Open Thread: Should Record Stores Sell Everything or Just Cool Shit?
Something the owners of the soon-to-be-defunct Eastside Records in Tempe said in this week's feature story has been bothering me all week:
"And it got to the point in Tempe... that, yeah, we could stay open, but we would have to sell a bunch of shit we don't like. None were willing to do it and I wasn't, either," said co-owner Ben Wood. "At a certain point... It's kind of like putting Old Yeller down. I've gone through the anger and the upset and the sadness, but there's also a sense of relief for me that now it's gonna be over soon."
At first blush that sounds kinda crazy. So, wait, you're a dude in your 40s who runs a struggling record shop and there's a way to keep it open, but you don't want to do it on principle? You'd rather close a Valley institution and give up the only career you've known for 20-plus years and start over than stock a few shitty Dave Matthews records next to the old punk and jazz records you're known for? Hey, I'm as much of a snob as anyone, but that just seems irrational to me.
Then I got to thinking: Actually, given the state of the music selling biz, the enforced snobbery thing is not really a bad business plan at all. No one really needs to buy records these days; they're doing it it because they think it's cool. They'd just steal the shit if they wanted to have it the easiest way possible, and if they go through the extra effort it's because they want the associated feeling of buying something from a place they dig.
So I ask these questions: Would selling uncool shit actually help Eastside stay in business and, if so, would it be worth the associated hassle of engaging in business transactions with brodogs? Is it better to go out of business than sell a Lady Gaga album?
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