A few weekends ago, I had taken my wife somewhere and would need to recon with her almost two hours later. She said “why don’t you go to Harvest.” I said that I would prefer to check out the stores in downtown Asheville since I tend to stop in there maybe twice a year to the 4-6 times I stop in at Harvest. But that day was graduation day downtown, and I thought the better of trying to fight for a parking spot for the better part of those two hours, so I decided that I would visit Harvest. Besides, the Downtown stores didn’t have air conditioning.
I walked in Harvest [which also didn’t have air conditioning] and immediately noticed the changes in layout. For a mighty start, 1/3 of the previous [13 years] store space for new CDs was now under encroachment by the dreaded new vinyl problem. The CD stock had been condensed to just one row of rock/pop [instead of two] and all of the other genres of new stock were taking up the other side of the lone new CD island. There was now maybe 30 feet total of new CD stock. The unwanted [by me, anyway] new vinyl had muscled its way in and the CDs were on the retreat. This seems to be my fate in the Hellish 21st century. Not only am I governed by a Nazi-coddling, pig ignorant, “reality TV Star,” who seems to be trying his damndest to hasten the eschaton, but something even as small as my puny desires and interests are now deemed surplus to society’s aims.
It’s not just Harvest Records that’s getting me down. A few weeks ago my friend chasinvictoria was visiting and we were downtown getting lunch and stopped by Voltage Records to do a little browsing. In the past I have bought CD’s there. I could not help but notice that on this day the CD stock for the entire store, which used to be almost 20% of the store stock as recently as three years ago, was now down to a lone, small flip rack that held maybe 16-20 discs. And that was it for CDs!!
As if this were not a potent enough message there’s also the fate of Best Buy. The corporate megastore whose business plan in the 90s was to roll into a town like a line of tanks on the Normandy shore and decimate the pre-existing local music stores with seriously deep selections and loss leader pricing until they were pulverized into nothingness. I saw it happen in Orlando. Best Buy came into town in the early 90s and I went there and looked at the stock. I saw seriously deep collections of imports that few stores in town [as great as they were] simply didn’t stock and all of this was at pricing that, like Crazy Eddie’s, was “insaaaaaane!”
Even so, I didn’t take the bait. I never bought anything there and basically ignored the store unless a friend or family member gave me a Best Buy gift card as a present. My two to three times shopping there with a gift card told the full sorry tale. After they began depressing the local market with their predatory pricing, I noticed the CD stock getting smaller and less deep. The rare imports were the first thing to go. Then, the deep collections began to contract. Having slayed their competitors, they not only rested on their laurels, they ceased making even the pretense of trying to retail music with anything but a perfunctory attempt. By the time I received my last Best Buy gift card in the late 90s, it was a huge challenge just finding one CD to buy where the temptations, early on, were far more numerous. Most artists who once had fat bins of product were now represented by a few compilations and one or two discrete catalog albums. Maybe their latest one. As of this coming Sunday, Best Buy will stop selling any CDs at all. Even Voltage has a better CD selection now, and Best Buy were once America’s number one CD retailer!
Next: …Is There A Vinyl Solution?