The first Genesis album I bought was bought on two criteria. Firstly: I was already listening to Peter Gabriel and aware that he had been a member back-in-the-day. The second was that I liked the album cover
Back in those days, of course, it was a lot harder to shop for music. Firstly you had to get into a town or city centre. Secondly you then had to spend half a day walking around the 3-4 music shops where you may, or more likely may not, be served by a sullen teenager in a Death Metal T-shirt who looks at your Best Of Barry Mannilow in a tone of distaste so loud that it shatters nearby panes of glass.
Having found an album (back then it was vinyl) you would then return home with your purchase and play it. Nine times out of ten it would be warped or scratched, necessitating a trip back to exchange it.
By the time the whole mess had been resolved you were damn sure that whatever your first impressions of the album might have been you were going to give it some time to grow on you.
Not so much now, where an album can be downloaded from the safety of your sofa, where the presence of sullen teenagers are entirely your own fault and yet you still feel that slight tinge of shame when typing "Barry" into the search engine.
Most people that I know will probably give an album they downloaded for £1 one or at most two listens - making music, along with everything else, far more disposable than ever.
Of course: this post is in response to the news that HMV, the last of the chain store high street music retailers has gone into receivership, meaning that the vicarious thrill of venturing into an isle of music that other wise you would need a paperbag over your head to visit (I'm talking about Jazz music here - you know who you are, and if you visit this isle on a regular basis well, on your own conscience be it) and discovering something of interest is forever lost.
Still there are the supermarkets, where CDs can be bought for much cheaper than in the aforementioned chain - but they don't have the same range of choice and mostly only stock chart CDs, meaning that - guilty as you may feel when doing so - you are unlikely to pick up Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue" and discover, despite the shiver in the core of your soul, that it is actually very pleasurable to listen to.
This kind of window shopping is also much harder to do online, where search engines mostly pick up on your choices and offer you something similar.
Other, far wiser, shoppers than me have pointed out that when shopping online it is much less likely that you will hear something playing over the tannoy and decide it may be worth some of your hard earned cash, nor can Amazon respond to a request along the lines of "Can you tell me the name of that song that goes doo-da-doo, da-doo, do-do-do-do" (see #1 below)
And I fear that other shops may soon follow - like Waterstones bookshop, which HMV sold recently in an attempt to stay solvent - meaning that again we will only have the wall-to-wall homage to Twighlight and Fifty Shades that is my local supermarket's book range to choose from.
But having said all of the above I have to hold up my hands here and be honest - I can't actually remember the last time I bought any music from HMV, or books from Waterstones for that matter - I tend to buy my CDs either online or from smaller shops that somehow manage to offer music at more reasonable prices - so I have, effectively, contributed to their demise
So what's the solution? Well, I'm still hopeful that smaller retailers will, at least for a while, be able to buck the trend and find gaps in the market to make a small profit - CD sales of albums are, apparently, still stronger than downloads (although singles are the other way around) and I like to think that we humans are a tactile race and that having discovered the benefits of opposable digits will still find time to use them flicking through the racks of CDs in the hope that today we will find a gem - or be willing to take a chance
#1: "Walk On The Wild Side, Lou Reed