Do You Miss CD Stores?

I recently drove to the only remaining CD store within reasonable driving distance of where I live. It is an FYE chain CD and video store. The selection was never great, and most items were overpriced. But it was the last remaining CD store for me after the Tower Records stores closed down a few years ago.

I would go to the FYE store occasionally to browse.  And over the years there were a few CDs I wanted to get on the first day out, so I would take the drive to this store.

Today, when I stopped at the store, it was adorned by a large “Going Out of Business” sign. I was so heartbroken I could not even take advantage of the 50% off sale.

It is odd to despair about the demise of a commercial enterprise.  I am sad even though the cause of the demise, the Internet, has played an important role in helping me discover new music that I might never have found on my own in the record stores. But I cannot help feeling the loss from the closing of the CD/Record stores.

Today, I purchased Two Men with the Blues by Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis. I still remember the first three CDs I bought when the format was new. They were Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.

Before that, I remember as a child saving my money to buy 45 rpm records at a small-town GC Murphy five-and-dime store to play on my portable record player. In college, I haunted the record stores on Coventry Road in Cleveland, discovering European recordings and bootleg LPs. As I moved around as an adult, there were always record and CD stores that were often open late at night where one could find new discoveries, old friends, or comfort from sadness, heartbreak, or loneliness.

In the late 1990s, I remember the thrill of discovering I could make my own CDs from selected songs off my other CDs. And then of course came the iPod and other music players, and everything changed.

I have a 160GB iPod that lets me carry around my entire music collection.  In my youth, I dreamed of being able to do that when I used to take long drives to visit my family in college and later. Instead, during those drives I would have to select the tapes or CDs that would fit in a case to take with me.

One loss from the iPod and computerized music, besides sound quality, is that I rarely listen to a single album repeatedly any more. There’s too much convenience to go to the next album, the next song, or shuffle play.

There are so many CDs where I listened to them repeatedly before falling in love with them.  So I wonder how much music I have lost as the CDs got buried in my digital collection.

For example, last month I read about a CD that sounded good.  I downloaded it from Amazon, put it on my iPod, and then forgot the name of the band and album. So, this potential new discovery sits buried somewhere on my iPod, waiting to be found again when I hear one of the songs on shuffle play. Perhaps I’ll never hear the album in its entirety once. That would never have happened in the old days of physical CDs.

One remaining remnant of the past is that my car stereo does not connect directly to my iPod.  So I do listen to CDs in my car.

But this summer, due to decreasing space in my small New York apartment, I moved my CDs to vinyl sleeves and little suitcases where they no longer sit out where I can grab them easily. My home stereo CD player died a few years ago and I have not replaced it, instead opting to play my iPod through the stereo.

So today’s purchase will be played in my car and through my iPod.  But the CD will probably never be played on a CD player in my home.

My last CD store purchase ever?

So what is my point? Things change and there are good and bad things about the new world order. It is also okay to be glad one had the chance to spend those days and nights in the record stores, and to be sad those days are gone.

I wonder if today’s generation knows what they are missing. At least we still have the music. And book stores. For now.

Do you miss CD/Record stores? Leave a comment.

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    15 thoughts on “Do You Miss CD Stores?”

    1. My wife’s car has a small little jack for iPods, so my daughter plays her eclectic collection of awful songs much to our cringing irritation. You can get a jack retro-fitted.

    2. I’ll have to look into that. Thanks. I’ve used one of those devices that play your music player through the radio. It works well when I’m driving long distances, but there are so many radio stations and interference where I live that I cannot use it locally.

    3. My first CD was a gift soon after it came out — Tunnel of Love. I received it a week before my 18th birthday present, that being my first CD player, and I “replaced” most of my LPs at Tower after I took that CD player to college. I don’t remember my very first LP. My music has always overlapped with that of my parents, and all LPs were usually kept near the living room turntable and the big stereo. I do remember that my first 45 (and one of my only 45s) was “Another Brick in the Wall Part II,” but I bought LPs all but exclusively and made tapes for the car and walkman. By high school, I was going to the local record shop and buying an LP every Friday — easily my best high school memory that. But by the time I was in grad school, I had put all my resources toward buying books, and I never really recovered … until the iPod. The convenience sucked me in, and, to fill the iPod up, I began to buy CDs at a previously unmatched rate. Even if I usually only rip and shelve them, I need to have them to shelve. And there is no substitute to picking them up, at a record store, on Tuesday morning. I’m very lucky to live in Denver now and have Twist & Shout. I just spent three years in a city with no record stores, so I know how it will be if and when that again happens. I will not like it. Not at all.

    4. Thanks for sharing. That’s interesting about the iPod’s convenience motivating you to purchase more music. I agree that there is no substitute for getting the physical objects. I hope Twist & Shout sticks around!

