Sunday, May 2, 2010

Music Musings: A CD Hunter's Guide

I miss the old days. Granted, that's not much of a surprise. After all, this entire website is mostly constructed with nostalgia. One of those things I miss about the old days? CDs. Not CDs being for sale, but going to a store and finding several discs that I wanted and only having money for one. It's one of those feelings that's agonizing but totally fun at the same time.

These days I have to buy online for the most part. There's a few mainstream releases that I like to pick up (as evidenced by my last few posts) but there is NOWHERE to find obscure stuff anymore. Have you been in your local Christian store? Good luck finding the latest CD from the Lost Dogs or the 77's. Interested in Retroactive Records stuff? Hope you like buying online.

There's still hope though. That's what this edition of Music Musings is about - where to find CDs. Good ones. I'm going to go through a few CD hunting methods and give them an arbitrary rating that I will think of off the cuff.

1. Christian Music Stores - This used to be my "go-to" place for music but as I've gotten older and the Christian music industry has changed I don't find anything there anymore. And unless you like the "flavor-of-the-month" in terms of music you won't either. Chain stores like Lifeway and Family Christian Stores will occasionally have some lost gem for cheap, and I do mean occasionally but for the most part they stock music like Walmart - extremely current. It's understandable - Christian music is such a niche market they have to stay current to make any money. Though I'm pretty sure that when I went into stores back in the day they'd have more than just the current album of a certain band. Your only real luck will be through mom & pop outfits that aren't constrained by a corporate system. Rating: "O How the Mighty Have Fallen" Award for being awesome and then totally sucking.

2. Pawn Shops - Pawn shops are a pretty mixed bag and depend mostly on your location. If you live in a bigger city with a good music scene you'll find better stuff. I used to live in Ft. Wayne, IN and they had a large church-going population as well as a thriving music scene. I found a TON of good stuff in the pawn shops there (Daniel Amos' Motorcycle and the Choir's Diamonds and Rain were among my many finds). Now that I live in Nowhere, Georgia the pickings are slim as there's only three styles of music down here: country, southern gospel, and Lynard Skynard. I still go in them every now and then but never find anything exept the same sun-bleached copies of Enigma that were there a year ago. Rating: "Amazing" Award for how you can find cool stuff in one shop then bupkiss in another.

3. Goodwill - Goodwill is actually worth looking into. Even where I live I've found several discs that would have been good finds had I not owned them already. Also in Lexington, KY where I popped into a Goodwill while visiting in-laws, even they had good stuff. So if you've got a Goodwill in town head down there and check out their wares. You may be shocked and happy at what you find! Rating: "The Rifleman" Award for being surprisingly cool.

4. Chain Stores - I'm talking about the FYEs and the Sam Goody's of the world. I used to be able to find the odd gem here and there (did I mention I found Now the Truth Can Be Told for $4? Yeah... I think I did) but in the last couple years they've stopped taking stuff they can't sell right away. If that CD doesn't come up in their system they won't buy it. Which means people can't get rid of just anything anymore. Which means the chances of you finding a copy of Vengeance Rising's Human Sacrifice is about slim to none. It's worth looking once to see if something is still there but once you've seen what they've got they're not getting anything new.
Rating: "Children of Time" award for being slavishly devoted to what's current and "cool."

5. - Amazon has been my main provider for just about everything. You can find some pretty good stuff for CHEAP! You have access to sellers that are willing to sell just about anything. The only downside is that if you want a mint copy of The Swirling Eddies Let's Spin you're going to have to pay for it... but at least they have it. Also, you don't get the experience of being in a store and checking out all the new stuff which I always think is half the fun. But still... Amazon remains my go-to place for music.
Rating: "Restore My Soul" Award for helping me collect so much cool music over the years.

6. E-bay - I used to use Ebay a lot but haven't bothered with it in forever. The main reason? I can usually find what I want on Amazon and don't have to worry about being outbid or having the price balloon up to some absurd amount. Rating: "Terrible Mystery" award for the people who list CDs for hundreds of dollars. C'mon people... they're just CDs.

7. CD Trading Websites - and Music are dang near useless. If you sign up you'll get some decent discs right off the jump but it will slow to a trickle and dry up soon. See here's the problem: people want GOOD CDs and they don't want BAD CDs. What does this mean for you? It means there's a million people wanting to get rid of their Hit Me Baby One More Time dust collectors, but few wanting to give up their Alarmas or Doppelgangers. Rating: "Yellow-Haired Monkeys" Award for being a silly idea in the first place.

These aren't the only places to get stuff. If you're lucky enough to have a used CD shop in your town make sure you kiss the owner on the lips and then buy lots of stuff. Those shops are a dying breed and once they're gone they NEVER come back. You can also find music on sites like Rad Rockers or Divine Metal Distro which usually carry the always-awesome Retroactive stuff.

Finally, I've been wondering how long it will be before music goes completely digital. My 15-year old niece has tons of music but doesn't own one single disc. Everything is digital on Itunes. It won't be long before you won't own ANYTHING at all. You'll pay ten dollars to sort of have permission to listen to music that you downloaded. As much as I'm for advances in technology and how they can help musicians, the digital movement, in my opinion will be a way for record companies to charge something for nothing. But that's another column for another time...

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it's time for a music-buying road trip back to Fort Wayne. You KNOW you miss the Wooden Nickle stores! Plus we also have a "Half-Priced Books" store, in which I've found some good stuff for only a buck! And the pawn shops are still here and asked me to tell you that they miss you.