The other day I was at the store browsing through the music selection, as I am wont to do, trying to find something new and different or old and very different and a thought occurred to me. Every other item in the store was obliged to describe itself somewhere on its packaging. This is how they sell books, they get important people to write blurbs on the inside covers, publishing companies have whole gangs of lackeys coming up with new synonyms for “fun-filled romp” and “tour-de-force”, all in an effort to engage the consumer and turn him or her into a reader.
The same goes for movies, though you have less access to the actual content than you have with books you still get cover art which is, ideally, indicative of the style of the movie. You know who’s in it and you have a working knowledge of what kind of movies they act in or what kind the director tends to make. You have a blurb on the back which someone was paid to write (and frankly paid too much). All of these data inform your buying decision, if you’re deliberating, you have relative merits to compare, it’s a pleasurable shopping experience.
Not so with music.
With CDs you get a small square of shrink-wrapped plastic with some art on the front and a track listing on the back. That’s it. Very frequently you don’t even get a proper track listing and the artwork is some maddeningly obscure bit of non-art. In order for you to learn more about this product, which you just bought, you have to open the plastic seal, thus committing yourself to that purchase. Call me crazy but the time when I like to make purchasing decisions is before I have shackled myself eternally to that purchase. So now you’ve opened the CD packaging and you have access to the album art, CD booklet. Lucky you.
It looks something like this
Guitars – Bob Indiepants
Bob would like to thank his pet hamster Jeebus.
If you’re really lucky, you get lyrics. If you’re not, no lyrics for you, but don’t go looking them up on the internet, that’s intellectual property violation.
I will attempt to descend from my lofty soapbox at this point.
As you can see, with these kind of restrictions it is no wonder people download music, at least then if you don’t like it you haven’t wasted $12 on a shiny piece of plastic that looks very pretty when microwaved.
The problem with music stores is, unless their staff are very, very knowledgeable, there is no facility to point you in the direction of new music you might like. The product itself is no help at all.
Since I, proverbial fledgling record store owner, cannot depend on the artists to describe themselves, I have to find some other way to categorize and label my music. Instead of simply kludging everything together alphabetically in the ignominious ghetto of Rock/Pop, it is time to take matters into my own hands.
Here is the list I give to my employees:
- Look through the store and find the music you like.
- If it doesn’t have a tab divider with the artists name, make one.
- Type up a description of this artist in 50 words or less
- Also type up two other bands that you like in a similar vein
- Paste this onto the tab divider
And when they’re done with that:
- Start with A.
- For each CD that we stock more than 2 of, look up the artist on Pandora or last.fm
- Listen to a few tracks
- Write down the description of the music found online as well as the similar artists
In this way, I educate my employees about the product, pay them for listening to and talking about music, something they already love to do, and I convert more customers because they can browse the store and find something that they will like.
Was that so painful?