Tuesday, March 13, 2007

McGee no longer believes in record stores

It's about twenty years since Are You Scared To Get Happy took Alan McGee to task for the poor value of the music-to-run-out-groove proportions of Creation 12" singles. His embrace of the possibilities for higher margins on CDs, equally, went down badly with the indie purists - there would have been a march and burning effigies and placards, were these not indie kids.

Now, he's calling for record shops to go the way of, erm, Creation Records. Why is the writing on the wall for these places?

Because he doesn't go into them any more:

When was the last time you went into a record shop? It was about a month ago in Tokyo for me. It was a boutique type of establishment, a bit like Rough Trade - it had vinyl and all the hip releases. Yet it still felt like a museum. All the music I want I can get off Amazon or go on MySpace to hear. There's no real need for record shops any more.

An entire retail sector doomed because McGee get his stuff off the internet. Let's hope he never discovers Orcado, or that'll be all the out-of-town supermarkets being shuttered overnight.

Never mind that, for some people, the quick-fix attraction of Amazon needs to be balanced by a gentle browsing experience; that travelling to a record store and spending time flicking through product is a different and vital experience - the connections you make from a pile of real CDs are completely different from browsing online. It's why every time I find myself in Denver, I wind up having to find space for a couple of hundred bucks' worth of records I've picked up on a trip into Twist and Shout, for example. Sure, I could have found the Wolfgang Press' Funky Little Demons on Amazon - but without being in the store, idling through the racks, I wouldn't have remembered I wanted it and wouldn't have gone looking.
It's the same with music magazines. I find out my music news from NME.com and only buy the printed magazine if there's something I have to see for work. Since my blog on the subject, everyone talks to me about Q magazine and admit it's the kind of toilet paper they daredn't be seen in public with.

Alan may or may not realise that the printed NME and NME.com's content actually differs, and we're a little puzzled as to how he can know if there's something in the paper that he "needs for work" if he doesn't read it in the first place - perhaps he flicks through it in the newsagent to save himself a couple of quid. (Good news for WH Smiths, then, if McGee is still using them, at least.)
As for MTV, YouTube has destroyed it. I can't even remember when I last watched it. Why would you, given that everything appears on YouTube within a day of it being broadcast?

Actually, MTV has pretty much destroyed itself by mission-drifting into obsolesence, but McGee seems confused about the different ways people consume Music TV and YouTube. MTV and The Box and the others have always been background experiences, floating on the screen in the corner of living rooms and pubs while life carries on more interestingly in the centre; YouTube has merely given the obsessive and dedicated and mainliners a place to go.

Alan, you're getting on for fifty; could that be the real reason why MTV and NME don't hold as much attraction for you?
I feel more love for my iPod than the CDs I buy. Unless I want to DJ, or it's an all time favourite, I pack my CDs off to my house in Wales. My son and daughter will no doubt come to love some of them when they go through them in years to come. My son, who's 18, is obsessed by vinyl and took about 150 7" singles away from Wales. He'd been buying them in Bill's in Portobello Road at 30 quid a shot, so now he loves the Scars and the Bodines.

But how did you fill your iPod, Alan? We bet you didn't buy a load of downloads until the 40 gig was full. And isn't your own argument starting to fall apart here? You don't send your CDs off to live with your aunt in the country in a draughty house - what, even the ones you've just been buying of Amazon in the first paragraph? And there's no point in having record shops like the one your son is spending thirty quid a pop in?
Nothing will ever beat vinyl for me, but digital technology has changed our world, and for the better, though it would be great in the future if some genius could copy the Japanese and get the artists paid. In Japan it's all about the telephone and getting it downloaded to that. I'm a 46-year-old Luddite, but even I've been dragged into the digital world. It's easier and more fun than the way we've been getting served for the last 20 years. No wonder record shops feel ancient.

McGee... you flogged 12" singles and CDs in a market which saw 7" vinyl as being slightly over-comodified ("if it really can't be a flexi"); you have never been a Luddite. There's also been a lingering suspicion over your entire career that you've always elevated the cash transaction above the passion in rock music; now, it looks a little like you're more interested in convenience than experience.


Anonymous said...

I think it depresses me more that he finds his music news from the NME...

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm 26, and MTV and NME hold precious little attraction for me. But then they never did.

It shouldn't be surprising that McGee trusts NME.com. He is post-1988, post-interesting-ideas NME incarnate.

Anonymous said...

"In Japan it's all about the telephone and getting it downloaded to that."

And we're back to Chris Martin's complaint about ringtones. Mr McGee may know something about music, but citing Japan as the way forward is a little silly. The phones with the MP3 players were available in the West a good while before they were available in Japan.

EleanorG (formerly of Japan, now of NZ)

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Eleanor... you've relocated to New Z? Since when?

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