Maybe you've seen the year-end lists of the Oakland shop Park Blvd Records, which gained some traction on social media last week. Sent to the store's customers, they involved the usual round-ups of favorite new releases, reissues, best-selling titles, and miscellaneous categories like "Truly Out There Genius Music."
But Park Blvd co-owner Andrew Nosnitsky (aka Noz) added one of the best cranky-guy rants in the form of another list titled, "RECORD TRENDS THAT NEED TO END FOR 2018." [See my annotations to it at the end of this post.] As someone who spends a lot of time in record stores, I could relate to and agree with many of the points Noz made, but the final one gave me pause. I had an e-mail exchange with him to see what was behind it.
This part—"ANY ONE PERSON OWNING MORE THAN ONE THOUSAND RECORDS IN THEIR HOUSE OR COLLECTION YOU AREN'T JOHN PEEL OR ROBERT CRUMP [sic] YOU'RE A CHUMP AND THERE AREN'T ENOUGH DAYS LEFT IN YOUR LIFE TO LISTEN TO ALL THAT MUSIC..."—leapt out as an odd thing for a record-store proprietor to state. Might it be accurate to say that obsessive collectors—the type of people who own more than a thousand records, say—are those most crucial to keeping a record store like Park Blvd afloat? Not that I disagree with most of what Noz expresses in this part of the list, but the line of reasoning seems self-sabotaging.
Nosnitsky—a writer who's earned a rep as a brilliant rap critic with The Wire, Pitchfork, The FADER, and the Cocaine Blunts blog—replies, "No, I don't think it would be at all accurate to say that obsessive collectors are most important to keeping our store afloat."
Who does keep Park Blvd solvent, then? "It's hard to say, but I suspect that many of our customers are relatively new to the hobby and still building out their collection," Noz says. "Either that or they're working DJs, which is a slightly different conversation and probably deserved an asterisk on that list.
"My sense is that a lot of the old-guard hoardy collectors have tapped out of retail record stores entirely, frustrated by rising prices and instead still chasing that One Big Score at flea markets, etc. Though our clientele might also be skewed by the fact that we specialize in rap music, and contemporary rap music at that. While rap does have its heavy collectors, it's definitely not a genre that most 'Serious Record Collectors' are prioritizing in 2017. (Believe it or not, the most obsessive collectors we see in the store tend to be cassette and CD buyers.)
"As far as the question of self-sabotaging goes, we hope to never sell records to anyone so humorless as to be offended by that e-mail. Fortunately, we have only received positive feedback about it so far."
As for his music criticism (which is excellent; google him with impunity), Noz has gone on hiatus while he focuses his time and energy on Park Blvd. "I'd like to get back into it in the new year but dunno if I'm going to bother chasing paid stuff or just start blogging again," he says. "I find the current publishing landscape to be... frustrating." I can sympathize.
Now back to that infamous list; my comments in brackets.
*Noz describes this list as a jokey footnote, but he presents many solid, serious points, so I'm going to treat them perhaps more seriously than he would prefer.
RECORD TRENDS THAT NEED TO END FOR 2018
1. TALKING ABOUT MONEY INSTEAD OF MUSIC [A thousand times yes!]
2. ALL LIMITED EDITIONS AND MANUFACTURED SCARCITY BHEANIE BHABIE TOPPS REFRACTOR MOVES [Couldn't agree more.]
3. WAITING IN LINE TO BUY ANYTHING ANYWHERE [All the "fire" and "100" emojis in the world here.]
4. BUYING RECORDS JUST TO OWN THEM [Play those shits! What are you, an investor or a head?]
5. BUYING RECORDS JUST TO TAKE PICTURES OF THEM AND POST ON INSTAGRAM [Corny af. We see you, buster.]
6. BUYING RECORDS JUST TO TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY ARE WORTH [What are you, an investor or a head?]
7. BUYING RECORDS AND NOT OPENING OR LISTENING TO THEM [Keep your contact with these types to an absolute minimum.]
8. BUYING RECORDS AND NOT COMPACT DISCS WHICH ARE CHEAPER LESS ENVIRONMENTALLY DESTRUCTIVE AND FREQUENTLY SOUND BETTER YEAH REALLY YES REALLY [Sometimes CDs sound better, sometimes they don't: case-by-case basis. But, yeah, every format has something to offer.]
