I’m Not Gonna Steal Your Fuckin’ Records

Let’s Get It On
Marvin Gaye
T 329V1
1973
Tamla

An empty jacket on the shelves means the store is keeping the corresponding LP behind the counter so you have to ask for it when you go up to pay.

I’ve seen this done with so-called premium or ‘rare’ records – the albums store owners think are going to get switched out with inferior records or – worse – stolen.

The stores have a million reasons why they do it: “people will slip an extra record into the sleeve,” “people will swap a beat up record with a record in good condition,” “people will slip the LP into their coat and walk out,” etc.

This retail practice is all about what people might do. Its indicative of a lack of trust that store owners have for their customers (or potential customers).

I get it – people steal shit. They shoplift. But if I decide not to come back to a store because I can’t examine the vinyl I’m about to purchase because the record’s being held hostage behind the counter, the store is probably going to lose a purchase – mine – and not just one but many. Many more purchases lost than any $5 (or $50) record jammed in someone’s pants.

But does a store care about its customers? If its one of those corporate stores like Half Price Books, probably not. They get so many people coming and going, they could care less who graces their threshold. The thing is though, if I feel disrespected, I’m not going back and I’m going to talk about the experience online in groups like Vinyl Addiction on Facebook. And write about it on this blog…and tweet about it.

Lets face it – empty jackets on the store shelves are a sign of disrespect. And condescending. And that you don’t matter. This is a larger customer service issue that goes deeper than trying to curtail shoplifting. It’s a corporate fear masked by a superiority complex that actually implies the customer doesn’t mean anything – that all customers are potential thieves.

Its anti-customer service.

As a paying consumer, I deserve the opportunity to look at what I’m about to buy. Not be christened as a potential thief.

© 2017 Chris Barry

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Dump Your MP3 Music Files Now

Tres Hombres
ZZ Top
XPS 631
1973
London

Digital files are the worst way to collect music. They’re an abomination. They’re anti-music.

These files don’t exist. They’re air. A bunch of 0s and 1s. They’re Justin Bieber.

If you listen to the great ZZ Top song “Master of Sparks” off Tres Hombres on vinyl, your first reaction may be what the fuck is going on there? Sounds like it was recorded in mud…but that’s the point. That’s how the little ‘ol band from Texas intended it. Muddy, nasty, sleazy. In fact, the whole album, produced by Bill Ham, sounds this way. And that’s why it’s so great. Its recording is an interpretation of the sound that ZZ Top was trying to capture at that time. It ain’t clean – it’s a garbled, glorious bloozy boozy mess.

Hear it as a digital file and it sounds tinny, unnatural and loud. The idea with digital – and this hearkens back to the CD days – was to ‘clean’ up vinyl. To eliminate any pops, ticks, scratches, pits – anything that may make extraneous noise on a record’s surface. Not a bad idea – especially if you have records that are so dinged up you can’t listen to them. But the idea with digital was also to either equalize everything out of the music or over-equalize it, boosting all levels and dumping dynamic range. Dynamic range in music is the difference between the quietest and loudest volume of an instrument, part or piece of music. Often, when things are reproduced digitally, this range becomes limited through compression, which allows for louder volume, but can make the recording sound lifeless.

This isn’t always the case with CDs – I have some that sound incredible but most sound wrong. Like those Beatles CDs that were released in the late ’80s. They’re way off compared to hearing them on vinyl. In fact, when I first purchased those discs back then, they almost destroyed my love for the Beatles they sounded so bad. Nothing emerged from those reproductions except disappointment.

Take MP3 files. They’re completely stripped of dynamic range. They’re dull coming out of little ear buds that further destroy sound quality. Sure, they’re easy to download and they’re portable but to what point? Take your music everywhere? Ultimately they underwhelm the music listening experience.

Here’s Neil Young’s take on digital music downloads: “It’s about sound quality. I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution. It’s bad for music.”

There’s another aspect to collecting albums as opposed to air-based files. Records are a physical representation, with actual tracks cut into grooves that vibrate (like sound waves) when a needle glides inside of them.

Albums are an actual product. Not only do you have the vinyl disc itself, but you have the jacket, the sleeve, lyric sheets – all those great real things that you can curate, see and hold.

© 2017 Chris Barry