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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman for On The Beat. I used to drive a sportscar. I loved the speed of the car, with great music on my stereo, feeling completely in the groove. And every week, I-d stop at my local record store to hear what great new music had been released. The clerks knew me well, and would hold records behind the counter for me to consider. And I would often leave with far more music than I had intended to buy. Those were the days. But I-ve traded in my sports car, for a different kind of speed on a different kind of road. And it-s getting mighty crowded here as millions make the internet their driving force. The amazing part is how great the digital highway is for exploring music. It-s convenient, safe, and fun, and it-s making my stops at local record stores, a lot less frequent.

These days, the retail record business is being replaced by the record business on the internet. And the change is happening a lot faster than a lot of record stores would like. Why is that?

I think the answer lies in the added value experience. Most of the large stores, called brick and mortar in the business, don-t care about the value added experience. They offer physical space, thousands of titles and usually one lone music officionado to answer customers- questions. But the internet offers an encyclopedic knowledge base to work with, with sound streams, and visuals for many of the ten thousand or so titles. Want to find a Senegalese conga player? Or compare the best in Neo-Soul? How about searching for the greatest in Avant Garde jazz? No matter what your interest in music, the world wide web deliver answers. In this regard, one of the best sites to look at is all Music.com. Their website is very easy to use, and with their outstanding knowledge base, you-re bound to learn tons. If you want to buy a record, the all music guide will link you up with Barnes & Noble, who carry an extensive collection of music online, far outreaching their brick and mortar stores. Plus, you-ll find tracks for a lot of the new music to stream before you make a decision to purchase. It-s convenient, fun and you are in complete control, from the comfort of your own home. The All Music Guide is by no means is the only site with good music information on it - but it-s the best I-ve found. And there are hundreds of retail sites for you to buy records from-check it out and you-ll see why so many are going online to do their record buying.

The interesting thing is that it-s actually not the tech savvy, twenty something gamers who are buying music online in great numbers. In fact, artists like Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, Dido, Sting and Barbra Streisand top the internet cd sales charts. Most people didn-t think the older generation would be early adopters for an online adventure, but in fact they are leading the business revolution in record sales. And sites are welcoming them with open arms, creating user friendly ways to fall in love with music all over again. To the added value equation, most online stores provide special services like preordering music before it hits the street, emailing you when a favorite record comes in, or special ordering that British Import with the non-LP bsides. You get all the personal services, just like the old days at brick and mortar without ever leaving your home.

Ask any independent record store how they-ve survived all these years and they are sure to tell you that they created a special shopping experience for their customers. If online purchasing is so easy, brick and mortar retailers are gonna have to make the experience of walking into a record store something magical once again. There-s got to be added value to the physical experience. If not, there-s a point and click world ready to take over.

This is Celia Hirschman for On The Beat.

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