April 29, 2009

Virgin Smegmastore

As everyone has known since 2007 (except me who didn't realize until a couple weeks ago), the US locations of Virgin Megastore were set to close by this year. The Times Square location in NYC met its demise earlier this month. The Union Square location (the one that I most often visit) is said to be shutting its doors in May or June. I stopped in last night to find some Mega Rad Awesome deals!!!!

The only thing I walked out with was a free Village Voice, the free East Coast Rocker, and a list of things I'll consider buying when the discounts are way better than 20% off.

The problem with Virgin to me has always been their shitty prices. As one of the last people on Earth that still actually buys CDs, I am constantly discouraged when scouring their racks. Typically, their discs are priced at $18.99, which is absolute bullshit. Oh, you want the Melvins' noise album? Fuck you, pay me. You're missing Let It Be from your Beatles' collection? Fuck you, pay me. I started shopping exclusively from their cheapo bins that popped up in the past couple years. Cheapo at $10 isn't really cheapo though when most of the stuff in the bins are discs that everyone in the world already had or didn't want. And 20% off of their regular stock is still way too much.

Occasionally, I'll find a deal on a greatest hits package and pick it up from Virgin, but for the most part, the only CDs I buy are used (Ebay or Generation Records) or older catalog items from Amazon. If something brand new is coming out I'll buy it from the artists' websites directly. Maybe I'll end up paying 18.99 anyway after shipping, but chances are, I'm getting a free t-shirts or bonus DVD along with it. Because of the price of CDs, I rarely take a chance on discovering something new. Unless it's in the $1 rack at Tunes in Hoboken, I'm no longer willing to dig. No matter how clever the name of the band is, or how cool the artwork is, or if a friend recommended them, I just can't take part in the romanticized view of the cool record store anymore.

At $18.99, I said Fuck You back and signed up for Emusic instead. $15 a month and I could take chances again. Even if I'm now saddled with some bum mp3s (bump3s?) that I'll rarely listen to, I still have discovered a million awesome bands that I never would have found at Virgin Smegmastore. I certainly never felt ripped off because of prices. I'm at a point now where I've actually put a hold on my Emusic account because I've found too much music and need to take a breather. This isn't an Emusic commercial though. The service isn't perfect. The catalog is nearly 100% independent so whenever I have a taste for something major, I go back to physical CDs. And I'll keep buying CDs as long as I'm getting value for my money. I don't care if I have to take an extra step to rip a disc before jamming it onto my mp3 player. I try to be efficient, but sometimes my cheapness defeats it.

Maybe I'm just being my usual anti-corporate self, but I tend to think that corporate greed is what's killing CDs and Record Stores, not consumers. I don't think I'm demanding much. Why would anyone pay 20% off of a $430 Sopranos Complete Series Box Set at Virgin when it's already only $329 on Amazon? I had no intention of buying that, but it's indicative of most of the "deals" in the store. I'll admit I did find a couple things that I considered purchasing right then and there--Prince's Batman Soundtrack at $7.99 and The Naked Gun at $9.99 (-20% on both)--but ultimately, I don't need either that badly and I'm positive I can find them both cheaper. Here's a sorry looking list I made on my phone of items that I sort of want (feel free to mock my taste), but they won't get crossed off until I see better prices:
Twin peaks viva bam jackass tim eric batman sound who greatest sarabarellis li e pearl jamnirvana unplug serj pee wee ameribeauty rocky Shining
The majority of things there are DVDs because it didn't occur to me to start making a list until I got downstairs. There isn't a ton of music I'm looking for right now, and I didn't have the patience to pore through the CD section knowing that the prices sucked. Nothing on my list is a necessity, so there's no urgency for me to spend my money. It's all there for the taking though, Virgin, if the price is right.


100monkeys said...

The one in Denver was going out of business, too.

I totally agree; their prices are killing them. I used to pick up $10 DVDs there until Best Buy sold the same ones for $4 or $5, so fuck Virgin. I've never bought a CD from them that I can recall. I'll have to check out emusic at some point. As far as finding NEW music- pandora.com has been invaluable to me, if you haven't tried it. Each song has direct links to iTunes and amazon.com, too, if you feel the need to buy.

Ro-Beast Rollie said...

Right, I did forget to mention Pandora. I usually listen to my station on Pandora, then check to see if what I like is on Emusic, and download it. Now that I have a hold on Emusic, I'm not sure what I'm going to do though. I could also just lower my subscription level to Emusic so I don't download 75 songs every month.

Another option is to just listen to the same songs on Pandora all the time. My mobile phone doesn't support it, unfortunately. I don't know if I listen enough to warrant a subscription or a hardware purchase. But, I will put this in the plus column for the iPhone, which I swore I'd never think about getting.

Similarly, I've never paid for anything on iTunes. I've only recently gotten a few tracks from Amazon. The whole $.99 track purchase revolution pretty much missed me.

a virgin employee said...

Virgin doesn't set prices, the labels do. Sure, Virgin is gonna mark it up generally by 30%, but they gotta cover their costs. The reason Best Buy and the big box stores can charge less than $10 for a lot of their titles is because they make money on big money items like TVs.

Try not to hate on Virgin as there are some people that still buy their music without the internet and they appreciate the fact that we have selection and staff that knows their shit. The fact remnains that we were the last of the music stores with deep selection. Some people will miss us believe it or not.

And as far as the liquidation sale goes, it's an outside company that comes in to run the sale, not Virgin.

Ro-Beast Rollie said...

Believe me, I'm not happy to see any record store close down. I love to spend hours digging through CD racks. I find a lot more things to buy that way than if I were to just look through the alphabet on Amazon.

And I'm certainly not happy to see anyone lose their job. I can't comment on how knowledgable anyone at the store is because I avoid clerks like the plague, but I have no reason to blame you, the employee for the demise of the record stores you work at. I can still comfortably point the blame at higher-ups at Virgin not adjusting their business model for the change in music spending habits, and thank you for reminding me not to let labels off the hook. Fuck them both in their fat, money-consuming faces.

For me, it's still about a magic number. I won't pay more than $13 for a CD. Maybe I'm spoiled too because I expect deep selection and good price, but Virgin as it was, just did not work for me. I can wait 5 days for a cheaper CD to be delivered. Or I can wait 5 years to find it used. I'm the same way about movies and concerts. As a consumer, I have a threshold too, and I'm sorry that people losing jobs because of companies going out of business is the punctuation on my statement. I really hope someone is learning from these failures.

The record industry is pretty fucked up from top to bottom, and I wish you the best in landing another job somewhere that your integrity and knowledge is valued.

Anonymous said...

Ro-Beast Rollie said:

"I don't know if I listen enough to warrant..."

You sure don't!