Buying Music the Old Way

Mark Roberts reflects on his blog about how easy it is today to find and purchase music from the comfort of your own home, as opposed to the “old way” of going out and buying it in a store. He has some good thoughts on the convenience of technology as well as some of the dangers of instant gratification.

His post reminded me of the Herculean lengths I used to go to find music when I was younger. I spent hours browsing the secondhand record stores, searching for out-of-print treasures like People’s “I Love You” and Larry Norman’s “So Long Ago the Garden.” When my mother went to England to visit relatives, I pleaded with her to try and find the European version of Mark Heard’s “Fingerprint.”

When I was in college, I started listening to Canadian guitarist/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. His most recent material could be tracked down in the states, but you could only find his earlier records in Canada. So, while on a family vacation in northern New Hampshire one summer, I took an all day trek into Canada, stopping at every record store I could find buying up Bruce’s back catalogue. I remember coming back to our cabin in New Hampshire with my arms full of record albums I could not play because we had no record player in the cabin. All week long I studied the album jackets, reading the lyrics and the liner notes, wondering what the music was like. When I got home and put the records on the stereo, I was not disappointed.

I still have all of these treasures on vinyl LP. I eventually ended up re-buying them on CD. The vinyl records are sitting in a cardboard box in the storage closet down in the basement, while their CD counterparts sit proudly upstairs in the living room next to the entertaiment center. And now I could find any of these items online within minutes for either purchase or download.

I like and appreciate the convenience of the internet. I wouldn’t want to go back to the old way of purchasing music anymore than I would want to listen to records on vinyl instead of CD or MP3. But, I have to admit, it was a lot of fun hunting them down the old way. Those are good memories. I wouldn’t trade the internet for the old way, but I wouldn’t trade my memories for the internet either. I just might have to break open that box of vinyl in the basement later today and browse some more liner notes.

Related post: Media Access for the Next Generation


  1. Kathryn Post says:

    What does the next generation have that can compare to that? The only thing I really have to look for are sales. I do most of my shopping online now because it’s so much easier. I’ve never had that quest for music experience. This posting makes me question: What will my kids take for granted that takes me time now?

  2. Bethany says:

    I have a similar experience with books. In my teen years my best friend Becky and I would take the train to Boston and then spend hours in Harvard Square, in all the old used book stores. I wanted to get a complete collection of Agatha Christies and Thomas Hardy novels. (How’s that for diversity?) Each time I found a new one was a mix of delight/satisfaction/on to the next one!

    I think hunting and finding was almost more fun than reading them, though I still own them all. Some of the old paperback bindings have lost their glue, and I could easily get better copies but the memories of these can’t be beat.

    I confess it’s a lot easier now to go to online used book sites and I can find (nearly) everything I want but alas, the thrill is gone. And so are the great prices! By the time I’ve paid for the book and shipping they can’t beat the 4 for a $1 bargains of Harvard Square – even with inflation. 🙂

  3. Ray Fowler says:


    I have some ideas on what will be different for your kids, but I think I will save that for another post.

  4. Jon Erickson says:

    I have had similar experiences with searching for music in my past – and I dearly miss it. Yes, I do most of my shopping on the internet for ‘back catalogue’ items nowadays but it does not come near the experience of setting out on a trek to hunt something down. It was not just the thrill of victory when I found something but also the thrill of the hunt (hit or miss). Along the way I met people that would eventually become very close friends and alot of other very ‘interesting’ people.
    I miss the smell of old vinyl and that musty scent that only a used record store can offer. That somewhat ‘record expert’ stare from behind the counter that would spark up when you would even dare to step near the used cd bin…and even before the days od cd’s, that same stare that you would get when you would actually have a question about an item. HA! I laugh when I think of that!
    Lots of memories that can never be captured when you have no interaction with people when purcasing on the internet.
    Progress is good: I have found some items on the web that I believe that I would have never come across otherwise. I guess that is a fair trade.

  5. Ray Fowler says:

    Hi Jon,

    Aaah yes – someone else who understands the joys of record hunting in the “old days.” Those were definitely fun times. But, yes the modern way has its advantages, too.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Larry Norman Concert in New York City (1) at Ray Fowler .org
  2. Media Access for the Next Generation (1) at Ray Fowler .org
  3. Larry Norman Concert in New York City (2) at Ray Fowler .org

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