August 15, 2009
Let me lead off by saying this: I love music, and I believe that finding a person who loves the same music as you can make a good relationship great. It's true, my fiancee and I bonded over music as much as anything else in the early years of our relationship. I made her mix CDs and we reminisced about the music we listened to growing up. Music is as important to us now as it was before when we first started dating five years ago.
But not once during this period have we ever strolled through a record store and browsed through vinyl. In fact, I don't even think we've browsed through the CD section of any store. We find music online, we acquire music online, and we listen to music online. I'm probably the furthest thing from an iTunes loyalist, but the pay-per-song model was one of the biggest-ever shifts in the music industry, leading to declining album "sales" and increasing song "downloads" (which increased by 30% in 2008, according to this year-end report by the Recording Industry Association of America). This begs the question:
Who still browses through vinyl in record stores anymore?
Assuming most people are, like us, primarily users of online music services, why are movies still stuck in the 80's and 90's? The "browsing through records on a first date" scene is one of the oldest and most used movie cliches of the last few decades (most recently in (500) Days of Summer), and I'm not buying it anymore. About as many people browse through record stores as Blockbuster stores these days, and in this age of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and iTunes, that's a dwindling group.
If you agree with me you'll be surprised by the following fact, and if you disagree with me you'll be standing on solid evidence: Last year, vinyl records sold at their highest level since 1990, more than doubling in sales from 2007. What gives? I can't explain it, and while it threatens to blow a gaping hole in my argument, I stand by my claim that people don't flirt across record store aisles anymore, and romantic connections through music are much more likely to happen online, or maybe at a live show, but that's about it.
I also don't accept the reality of Garden State and (500) Days of Summer, where lovers unite when one hears the music come from the other's massive, noise-canceling earmuff headphones. If both characters are big audiophiles, wouldn't they both be listening to music, and even then, don't most people use earbuds?
As with answering machines and free cabs, this is where you end up when you spend way too much time thinking about movie details.