I formed a theory today about record sales and why there has been a decline over the past six or seven years.

There aren't any real record stores here in Midland, so I end up roaming Best Buy every once in a while to see if I can find something to listen to. But this isn't just a problem in Midland though. There has been a decline in record stores everywhere. It seems to me that in about 10 years ago there were record stores everywhere, not just music stores, but good record stores. They were set up in a great way, basically in a way that was conducive to browsing for music. Cheapo Discs in Denver is a great example, though I couldn't tell you if it was still there.

The music is/was broken into categories beyond just R&B/Pop, Country, and Rap. Music was broken into sub-categories. What is Pop anyway, it refers to popular music. That isn't a category, and if it is, it only should contain 100 albums based on the top sales for the week/month/year. Now, when I see a category that says punk or classic rock, I know what I am in for. I can look through everything and see if any of it appeals to me. Which brings me to my next point.

Record stores used to be set up in a manner that you could easily browse through the music. Now it all seems to be stacked up so the only thing you can see is in the front. Everything else is crammed in behind the albums in the front in such a manner that you can't look through at all. In a space where 5 CD cases can be put in for easy browsing, the employees of the major chains are jamming in 7 or 8 CDs. It is not easy to look through, so your browsing is limited to walking down aisles and seeing what album they decided to put in the front.

Also, in record stores, the employees used to know what they were talking about. You could ask for recommendations. Now they knowledge of the employees is has been reduced to the alphabet. They can tell you where the M's are or if bands with numbers are before A or after Z. And damn do I hate going to Best Buy or Circuit City to look at anything. If I am in the store for ten minutes, I have 5 people come over to me and ask if I need help finding something, but the one time that I asked them for help, they had no idea what I was asking for.

So, I use iTunes for most of my music purchases and often if I can't find it there, I will find it elsewhere online so that I don't have to deal with stupidity. But, my music purchases have certainly gone down because of this.

I think that it should also be pointed out that used compact discs are not taken into account when looking at record sales which has become a big part of the market. Not only is this a large part of the market, but is also pretty normal for the industry.

What do I want to happen? I want to see the number of downloadable only music releases go up, and the number of artist releases go up. Artists now have the option of releasing single tracks without a record company.

Am I wrong? Do big stores, ie Best Buy, help record sales, or do they just pander to a crowd of people that want to buy the biggest record of the moment? And maybe that is something they should look at too. Maybe the quality of music is declining.