Music Stores Are Dead

My wife wanted a CD for Christmas, and I waited too long to purchase it online. I couple days before Christmas, I walked into my local Coconuts music store. Apparently, I hadn’t been in a music store in a while.

The rows and rows of CDs and DVDs were still there. They were rediculously overpriced, just as I’d remembered. The discount bin was still there, with all of the CDs nobody wanted to buy. But the people were different. And the music wasn’t.

There wasn’t anyone in the store under the age of 30, except maybe for the sales clerk behind the counter. What were the featured items, on the first rack as you walk in the store? Old Seinfeld episodes on DVD. What was the featured music? Clapton. Springsteen. The Beatles.

Now back when I was tying onions to my belt (it was the style at the time), I used to spend a lot of time in music stores. Strangely enough, they were the place to go if you wanted to buy music. Without exception, the under-21 crowd outnumbered every other age group by at least a factor of 3-1. All of the marketing was targetted to the teens. If you could find thirty-year-old music at all, it was buried in the back somewhere, alphabetized by artist in REALLY BIG LETTERS so the old people could read them.

Today’s teens don’t go to the record stores to buy music. Why should they? They can buy the music online for less than $1 a song (compared to $18 at the mall for a collection of 12 songs). Online music sales, from such sources as iTunes and Napster increased by 150% in 2005, and that’s not counting the people who are purchasing old-fashioned CDs online. You can go to and find any CD in print. You can listen to samples, read reviews, and compare it to other collections. When you’re ready to buy, checkout with a credit card, and the CD will arrive in your mailbox. There’s no reason to go to the mall.

What does this mean for the record stores? They’re dead. Or they will be. The boomers are still — apparently — going to the music stores. From what I could see, most of them were there buying gifts for others. But old people don’t buy much music, and there are only so many seasons of Seinfeld.