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Music and the Creative Spirit

Terry Currier: A Coalition for Music Freedom

By Published: December 11, 2009
AAJ: What is your opinion of the quality of the music that is being produced through file sharing?

TC: It's an inferior sound quality but when digital came out in the very beginning, it was all free. And there is something about consumers accepting a lesser quality of goods when it's free.

AAJ: When you look throughout history, people seem to look for things that have more depth or meaning when there is difficulty. Do you think there is a possibility of this happening today?

TC: Yes, but I don't think the music means as much to a lot of the younger generation. I don't want to stereotype a generation because there are people who really appreciate it in the younger generation. But if you look at the 70s, there were only several TV stations and there was also the radio along with movie theaters and those were your sources of entertainment at that time. And then video game parlors popped up and cable TV brought in hundreds of channels. Computers then came along and now there are wireless phones. There are so many things that are available for young people to choose from that they just don't have the concentration to place into any one thing. And this is also why the digital single is working so well. People like to hear that single song. But the whole album experience was very important to most of the music buyers in the 70s and before.

AAJ: It's still difficult for me to believe that things will continue to go in this direction. Every generation is different in its own way and I think that there will be a generation that will come along and look for things in a different way.

TC: We actually might be seeing a renaissance right now as there are more and more teens jumping into vinyl. Things usually skip a generation and perhaps some of this new younger generation is rebelling against digital by going with vinyl. Kids usually don't go along with whatever their parents are into.

And it's a little different today in that there are parents and kids into the same kind of music, but the format seems very compelling to a lot of these younger people. Part of that could also be because of the sound quality itself but I think that teenagers buy vinyl for a lot of different reasons. Some of it has to do with the price for used LP's and I think that some of them buy LP's because not everyone is a vinyl person and so it's cool. It separates them away from the pack. And once you hear a good piece of vinyl against an MP3, there is such a difference in the quality that I think it provides a very compelling reason of why you would want to get into vinyl.

AAJ: Has the closure of some of the major chains helped the independents?

TC: What I have found is that people develop habits and some develop shopping habits. We thought that when Tower went under, the business would come to the independents, but it didn't happen. Only some of it did. When we closed one of our stores in a NW Portland, the customers that were in the neighborhood didn't necessarily go out seeking another record store. So a lot of that is just lost business.

AAJ: What are some of the misconceptions that the consumer has today?

TC: Many people follow the trends and believe that record stores are a dying breed and that digital downloading is on the way up. So the consumer has to ask themselves, what will they do under those circumstances.

When the Home Shopping Network came along, there was word that the record stores were going to go away in three to four years because people were going to shop on TV. And then Amazon came around and the word was that in three or four years, our business was going to be all dried up because the consumer was going to be buying physical goods on-line. And then digital downloading happened and we were going to be gone in three years. Well, we are still here... we are still here.

AAJ: Of the independents that are making it today, what exactly are they doing to be successful?

TC: The people that are passionate about the music are going to be the people that last the longest because they are determined to do it. And because independent music stores are rooted in the community, they react to the community a lot easier than the national chains who are based in one city and manage stores that are one or two thousand miles away. They have to make decisions that affect all of those stores even though all of those marketplaces might be different.

But what some stores have done over the last ten years is that they have increased their sales in lifestyle goods; meaning t-shirts, posters, non-music items that they feel will appeal to their specific customer. Some stores have diversified into other areas, such as Easy Street in West Seattle, which has a Café in their store. Some have coffee shops and many have increased their used product because it has a greater profitability than new product. There is a store back east called Rainbow Records that is in a town where they don't have a good book store so he incorporated used books into his store as well as a smaller selection of new books. So his staff champions their books in the same way they champion their music. They are trying to find things that will make up for the loss of revenue in selling compact discs.

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