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The end of Borders

July 21, 2011

I wouldn’t be too worried about the impact of Borders’ bankruptcy on classical music. Looking back at my formative experiences with classical music in high school seems like an anachronism today. As a teenager, Borders was the place I would frequent to make wildly speculative purchases of albums that seemed like a combination of cool, historically important, and well made based on the front and back covers. Today I would probably poke around Amazon, read reviews, and make much more informed opinions.

The sales that classical music won’t be able to replace, I imagine, are going to be impulse buys of classical music by people who don’t normally listen to classical and probably won’t listen to that CD very much anyhow. In fact, based on this NPR article, I think that Borders wasn’t doing classical music any favors in the last number of years (their practice of sending my suburban location copies of records worked out well for me, if not the people making the records). Does Borders go out of business mean anything different from when Tower closed up five years ago? I think not. These mega chains long ago replaced the knowledgeable salesman with below living wage employees, and I don’t think our society thinks to look for those knowledgeable people in brick and mortar marketplaces in 2011. Tangentially, Louis CK talking with Opie and Anthony is a good entertaining primer on the destruction of specialty mom and pop shops that wouldn’t sell you a terrible set of Bizet when you wanted Berlioz.

That said, does Borders mean anything differently for new music? I would be worried that smaller labels will find the bankruptcy returns and settlements to be a blow to their sales, but I hope no boutique label was relying on Borders’ support in 2011.

. I was pretty shocked to find William Brittelle’s Television Landscape in the Borders bargain bin yesterday. I wonder if it was selling at my local store. Were folks picking it up because it was a curious item mixed in between Babbitt and Britten in the modern section? Would I have speculatively bought the album when I was in high school?

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