The imminent death of physical media

Pure Pop Records, Burlington's independent music store and employer of this blog's contributors, suffered through the least profitable day of the least profitable year of its existence this past Sunday.
I don't think it's any secret that Pure Pop, like most independent music retailers, has come on hard times of late. For a Pure Pop family member, for someone who came of age in-between and during after-school excursions into that storied College Street basement, who had the privelege of seeing the store in its early '90s hey-day and whose record store career has neatly coincided with the store's decline, these are sad times indeed. We (and in using the word "we" I acknowledge that I am making certain assumptions about this blog's audience) are the last generation who will come of age believing that entertainment media's natural state is a physical one. I do not think that it is going too far to claim that the concept of ownership itself is dying. The days in which one's social standing was in any way dependent upon one's record collection, upon one's taste and one's dedication to the aquisition of arcane objects are largely behind us. Anti-consumerism has long been a cherished ideal of the perennially leftist youth movements; the extent to which these very same movements have been defined according to their buying habits and rated according to the individual's commercial acumen is a dirty little secret. Sure, Punks have always had their slogans, but they've also always had their 7-inches, their singles and LPs. They've always attached the same cache to those far-sighted individuals who were the first to be into the next big thing. And how does one prove that he or she was into the next big thing before it was the next big thing? One buys the demo, the single, the album. One acquires and hordes media as the proof of one's genuineness, one's very identity is defined by what does and does not appear in one's record collection.
No more.
While I say this in mourning not only for a lost paradigm, but in fear of what the new age will mean for me and mine, my comments should not be interpreted as a blanket condemnation of digital media, or of the dawning new age. The music industry as it now stands needs digital music. Though the phrase is a cliche, the major labels who dominate the music industry are dinosaurs, and deserve what they're going to get. Hell, they deserve far worse. The democratization of music afforded by the internet and the prevalance of digital media will not destroy the vibrant independent bands we love; it will do nothing to silence or limit their creativity, it will do everything to disrupt and destroy the established marketing techniques utilized by the majors. But let us be honest, it will also destroy the beloved go-betweens of the independent music world, the havens and meeting houses of music enthusiasts past; the independent record stores.
The hour being late and my mind being weary, I'm going to cut this post short. I will say only this; given a moment to reflect, 2006 has already been a fantastic year for music. Though I recognize that my tastes are not to everyone's liking, I would suggest that the most recent album from Italy's Larsen set a very, very high bar with its release earlier this year. Carla Bozulich's recent Evangelista, a strong contender for album of the year, has already managed to reach that mark. Xiu Xiu's new album, The Airforce is due out shortly, and I can assure you that it is phenomenal. The band's most "pop" release by a fair margin, the song's accessibility does nothing to detract from their beauty or immediacy. Though my advance copy was obtained through illicit means, I am looking forward to purchasing the album upon its release.
I think I'll buy it at Pure Pop.

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