By Corinne Love
By Corinne Love
These dinosaurs can often be found in scattered dusty caves, rummaging through artifacts looking for one or maybe several precious gems.
Chances are you know one, you have met one, or you are the dinosaur.
This particular type of dinosaur is to be called the “music snob” (also affectionately known as a music elitist).
Once upon a time (late ’80s to mid ’90s) when music stores where the place to go, the “music snob” perused in-bins, shelves and rack after rack of jewel cases to find the holy grail of their collections: the ‘rarity’ or the stand-alone album that will help them stand out from the regular music fan.
The coined term, “music snob” described a music fan who acquired rarities and limited pressings, and stood to own a wealth of albums in a specific genre (like progressive Scandinavian rock), or the “essentials,” albums that it seemed like everyone owned.
Rarities, exclusives and limited prints of albums were generally typical of smaller record labels who wanted to cater to their target markets.
These rarities often included a B-side or remix that would generally never be featured anywhere else.
Mainstream record labels usually released the limited print of an album to create a buying frenzy for their product.
“Limited” is pretty much self-explanatory. The disc, for example, would have different cover art, or an extended remix, and would have a preset amount of copies, such as Madonna’s limited release edition of her “Justify my love” single.
Generally, these methods worked.
During this time period, fans could buy the releases through mail order catalog and exclusive fan club opportunities.
It was also a time when it was normal to have face-to-face interaction with a music store sales clerk.
Well-known, and made self-important for their knowledge in music, the music snob became an archetype in college and young adult films throughout the ’90s.
Films like “Empire Records” and “High Fidelity” portrayed music snobs and elitists as cynical, jaded, sarcastic individuals dressed in black who only derived satisfaction from deriding another’s taste in music.
Music elitists prided themselves in either the content of their collections or the obscurity of their collection.
The higher degree of obscurity, the higher their ego would rise.
When I worked at a music store before its closing, I encountered many different types of customers.
No customer was as fascinating or downright irritating as the elitist.
Notably, one customer would gripe about whether or not The White Stripes belonged in the pop/rock section.
This same customer would then for minutes on end, relentlessly question why our store didn’t stock more LOVE EPs.
He would brag to other customers about his experience with music, and condescendingly interrogate them about their selections.
It was as if you did not like his brand of music, or admire his selectivity in pop culture, you, as a person, were uncultured.
I bet he’s cringing even more now, and posing his questions to virtually no one.
The meteoric rise of downloading music has killed the elitist’s primary life support of buying music, leaving what’s missing in their collections up for grabs.
The logic is, why buy something when you can get it for free? Why wait when you can have it right this instant?
If a listener wants the entire Muse discography, they can have it-free of charge.
In a mere matter of minutes, what took the elitist a decent amount of time to acquire, the new fan can have without practically leaving home.
For our generation, whatever it will come to be name (some like to think of it as the “thieving” generation) technology has leveled the playing field. All music, anytime, anywhere can now be made available. Regardless if it was limited print or out of print, it’s online.
CD sales are in steady decline, but people are listening to more music than ever.
Take a peek at anybody’s iPod and you are likely to scroll through grocery lists of songs, albums, artists and videos that only exist in reality on their iPod.
A new iPod can hold up to 160GB of music. Not to mention how much time that would take to fill it up with media, the sheer amount of media it holds is staggering. The problem with an iPod, the second it’s bought it’s obsolete with a better model being available in the too-near future. Also if it crashes or breaks, you, are just out of the luck.
Some people don’t even have a good recollection of what is on their iPod. Blame it on instant gratification, blame it on bad memory. People just forget, and those songs and possibly albums can get lost in the shuffle.
Back when it was okay to buy an actual CD, people would buy plastic, wood or metal storage units to hold their collections and display them in their bedrooms or living rooms. Remember CD wallets, the portable booklet that allowed you to carry all your CDs but unfortunately scratched them to the point where every album had an extended dance mix.
In “High Fidelity” John Cusack’s character would reserve time to re-organize his collection according to some meticulous theme. Today, listeners organize by playlists.
In the music store, people would buy a CD and often indulge a story relating to why they were purchasing the actual CD versus the digital copy. Often, they would cite how they related to the album, it was a gift for a music lover, or they were buying it to own the actual, tangible product.
Downloading music is great. We don’t need a pop psychologist, or world renowned sociologist to support this with clinical research, we just know it.
As consumers, it’s great because we know what it has evolved from.
The tug of war between the music business and customers has raged on for years, leaving the customer twenty dollars less in the wallet and feeling duped.
At it’s pinnacle N Sync’s “No Strings Attached” sold 2.4 million records in it’s first week, it would go on to sell 9 million worldwide.
The best selling album of 2007 was Chris Daughtry’s “Daughtry” managed to sell 3.2 million records for that entire year. What a difference several years makes.
That is funny, because you hear music everywhere.
We definitely heard thirty-second snippets on cell phones, a video clip on youtube, and the growing with popularity, the TV spot. Escaping a hit Fergie single was near impossible.
When music stores and the music elite were thriving, hearing a song on a television commercial was the kiss of death.
Commercialization in the 90s of anything “cool” cheapened it and the proof was to be found in the bargain bins.
However, new music is not commercialized. It is now produced to fit a certain structure for a commercial or a ringtone.
Budding pop stars and potentially emerging rock stars in this new model need to get an easy-to-digest hit single and another media outlet to attach it to.
So, one can forget about the concept of an album.
A great example of just how odd technology and music intertwine can be found in Moby’s 1999 album “Play.”
Released on independent label V2, during the midst of the electronica and dance music outbreak, it was the first album to have its entire tracklisting for commercial licensing.
Moby, a then unknown DJ became a subculture mogul and successful mainstream artist seemingly overnight. Even if you can’t name a Moby song by its title, chances are you have heard it before.
This is possibly the future of music. We don’t need to make trips to the local record store and familiarize ourselves with varying cover art and staff picks, we can hear it during a Nissan ad, decide if we like it or not and download it. It’s simple.
If we accidentally ‘delete’ the song from our media device, no worries, it is replaceable.
MP3’s don’t scratch, they don’t take up space, and they don’t reflect light in your eyes while your trying to drive (you
really shouldn’t be multitasking).
Progress is experimental and necessary; go forward with all that is known but to leave certain segments behind.
In our accelerated quest for accumulating music (and new portable devices) we have forgotten about the nostalgic joy of waiting with eager anticipation for a new release by our favorite artists. Back then, we could listen to full albums with total absorption that music creates.
Pity the anachronistic music elite.
They have to compete with a new breed of music snob. The new music snob while still pretentious and condescending has limitless hard drive space and fast connections. They can listen to songs and throw them away so quickly, like the music was made for that purpose-to be thrown away. Like a child with a house full of toys, but consistently claiming “I’m bored.”
In a strange way, fears about digital music are similar to the CD when it first made its debut to wreck analog and vinyl. People still do buy vinyl, just not in mass numbers.At 25 years old, the CD is still holding on as MP3 encrypts its way into our memory bank and portable devices while we run full speed ahead to catch up.