Not unexpectedly, A&B Sound has gone out of business. This one hits me pretty hard. Does music-on-disc have a future?
For a while there in the Nineties, Vancouver was more or less the world headquarters of decent cheap music retailing, and A&B was the big dog. I didn’t go in that often, but just about every time I did I’d drop a couple hundred dollars, which went a long way at an average price of around $12. The selection was fantastic, two big floors pretty well packed with bins.
Then there was the time in 1997 that our house was broken into, and the bad guy made off with 225 disks. The way it worked was, the insurance company issued me a credit at A&B for any 225 CDs of my choice. This was apparently a frequent-enough event that they had a special “insurance desk” upstairs, where they’d keep your file. This was necessary because it turns out that you just can’t buy that many CDs at once. I’d get a carry-along shopping basket and by the time it was filled, I’d be emotionally exhausted and that would be it for the day; so it took me a half-dozen trips. What was massively cool was that they’d even put really obscure stuff on order for you; by the time all that drifted in, it was nearly a year after the break-in.
I’m sad. I thought, and still think, that CDs are a pretty decent way to buy music. The data is uncompressed, and of very high bandwidth, and encumbrance-free; you give the retailer your money, they give you the disk, and your relationship is over. And record stores are nice places, good opportunities to discover new music just by listening to what they’re playing.
I still don’t buy music online (well, I do buy CDs) because I’m an audiophile dammit and want the music going into the electronics in a relatively un-fucked-with condition. But on the other hand I love my little iPod Shuffle, and compared to the slickness of digital-music gear these days, those silver circles feel kinda klunky and obsolete. And on the evidence, you can no longer make money retailing them.