    5. Thanks for a nice little piece; I too think often of how it was. I haven’t been to my store in over 10 years; I suspect that it too is gone. I have almost 3000 CDs, many of them I bought as that technology began and I wanted to replace some of my huge record collection. Even when I was purchasing them, I didn’t get to listen to them as I had with my LPs and 45s. And with so much of the music of my youth then being released, much for the first time from ‘vaults’ I built a new trove. Then along came the computer and I created (I haven’t figured out how to get an accurate count) about 100,000 MP3s, which I play through my old stereo system. Alas, like you, I almost always click on the random play, so there will be songs that I never hear again as I’ll have passed away before some ever get ‘chosen’. A sadder thought is that I won’t even been cold in the ground when all of the vinyl and cd media is tossed into the trash or sold by my grandkids on Ebay.

    6. Your comment about not being able to listen to the CDs as you did with your prior purchases of LPs and 45s brings up an interesting point. Maybe as we age and earn an income that allows more music purchases, we also might lose a little of the connection we had from our youth when we could buy few albums, listening to the same music repeatedly.

      Although that “loss” is not connected directly to the technology, it is magnified by the changes to technology. Teenagers have access to much more music than I did at that age, so they are already swamped with more music than I was at that age. Overall, of course, that is not a bad thing because at that age I would have loved to have had access to all this music on the Internet. But it is a different experience for them than being limited to the radio and a small number of albums or tapes.

      Thanks for the comment!

    7. Just discovered this great post on your “Today’s Featured Posts” roster. Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ was among the first CDs I purchased too (can’t remember the musician, but later was replaced by the Nigel Kennedy version)! I’m not sure if I really miss CD stores all that much because the remaining few (the “mall” kind?) are often quite “sad” to browse around. My last CD store purchase was probably Of Montreal’s ‘Skeletal Lamping’ or Sonny Rollins’ ‘Saxophone Colossus.’ What I definitely do not miss, are the awkward encounters with music snubs at those “cool” stores, especially when I wanted to trade in my not-so-cool CDs for some quick cash. Think “High Fidelity”:

      (another nice John Cusack movie there).

      Like you, due to moving around and the limited storage space, I got rid of all my 45s, LPs and players a long time ago. What I (as a proud dinosaur) still have is my sound system (with real fabric-covered speakers, oh yeah) which includes a CD player and a cassette player (and so I can still make my personal mixed tapes with these ;). I still buy CDs though. Because I’m not an impulse shopper, I kind of enjoy the convenience of online shopping these days. What makes me an extraordinary dinosaur, however, is that I still own a VCR and a small collection of VHS tapes.

      But hey maybe this will end your CD store purchase drought: Academy Records on West 18th Street between 5th and 6th is a great store and still standing, at least as of last October…

      1. That’s a great scene from “High Fidelity.” I still have about 10-20 LPs that I’ve kept around for sentimental purposes, but I’m not sure they’ll survive the next move. I too still have a sound system with real fabric-covered speakers and a dual cassette deck (I also have the turntable stored in its box). I do like the sound of records, but I’ve long ago sacrificed some things for convenience. I’m not sure my sound system will survive the next move, but for now I do use it periodically by hooking up my iPod. And it still sounds much better than my small iPod stereo players. I have a VCR too, but like my cassette deck it mostly remains unused.

        I’ll have to check out Academy Records, thanks. I have bought a few more CDs since this post. Most recently, I’ve continued my long tradition of buying Springsteen’s albums/CDs and sitting down with the lyrics for the first listen. Thanks for the comment.

    8. You made a good point about the integrity of an album. And Springsteen is indeed one of those good “album crafters.” Even though it is entirely possible, I’m not sure I’d ever tear “Nebraska” apart and mix individual songs with other favorites. (I’m personally incapable of switching “scenes” from one song to another so quickly…)

      1. I understand. “Nebraska’ is one of those records where everything seems to fit perfectly in its place.

    9. I desperately miss the stores I would go to and see a NEW RELEASE section and a section actually alphabetized. I’m a 90’s kid and getting older. I’m all about technology and all that, especially gaming. But I miss CD’s every day. My car has a disk changer and everything and I can’t add anything new to it. Not everyone uses a goddamn MP3 player or cell phones. That said I do find the occasional CD and I don’t miss openings them. Nowadays you open it just fine but can’t remove it from tray without breaking the case to pieces. That’s seriously the worst especially for someone who likes to keep the cases. I miss CD stores. Sight & Sound used to do car audio & music of all forms. CD’s and Vinyls. But now the owner died a few years back and the new owner ousted the music and sold 3/4 of the building to some jewelry store. Leaving a small corner for car audio. Some of you might know exactly who and what I’m talking about, some won’t. I miss CD’s….

      1. That’s a good point about how a lot of modern-day plastic cases seem poorly made, making it a struggle to remove the CD. I wonder if there was a change in the way they manufacture plastic cases? That said, it was too bad that some of the better packaging came along near the end o the CD era. Thanks for the comment!

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