I decided to take a couple days off from the city and hopped on a train up to Kalamazoo. Anyone looking for an easy way to sum up the plight of the music retailer could have a field day here. When I lived in Kazoo in the mid- to late 90s, the students and indie-scene townies supported several independent record stores, including Flipside and Music Express (where I worked), and there was so little competition between them that Flipside would let Music Express employees cover shifts for its workers if they couldn't find subs. Now there are no record stores in town at all. I asked a friend about the current situation and he told me that people around town--former Flipside and Music Express customers--buy their music at Best Buy, and that he occasionally places special orders through Barnes & Noble, which is just depressing.
I love iTunes and eBay and Insound and BitTorrent and all the other things that are more or less responsible for turning places like Kalamazoo into music-retail wastelands, but I'm still bummed about this. It's nice that you can find obscure-ass records with a few minutes of Googling, not months or years of crate digging--but on the other hand, digging through crates used to be how I spent a good chunk of my time on trips like this. Now I don't know what to do.