9. BUYING A BUNCH OF CRUSTY OLD RECORDS BUT NOT CARING ONE LICK ABOUT NEW MUSIC WHATSOEVER NEW MUSIC IS ALWAYS BETTER IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER [Weeelllll, I dunno. There is always more great new music issuing forth than any human could ever process in a year and still maintain something of a career and a personal life, but is it always better than old music? No. I am 55, so I've heard a lot of old music and a lot of it holds up damn well.]
10. CHARGING $40 FOR NEWLY RELEASED RECORDS [Unless it's a triple-LP import, GTFO with that bullshit.]
11. ONLY BUYING RECORDS THAT SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY HAS DETERMINED TO BE GREAT OR VALUABLE AND NOT TRYING TO FIGURE OUT SHIT WITH YOUR OWN TIME EARS AND TASTE [I'll admit, I often let the great reissue labels like Black Sweat, Finders Keepers, RVNG Int., Wah Wah, etc. guide my record-buying decisions, because they've earned my trust over many years of excavating mind-blowing, obscure records that eluded my radar. But overall, this is damn good advice.]
14. REISSUES OF ANY RECORD THAT SOLD MORE THAN 1 MILLION COPIES BETWEEN 1964 AND 1989 [Can I get an "AMEN"? Fuck your $35 reissues of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and Santana's Abraxas, as fine as those records are. This is record-biz greed at its ugliest.]
15. ROCK N ROLL MUSIC AND ALL WHITE MALES INCLUDING US AND ME [Let's not throw the proverbial baby out with the proverbial bathwater. Some of my best friends are white males and, against great odds, some quality rock and roll still gets made and distributed.]
16. COLORED VINYL, ALL COLORS [I could live a thousand lifetimes and not miss colored vinyl. Plus, DJing with that shit is annoying.]
17. CHARGING $50 FOR NEWLY RELEASED RECORDS [Criminal behavior.]
19. LOW RES PIXELATED ARTWORK ON REISSUES AND WE CAN SEE IT WHEN YOU JUST THROW SOME HALF ASSED PHOTOSHOP FILTERS ON THERE TO COVER IT UP THAT DOESNT FLY EITHER IF YOU CANT FIND THE ORIGINAL ART IN HIGH QUALITY DONT REISSUE IT AS A MATTER OF FACT IF YOU HAVE TO BE TOLD THIS DONT REISSUE ANYTHING EVER AGAIN TRY TO REISSUE YOUR OWN DIGNITY INSTEAD [Serious pet peeve. Handle your business legitimately. Unless it's that Don Cherry/Terry Riley live LP from 1975...]
20. HAGGLING [Yeah, cut that shit out.]
21. ANY ONE PERSON OWNING MORE THAN ONE THOUSAND RECORDS IN THEIR HOUSE OR COLLECTION YOU AREN'T JOHN PEEL OR ROBERT CRUMP YOU'RE A CHUMP AND THERE AREN'T ENOUGH DAYS LEFT IN YOUR LIFE TO LISTEN TO ALL THAT MUSIC SOON YOU ARE GOING TO DIE UNDER A PILE OF MULTIPLE COPIES OF THAT DUMB TOM SCOTT RECORD WITH THE PETE ROCK SAX THAT YOU BOUGHT STOCK OF IN 95 JUST TO BRAG AND/OR FILL UP A LONELY ROOM AND STILL NOBODY IS GOING TO COME TO YOUR FUNERAL WHEN INSTEAD YOU COULD'VE FLOATED THIS MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE IN LIFE AND MADE SOME FRIENDS AND ENJOYED SOME SAX BESIDES DONT YOU KNOW YOU CAN LISTEN TO ALL MUSIC FOR FREE ON THE INTERNET NOW WHY ARE YOU GOING TO HOLD ON TO DEAD MEDIA UNTIL IT KILLS YOU OR ARE PLANNING TO MELT THEM FOR FUEL WHEN IT ALL COLLAPSES [Even though I'm kind of implicated in this hilarious stream-of-conscious rant/manifesto, I have to admit that its righteous indignation is about 98 percent on point. Maybe I'm part of the problem, but I also heavily support independent music retailers, so, you know, careful with that poison pen, Eugene. Next time I'm in the Bay Area, I'm hitting up Park Blvd—and I'll be wearing my haggling shoes.]