Sugarland, Wal-Mart Are The Bad Guys

Wal-Mart Music Sucks Never Good This is the first in a series in support of Record Store Day’s Vinyl Saturday this Sep. 5th.

This is in response to this CMT blog called “Sugarland, Wal-Mart Are Not the Bad Guys,” which admits that Wal-Mart is running local record stores out of business but asserts it is not a bad guy for it, and that pop country act “Sugarland” should not be blamed for signing a deal to sell their music exclusively through Wal-Mart stores.

Most of us hate Wal-Mart, and most of us have no other choice but to shop there. If you want to defend Wal-Mart or Sugarland for signing an exclusive deal with them, fine. Yes, Wal-Mart and Sugarland have a right to make money. Yes, in a capitalistic society the big fish eat the small fish, fair or not.

But to be so cavalier about brushing off the significance of the downfall of the local record store, and to even think that somehow Wal-Mart’s paltry selection of Top 40 titles that have been combed through and censored and run mercilessly in the ground by Clear Channel corporate radio can in any way replace the variety and vibrancy of a local record store is so completely ridiculous, I feel insulted I even have to argue against it. In fact, not only does Wal-Mart only carry top 40 artists, they can’t even say they carry ALL top 40 artists, because bands like Green Day refused to let Wal-Mart censor their music.

Wal-Mart signing a deal to exclusively sell music from bands like Sugarland, AC/DC, and The Eagles is not a glaring example of the homogenization of our music culture, it is the definition of it.

Listen, there is no battle to fight here, we as music consumers have already lost, and Wal-Mart and the corporate control of American music has won. The local record store is gone, with a few dinosaurs still left, holding on for dear life. So why pick a fight, why rub it in? Why go out of your way to say “Boo hoo,” and “That’s life,” and “Small-town record shops had their heyday.” as a local record store decries what it sees happening to the music and the modes in which it is distributed?

If you honestly believe there is no difference between a local record store and the laughable row of pop CD’s Wal-Mart sets up in a warehouse full of cheap plastic crap that falls apart on you in a week, then we will never see eye to eye on anything. But think for a second not about music, but about people. Think about the people who work and own that local record store. Think about their knowledge and their passion, compared to some “pimples the wonder boy” working at a Wal-Mart who won’t be helping you pick out the CD you will buy because he’s cleaning up vomit on isle 9; a Wal-Mart worker who by the way is getting screwed out of his bennies by systematically being made sure that he only works 37 hours a week so he doesn’t qualify.

Think about the people in the local band who will not be able to get exposure for their music through the local record store. Think about all the other things a local record store does, like sell concert tickets to local events, promote and sponsor local causes, hold listening parties and open mics, etc. Think about how the money you spend at a local record store stays in the local economy.

Yes, I know that all music is probably going digital, and that even people like Wal-Mart are going to be selling less and less music, and eventually we will all be like suckers on a vine of some monthly subscription service that gives you access to all music in a digital format. But they will have to pry my vinyl records out of my cold dead hands, and nothing will ever replace that skinny nerd with 20 piercings and hipster duds working at the local record store who can tell you anything and everything about the music you love.

The way we listen to music, and the way music is distributed is changing. But there is no reason to let our values change with it, or because of it.

All good music starts local, with a local following, and local support from local record stores, local venues, and local radio stations. One of the ill’s of modern Nashville pop country is this idea you can manufacture a star. Sure, you can make a shooting pop star, but without a core following, without a support base that has been built on a local level, if that star falls it will fall hard, and will diminish into nothingness by the lack of a grass roots following. And that “star” is a person as well, and their lives are usually ruined by an industry that uses them as pawns.

Yes Alison Bonaguro, you are right: the local music store is dead.

And I am here to officially say BOO HOO. Make fun of me if you want.

But I will sleep soundly tonight not worried that I lent to the destruction of the values that made country music one of the most beautiful and integral parts of the American culture, but fought to defend them.


–Triggerman out.

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