Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Musical Dinosaur

Having lived for 40 years now as a suburban Long Islander, I reflect a lot now on what has changed in my life over the years, particularly in how changes in technology have altered our consumer landscape.

It used to be that one of my guilty pleasures would be to go to a record store and spend anywhere from $50 to $100 on music CDs. One of my favorite early haunts was Uncle Phil's on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, which specialized in heavy metal. After Uncle Phil's closed, and my musical tastes expanded, I would make the trip every few months to the Tower Records store at the Country Glen shopping center at the intersection of Glen Cove Road and Old Country Road in Carle Place. I remember my first time there being astonished at the tremendous selection they had. By the end of the 1990's, I had probably amassed over a hundred CDs.

Then one day, I can't remember when, I was in the Country Glen shopping center for reasons I don't recall, when I noticed something. Tower Records was gone. This Wikipedia article offers some background:

Tower Records entered bankruptcy for the first time in 2004. Factors cited were the heavy debt incurred during its aggressive expansion in the 1990s, growing competition from mass discounters, and internet piracy. Mismanagement, managerial incompetence, and crippling restrictions from the first bankruptcy deal also contributed to Tower's demise.

Bummer, I thought. However, by that time, I was living in Plainview, and there was The Wiz just around the block from me at Woodbury Plaza. Granted, it didn't have anywhere near the selection of Tower Records. But it was within walking distance, and because it was owned by Cablevision, I could pay my cable bill there as well. Then, after maybe a year or so had passed by, Cablevision closed The Wiz. There had been a music store in Woodbury Plaza as well, the name of which I can't remember, but it also closed down, though I didn't lament its passing as its prices were too expensive anyway.

Soon I found myself limited to buying my CDs from Best Buy or bookstores like Barnes & Noble or Borders. The music industry was changing, as more and more people purchased songs online and downloading them to their MP3 players. Consequently, music store chains vanished from the suburban landscape.

While I am not a technophobe, I have always been rather conservative when it comes to new technology. There are some people who are constantly on the lookout for the latest gadgets. But when it came to music, I never really got into CD burning and all that. I don't own an iPod, though my wife has one along with an iTunes account. I do buy songs on it and listen to them on my computer when I am at home, but I still buy CDs occasionally (and grumble at the difficulty in removing the security tape from them!) and play some of them on my computer at work. I even still have and continue to listen every now and then to the first CD I ever bought, Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which I purchased in the summer of 1988.

So yeah, I've been slow to adapt to how technology has changed the way we purchase and listen to music, though I am sure one day I will eventually going all digital. But it is not just the music industry that has been impacted by technological change, as I will discuss in future posts.