "steal" the most music are also the same people who buy the most music . . . because they are the same people who need the most music.
Jim Connelly
Glendale, California


Some may still yearn to belong to a larger community like the Beatles/Stones/Dylan generation. But the direct effect of filesharing, music blogs, and customizable Internet radio (Pandora, Last.fm, Rhapsody) is that many artists have increased their audience. This decade, new artists who hadn't even released a full-length album have been selling out small venues. This is in sharp contrast to the '80s and '90s, when many touring indie artists took it for granted that they would often play in front of a handful of people and not always earn enough to eat that night. A good show with a happy crowd of 100 to 500 is plenty of community for me.
A.S. Van Dorston
Chicago, Illinois


You know it's a bad year for music when the most urgently discussed subjects all concern the music industry: Tower going under, rap sales crashing, alt-weekly consolidation (hi dere!), and of course, the never-ending debate about MP3s, which has pretty much entered its perpetual-motion phase. This wouldn't be a problem if the connection was actually made between economic factors and the art that results, but everybody's too tied to their position right now to admit anything that might weaken it, and so of course we spiral ever-downward toward making pop music—and writing about it—a hobbyist's field.
Mike Barthel
Brooklyn, New York


Passionate fandom is a bonus and may grant you some longevity, but your average flash-in-the-pan only needs to get enough people to provide some sort of risk-free, superficial endorsement—downloading your songs for free, adding you on MySpace—to build up enough buzz to generate a backlash before anyone outside your tiny cultural bubble ever learns your name, much less hears your music. On the bright side, burning through a seemingly complete career arc in the span of six months is still better than to have no recognition at all, and even when first-year bloggers are pimping bland, conservative acts such as the Cold War Kids, they are still collectively far more adventurous than the overwhelming majority of print and broadcast media.
Matthew Perpetua
Astoria, New York


First time I heard of the Cold War Kids: Message-board post about how everyone is already over the Cold War Kids.
Christopher R. Weingarten
Brooklyn, New York


As of my writing this, 37 albums had reached #1 in 2006. Five years ago, the number was 26. Ten years ago, 22. With no Thrilleror Jagged Little Pill clogging up the charts for weeks at a time, everyone has a shot at the top— especially when the numbers involved are so small. That lack of a blockbuster contributed to the general lack of buzz around music in 2006. People need a Borator a Grey's Anatomy to motivate themselves to show more than a passing interest. So far as I can tell, music has become the NHL of the entertainment industry. It lags far behind its more popular cousins (movies, TV) and only seems really important to Canadians, Swedes, and a handful of Americans residing in hotspots. Or maybe music is more like vegetables. Whatever the simile, we're fast approaching the point where to like music is to be a music nerd—minor, but motivated.
David Marchese
New York, New York


Technology is winning the battle for content supremacy, just as it always has. The tumult and ineptitude in the music press mirrors what's happening in the music industry at large, as both industries make the infuriating transition from a mature phase to one of decline. The good news is that while the machines that drive the business continue to sputter helplessly, the music itself has never been better.
John Davidson
Atlanta, Georgia

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