Yesterday, Pitchfork did an interview with experimental musician John Maus as part of their Guest List series. Most of the interview was typical stuff from the column, with Maus riffing on his love of South Park, Odd Future, Panda Bear, and Ariel Pink.
Things took a weird turn, however, when the question of Maus' favorite record store came up. Here's what he said:
"You don't know how happy it makes me that the days of the record store are coming to an end. $20 for an LP? Do you remember going to the record store and not getting what you want because there was no other place to get it? Now we can get it all for free, and I think that's wonderful. There was always something really depressing to me about record stores and music equipment stores. There's something oppressive about them, like the guy who looks you up and down and looks at what you're buying. You're bound up in exchange with the snobby clerk. So I'm glad they all have little "closed" signs on their doors now."
As you can imagine, folks at indie record stores didn't take the slight lightly. Enter Valley store Stinkweeds.
One of the (three, right?) staffers at Stinkweeds, identified only as "Snobby Clerk" took to the store's Facebook page to issue this statement:
Ugh! Don't get me started on this guy!!!
First of all, WE'RE ON YOUR TEAM!!! The fact that a recorded musician would wish all record stores closed is just ridiculous to me. Now, I am choosing to see this as an ignorant statement. He's obviously not aware of the fact that of the record stores that are still standing, most of those are standing for a reason. The days of "Empire Records" are over. Yes, record stores once served a wider audience because that was the only option to buy music and yes some of those clerks were "snobby." But, as Mr. Maus has commented on, the internet has changed all of that.
Music is more available and often free. I agree that this is a wonderful thing. It is so much easier to keep up on what is new and good and we no longer need to rely on the corporate media machine for what to listen to. You can visit one of many sites that will tell you all about the great new bands and then you can visit another site and listen to that band. So, why do we still need record stores? Because, There is still a demand for it and the surviving record stores are just the people serving that demand! And, do you know where this demand is coming from, Mr. Maus? YOUR FANS! Everyday we see real music lovers coming into our store and lighting up when they find their favorite artist on Vinyl. We see new customers coming in, talking about how they lost all of their music on their computer and have decided to go back to cds because of this. We have customers who walk straight to the counter and say "what do I need to be listening to?" because nothing can replace actual human contact. Each and everyone of our customers is a true music lover. They don't come in because they heard one song on the radio that they liked and need to buy the entire album just for that song. Those people just download it, and that's fine. Chances are, we don't sell that artist. But, you know who's album we do sell, Mr. John Maus? John Maus! Or, at least we used to sell John Maus. Since he has made the decision to bad mouth the same people who support his art and make suggestion to real music fan to buy his album, we will no longer be selling it. that means the CD and the LP (which was selling for $20, by the way. I'm sure he had no say in this, though.......whatever).
I'll end with this. You will not be seeing a closed sign on our doors anytime soon. Even in this economy and with all the talk of the collapse of the record industry, we are thriving. And so are many others. The industry hasn't died, it has only changed. There are still many people who believe music isn't about on the go, "click of a button" convenience. It's something you love and with that love comes the effort to fully enjoy the experience. This doesn't mean listening to your itunes on shuffle while you facebook. This means taking a trip to the record store, spending a little time surrounded by great music, buying the actual album and the anticipation of taking it out of it's sleeve and putting it on the turn table, turning it up and doing NOTHING but listen to that album. Nothing else involved but a record a needle, some electricity, speakers and your ears. No zero's and ones, no email alerts, no other distractions, just music.
Maybe be a little more thoughtful when picking your battles.
Personally, I get where Snobby Clerk is coming from. I worked in a record store for years, and I still get at least 80% of my physical music from stores here in town (and yes, I download some stuff, too, from blogs I respect and eMusic).
I hadn't spent much time listening to Maus before hand, though I've been spinning his latest record, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, for the past two hours. It's not bad --especially "Cop Killer," which I like a lot -- if you can dig that whole deconstructionist synth-pop thing.
Maybe Maus hasn't been into a record store lately. The Empire Records-style clerk is dead, and hooray for that.
In a lot of ways, the decline of the record store business model has been the greatest thing to ever happen to actual record store staffers. No longer are you simply there to look cool at the counter, now you have no choice but to be helpful, courteous, and offer genuine human interaction. Yeah -- there are exceptions to the rule (on bad days working at the record shop, I probably was the exception to the rule), but for the most part, record store employees have to play nice these days, and provide an actual, tangible service. Why? Because customers can get what the store sells for free. Easily. When I think of Valley record stores, I can think of great, compelling conversations I've had with employees at each of them.
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I don't know if I'm on board with a boycott of Maus -- stop selling the albums of every douchey, temperamental weirdo musician who says something crappy about something and you're going run out of stuff to sell pretty quick -- but I certainly see where the staff at Stinkweeds is coming from, and the comments the article received on Pitchfork's Facebook page point toward a lot of people feeling similar to our disgruntled Snobby Clerk.
Maus comes across pretty crabby, but I don't know if I'm ready to declare war on the dude. He even went ahead and issued an apology where he clarifies that he was talking about "big" record stores (because yeah, everyone at Best Buy is totally frowning about which Animal Collective LP you're picking up).
Maybe I'm being too easy on Maus. Hell, I may even be cutting him extra slack because of his awesome comments about Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, which I must echo completely and utterly. And his music isn't bad. Bet it sounds awful good on LP.
Anyone know where I could pick up a copy when I leave the office?