Other Music and the Online Gold Rush

Several news items this week crystallized, if only for a moment, a few truths about the ever evolving music business. Sadly, Other Music, perhaps the best place to buy new vinyl in Manhattan (though they had used Lps as well), will be closing on June 25. According to a NYT story, “Business has dropped by half since the store’s peak in 2000, when it did about $3.1 million in sales.” The key phrase in all of this is “in Manhattan,” a locale that also just made a hilarious most overrated list in the Daily News. Yes, the entire island was judged by New Yorkers to be “overrated.” If you’re a tourist willing to splurge on Yankee Stadium or the Metropolitan Opera or a foreign billionaire looking for a real estate investment aka, tax shelter, then Manhattan is for you. But then rising rents, at crazy exorbitant rates, is a problem in Astoria, Queens, Williamsburg, Brooklyn and several other hoods in the five boroughs. Fortunately, a healthy cluster of small vinyl shops has sprung up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where rents are semi-coherent and the subways stops fairly numerous. In those mom and pops, as well as on the web, the sale of physical media, particularly vintage vinyl LPs, seems to be healthy. The following paragraph from Pitchfork.com shot around the web this week in record time.

“A rare early copy of David Bowie's self-titled album, which was subsequently reissued as Space Oddity, has become the most expensive record ever sold on Discogs. The first-pressing record, released in 1969, sold for $6,826, the site announced today.”

As a sucker for vintage vinyl who has been known to get into insane bidding wars—during most of which I finally awaken and drop out of before it’s too late—I can relate to paying too much, but six grand? For a record that was eventually issued. And reissued. No hint so far as to what made that copy so valuable beyond someone’s insane desire to possess it at any price. And let's remember that Discogs.com does not have photos of what you are buying though most responsible sellers will email you some if asked. But nevertheless the possibility exists that whoever bought this record did so sight unseen! But to return to the theme, there's actually another segment of the music business that’s still making money. Got a bunch of cool old records, with a couple Prince titles still in the shrink? Strike now whilst the silly money iron is still hot!

ken mac's picture

There are plenty of used vinyl stores in this exceedingly insane city but there is only one Other Music. No other store had such knowledgeable salespeople and such deep catalog, and across practically every genre. You could buy the latest Italian soundtrack reissue, experimental music from GRM,electronic brain snatchers from Hyperdub, amazing African music, French and Indonesian pop, all that along with the newest domestic pop and rock releases on CD and LP. And Blue Note, and Krautrock, and punk rock and a decent used jazz and classical LP section. This a tragic loss for a city that more and more resembles all the other chain store driven cities across the globe.