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Fear and Loathing at the Music Store


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Remember the importance of “The Music Store?”
It was this museum of intricate machinery. “On” buttons blazed from every corner and electronics hummed at you in all directions.
When I was a young musician, we had a different musician language than we have today. We talked about paying dues, learning space and searched the earth to find “bass player” jokes that the lead guitar player had never heard. These were the hallmarks of the touring band. We yelled out the Nashville number system in real-time during live shows and we argued about the best system of wrapping cables.
I mention this because the job was great. Staff writing, tour playing, song pitching … these were the best jobs on earth. But there was one job that seemed even more exclusive:
Music Store Guy.
Music store guy was cool. He was a mythical figure that manifest from our deepest projections. Or from someone’s couch.
He always looked bored. As though he were serving a lifetime sentence where the judge had ruled “death by auditory depreciation from amateur guitar auditioning.”
He wore jeans to work and rocked his brown leather coat on the hottest of hot days. Music Store Guy could discuss the intricacies of keyboard cartridge trading, while wearing ray-bans in doors and fidgeting with his silver arm bracelet and none of this was out of place.
Music Store Guy was NOT impressed with you. Not your chops, not your gigs and definitely not your money.
“Oh, you’re Art Tatum, back from beyond the grave to try out our Korg selection? Big deal Art Tatum. I’m Music Store Guy
Music Store Guy could undo your entire life’s work just by turning on some equipment, demonstrating the features and playing a riff for ten seconds.
He was better than you.
Not to mention, this guy worked 12 hours a day, had six kids from three different girlfriends and still had better gigs than you. Plus he was twenty. Or fifty. It was hard to tell.
Music Store Guy once told Don Felder, “if you insist on playing token songs, please keep the volume down.” The song was Hotel California.
Music Store Guy was on constant alert. His job was coveted. He had to have new venue information, be up to date on Guitar Player Magazine interviews and live up to our expectations after having seen Ray Charles in “The Blues Brothers.” No matter. Music Store Guy wasn’t impressed.
Music Store Guy never once uttered the phrases, “how can I help you…” or “let me check on that for you…” or “if you’d like, I can order that and call you as soon as it comes in.”
Forget that noise. If Music Store Guy didn’t have what you wanted, what you wanted was overrated junk.
Music Store Guy knew that when you came in for some strings, what you really needed was a vintage tube preamp for your vocal mic.
I once saw an advertisement for Music Store Guy appearing at a jazz festival, bought some cables from him and heard him play in an after hours club - all in the same day - and at no point did he even crack a smile.
Music Store Guy once told me the type of plastic used on the modulation wheel of the second synthesizer played on “Dark Side of the Moon.” I was asking about the bathroom.
It was rumored that Music Store Guy lived in the back of a record store and it only sold bootleg copies of other people’s bootleg copies. Because even first edition bootlegs were too corporate for Music Store Guy.
Music Store Guy’s favorite song was a song he’d only hated for less time than the other songs he hated.
Ultimately, Music Store Guy wasn’t a friendly guy. Or nice. Or even someone you should talk to. But he knew his stuff. He never once sold a piece of equipment that he didn’t completely understand. He didn’t care for you, because you were competition. He played music. He lived music. He paid his bills through music. Just like you. If you didn’t relate to that, he disliked you for being green. If you did relate to that, he disliked you for competitive reasons. But either way - he understood where you were with it.
At today’s music store, I get the impression that store employees applied at a McDonald’s but Guitar Center just so happened to call back first. Their information is as good or as bad as their ability to Google.
They don’t work there to network. They work there to work-work.
It's just some job. 
And while they may be cheerful and happy, upbeat little counter junkies, a "just-some-job," is just some job. They don’t live for it. Today’s music store employee isn’t ready to make serious equipment purchases, let alone be the person selling them to you. They don’t relate to life on the road, or on a songwriting staff, or paying bills with cover songs or strangling a percussionist because he took a washboard solo. 
They embrace the tinkering amateur, butchering a blues scale in the back pocket of the room. Because they’re the same. They offer encouragement instead of the brutality that awaits you when you finally square off against real players.
Today’s music store guy isn’t just a cultural shift from my Music Store Guy, it’s more of an admission that modernity has replaced virtuosity with user friendliness. Personally, I liked it better when our results were harder to achieve …
… But there’s no room for that type of talk anymore... No place to discuss the virtue of real music (or your lack of it) because we’re running out of people to pass on the information that makes your playing virtuous. It’s a loop of devolving “know-how.” We need informed players to be the guards and insert the harsh information that makes us great.
Ya know, the important things. The stuff that really informs your playing.
Like bass player jokes…
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5 hours ago, damooch916 said:

Not to mention, this guy worked 12 hours a day, had six kids from three different girlfriends

My hubby one had a saxophone player in his band like that. 😆


5 hours ago, damooch916 said:

Forget that noise. If Music Store Guy didn’t have what you wanted, what you wanted was overrated junk.

In  other words if  Music Store Guy didn't have it, you didn't need it! 🤨

5 hours ago, damooch916 said:

Like bass player jokes…

As the wife of a drummer, I have heard plenty of those.
So, @damooch916were you inspired to write this nostalgic post after a recent visit to a music store? 🤔

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18 hours ago, vickiespencer said:

were you inspired

Normally I avoid the music store. It’s a sad reminder on the state of organic music. Recently my oldest boy has been taking drum lessons and that ensures that I’m stuck for thirty minutes a week in a guitar center. 

It feels like Best Buy. Same employees, same customers, same results. 

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