Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Losing Game of the Record Store Dropouts

Posted by on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 7:02 AM

Last night I was talking to an old hippie friend, who is also a longtime record collector, about the fate of all the record clerk dropouts who got cut loose in the '00s. Prior to teh internets, there was a certain stratum of folks who chose a career as a record store clerk (also: bookstore/video rental shop clerks, too), but then as many record stores closed these folks found themselves not just unemployed but LOST!! Many of these clerks had been in retail for years and didn't think shit would ever tank. But, then it did, and, rather than rallying with a "WHAT'S NEXT?" they just stood there wondering, "WHAT HAPPENED?!"

UGH. I get it, being a cloistered nerd living happily hand-to-mouth worked, till it didn't, and being SO DEEP in record nerddom having to come up with a new life trajectory, perhaps as LESS of a record nerd, did not compute!! Thankfully, it's been a while since the great retail extinction and I know most of those who lost their jobs did get new, and prolly better, jobs, but occasionally I'll run into a glassy-eyed former record store clerk who's still looking for work and still wondering, "WHAT HAPPENED?!"

Oh, I also wonder about the HUGELY important industry guys like Rodney Bingenheimer or Randy Now, the former booker at for the (sorta famous) club City Gardens who have outlived their relevance...and savings. I reckon you can't bank on pop-cultural influence as retirement.


Comments (14) RSS

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Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 1


Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on June 5, 2014 at 7:16 AM · Report this
Dr. Z 2
This is the downside of the constant pace of innovation and novelty we've become accustomed to. Some innovations are "competency destroying", they negate the advantage of experience and turn it into the liability of assumption drag. People who are accustomed to profession A can have a hard time letting go when it's time to move on to B, C, or D.

Don't be too down on yourself if you fall into this situation. You still have many transferrable skills that can help you launch a new career, you just aren't aware of them or how to market them. Selling is selling, no matter what's being sold. Once you master the technique you can learn to sell anything.

And older technologies tend never to go away completely. They often find a niche someplace with a new application. The fax machine was first invented in 1843 and went thru a few incarnations before it caught on. Ocean liners were on the ropes in the 1950s-60s; now the largest liners ever built are being launched, as cruise ships.

Embrace the shock of the old.
Posted by Dr. Z on June 5, 2014 at 7:43 AM · Report this
I can't listen to vinyl on the bus. Records are dead. Some people get left behind. Adapt or die. Etc. etc. etc.
Posted by Hacksaw on June 5, 2014 at 8:06 AM · Report this
You're talking about Paul Constant except with records.
Posted by No Excuses on June 5, 2014 at 8:06 AM · Report this
Josh Bis 5
I wonder if there's a parallel for this in other categories of retail like groceries, apparel, or electronics.
Posted by Josh Bis on June 5, 2014 at 8:24 AM · Report this
I have visited Randy Now's Record Store ( in Bordentown, NJ. He is an affable guy. It seemed like a big chunk of the store's inventory was his own personal collection. Hopefully the new documentary on City Gardens will open up new some new doors for him.
Posted by apollo winnefred on June 5, 2014 at 8:47 AM · Report this
@5 "I wonder if there's a parallel for this in other categories of retail like groceries, apparel, or electronics."

I should certainly hope not.

If I can't pop into my friendly neighborhood grocery store and have the shop clerk tell me the top five canned soups with lentils listed by year of release, or name the top three most influential orange foods and suggest their best followers, then food is dead to me.
Posted by Want To Come Over And Peruse My Food Collection? on June 5, 2014 at 8:50 AM · Report this
Dead, just like journalism.
Posted by diorist on June 5, 2014 at 9:09 AM · Report this
Fnarf 9
Rodney Bingenheimer? Have you not seen "Mayor of the Sunset Strip"? Oh, my God, drop everything and watch it NOW. The whole thing is on Youtube:…

Warning: it's incredibly sad. Rodney's not adjusted well to the changes of which you speak. The scene of him sitting on his bed talking about how he wants to get married to his girlfriend, when it is apparent that she's not his girlfriend at all, is just painful. And the scenes of him getting jacked around by the bungholes at the radio station are ugly. But he's got a sweet charm that shines through. And a ton of memorabilia....
Posted by Fnarf on June 5, 2014 at 9:35 AM · Report this
pg13 10
The thing about being a former record store employee is that what you used to do is unfathomable to the current generation and the generations to's like being a wireless operator.

A good record store employee not only loved music but was an indispensable font of accumulated knowledge...and simply being "someone who knows a lot about stuff" stopped being a marketable commodity in the age of Google, Wikipedia and the All Music Guide.

So, it's not that there were no longer jobs tailored to our skills...or places to work...but that suddenly "what we knew" stopped mattering to anyone. And that's what burrows into your heart as the years go by.

"Hey, there's this song...I don't remember the words, the title or who it's by...but it kind of went like this--" were often the best parts of my day.

(Former Orpheum employee, 1992-2003)
Posted by pg13 on June 5, 2014 at 11:40 AM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 11
you could become a dj.... or a nurse.
( married former orpheum employees 1984 - 2001 )
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on June 5, 2014 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Dr. Z 12
@10: flog your services to Hollywood as a music consultant.
Posted by Dr. Z on June 5, 2014 at 12:56 PM · Report this
As a former record store alumni, and one that's still in touch with many of my former coworkers through social media, it's been interesting to see the ones that were able to adapt to the post-retail world and those who are stuck in the retail rut, moving from bookstore to bookstore like polar bears jumping from ice patch to ice patch.
I still love music and record stores, but now I just spout useless trivia about producers and tracks and my friends roll their eyes.
Posted by The_Warden on June 5, 2014 at 12:58 PM · Report this
pg13 14
As you well know, Riz, I was a dj... :)

(And you've got the best nurse I know. Can't follow that!)
Posted by pg13 on June 5, 2014 at 12:59 PM · Report this

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