When I heard Spec’s Records closed down, I couldn’t help but feel an era had ended even though the era ended a long time ago. In all honesty it’s amazing a record shop lasted all the way to January 2013. I can’t remember the last time I bought an album at an actual store. But I can also remember where I bought my first music. It was a cassette of the Beastie Boys License to Ill I purchased at Spec’s.
Spec’s were inescapable in South Florida in the 80s and 90s. It was where I bought my first concert ticket for Lollapalooza ’92. The branch in the Miracle Center was where I bought my last ever cassette Digable Planets’ Reachin’ (ignore the omission of my dated purchases like that of the cassette single for Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy).
Music is now fleeting. We download it out of thin air. It streams through the internet and in and out of our consciousness. There is no longer a need for a marketplace where one buys and sells artifacts of recorded music, but music’s value has always been greater than any tangible object like a record, cassette, or CD. Music has always been about camaraderie and a sharing of the human experience. With fewer and fewer record shops where now can an alienated teenager go to bond over a shared love of a subculture and a shared hatred for whatever is presently moving the masses?
There’s the aforementioned internet where even the most obscure bands have message boards and fan pages, but it’s nice to get out of the house and have actual human contact. Recently, I stumbled upon the obvious alternative.
My guitar had been gathering dust in the corner of the room, so I decided to get it strung. I made the far trek to Guitar Center, a store that sells musical instruments. where I learned the spirit of record shops never died. It was merely reincarnated. The place was overstaffed with kids too cool to help me out. Good music was playing on the speakers (Faith No More and Arcade Fire were overheard) and even though I was the only customer in the store they were too busy to restring my guitar until next week.
That’s fine. I’ll gladly strum off key chords for another week in exchange for the knowledge that our culture has shifted. No longer is there a mass audience where the selling of albums is economically feasible. We are now a culture of artists where everyone has their own band. And there are marketplaces to capitalize on that niche.
This was originally published in The New Times. If you liked it you can read my further musings about music by clicking here.