Walking into a music library with all the CDs and vinyl readily available is an experience that all audiophiles miss. Record shops were a huge part of popular culture in the 20th century and the early 21st century. These shops sold recorded music in different formats, such as vinyl, tapes, cassettes, and compact disks. Record shops were big brands in the retail industry and provided a great experience for music lovers. With an ambiance created by the hottest tunes playing in the background and an array of visually stimulating artworks, it’s hard to argue against people missing record stores.
Much of the era of record stores was before the era of social media. This means that radio, billboards, print media, and visiting the actual record store were necessary to find out upcoming projects. The excitement of walking into a store and seeing a new album from your favorite artist cannot be replaced by digital stores. The ability to physically look at the charts in a store to establish which artist is currently the best-selling based on real-life data was unmatched. A standard based on physical sales was arguably more credible than anything digital numbers or streaming data can ever match. In terms of accuracy, integrity, and reputability, the data you could physically see was more reassuring than today’s numbers.
We’ve seen many scandals surrounding manipulating charts by label executives and how some artists can pay for streams. This is very concerning to consumers who can’t proudly rate their favorite artist as the best, with so much doubt surrounding the charts. Radio airplay along with the rankings in record shops used to be fantastic for reassuring fans. The integrity of the industry was in less doubt at that time. We do not wish to lose the convenience of digital stores or streaming platforms, but they bring these problems to the business.
Subscription fees for streaming services are a lot lower in 2021, as you can get a month of streaming for the cost of a single album purchase. This is a welcome change for music lovers as they get to enjoy a lot more without spending too much money. They also save time and money as you don’t have to travel to the store to purchase music. You don’t even have to purchase an album at all, as most of them are available to stream. Fans can still buy albums online and, they can request physical copies should they prefer that format.
Musicians don’t have to worry about getting fewer plaques due to the decline in physical sales. Digitization meant that individual listens in the form of streams can be tallied up to gauge how popular a song is. Recording industries now have systems in place to grant certifications based on these numbers. Streams on a song or project can contribute to its certification by adding them to the perceived value of sales. In the United States, Under the updated album-equivalent ratios, 1 250 premium audio, 3 750 ad-supported, or 3 750 video streams are equal to one album unit. With these in place, artists can still get their platinum and gold plaques just as they would if they were selling physical units.
The digitization of musical records seems to be a financial burden to artists as physical sales have drastically decreased. This is not as alarming as it seems, considering new avenues for artists to make money. Most artists depend on tours and shows to earn a living in terms of finances, not royalties. Top performers in the United States can charge half a million dollars for a single performance. Added to this, many brands pay exorbitant amounts of cash for partnerships with well-known artists. Endorsements and partnerships make up a huge stake in modern artists’ earnings. This is made even more lucrative by social media, where a popular account can negotiate six figures for a single post promoting the brand.
You cannot disregard the benefits that have come with going digital, but you also can’t deny the importance of record stores to music culture. It was a necessary trade off for the industry to move forward, even though it came at the expense of some fans’ preferences.