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Celebrating Non-Digital Music on Record Store Day and in College Radio

View out of Grooves Records in San Francisco

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of music that can be held in one’s hands. The third annual Record Store Day on Saturday (if you missed it, take a look at our Radio Guide for the event) celebrated both physical record stores and the non-digital releases sold within their walls.

As I visited two of my favorite San Francisco record stores, Aquarius and Grooves, I was elated to see people combing through bins of records and CDs and talking about music with each other.

I also spotted a case full of cassettes at Aquarius and boxes housing 8-track tapes at Grooves, illustrating that there is still a market for formats that many assume to be non-existent.

Cassettes for Sale at Aquarius Records

The success of this year’s Record Store Day speaks to the desire held by many to hang on to the physical aspects of music amid the pressures to “go digital.”

College radio is a logical home for some of these tensions, as some stations are getting rid of vinyl (and even CDs), using automation software, and are allowing DJs to use iPods during their radio shows.

8-Track Tapes for Sale at Grooves in San Francisco

These debates about the role of physical music in radio are at the core of an article that I wrote this week for PopMatters called “Technology and the Soul of College Radio.”

In the piece I talk about both the history of innovation in college radio (ever the trendsetter) and how the dark side of tech may be seeping in to its programming, threatening to homogenize the airsound and take away some of the energy and whimsy that I think should typify college radio.

The response to my article has been fascinating, with some people telling me that they are afraid to voice their opinions against digital music and with others sharing how their college radio stations have already gone to the dark side of commercial-esque Selector-scheduled programming. And I didn’t even get into the arguments related to fidelity, which is a big concern for many in the anti-digital music camp. What do you think? Does physical music make for better-sounding radio?

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One Response to Celebrating Non-Digital Music on Record Store Day and in College Radio

  1. Janice May 24, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    Despite the pressures to “go digital.” a survey undertaken by HP illustrates that when it comes to the progression from physical to digital ownership of media, the UK population are far from being ‘Space Age’. A surprising number of people are staying faithful to the “old school” method of owning music and films, thus rejecting digital.
    The Music Void’s Editor and Founder Jakomi Mathews has written an interesting article on whether or not the Evolution of Digital Media Survey Points to Consumer Rejection of Subscription Services in the UK. Well worth a read!

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