By now you guys should know I am a huge music fan. If I'm not out and about or watching sports, cartoons, or movies, I'm listening to tunes.
How I get those tunes however, has gone through a small transformation in the past few years. Admittedly, I was really late in getting on the music download bandwagon. While friends of mine were using Napster way back when it first started, I finally downloaded my first album two years ago. Although I've download dozens of albums in the last few years, most of what I download is re-mixes, mix tapes, and free giveaways. I'm still a fan of going to the music store and buying CDs, getting the entire album, checking out the album art, and reading the liner notes. I'm old school like that and I can't see regularly getting music any other way.
Although I am also a fan of supporting local businesses, my music buying habits have never effectively "gone local". Even though the closest independent music store to my apartment, Vinyl Fever Tampa, was ranked 18th on Rolling Stone's top 25 record stores in the country, I don't have the incentive to make them my only music destination.
Maybe my music tastes aren't unique enough. Vinyl Fever carries a lot of vinyl (of course) and hard to find stuff. My music tastes tend to fall outside of mainstream, but not quite independent. Take a band like Clutch, for example. They are one of my favorite hard rock bands of all-time. They have a few songs on the radio, usually one per CD, but have never had what anyone would call a mainstream hit. Although they have been around for over 15 years, you can't find them at Best Buy and you may find one release if that at a mall music store.
When I looked for Clutch's latest, I bought the only copy Vinyl Fever had. Maybe other rock fans had been scooping them up, but I doubt it.
Maybe I am being too specific, but I could also not find a few old school rap CDs I've been looking for, groups such as the Gravediggaz and Aesop Rock. I know I shouldn't expect them to have everything, but I can't figure out if going there will help me find what I am looking for.
Of course, I know I can order CDs through the store. I have done that on occasion. My problem with doing that is once again there is no incentive. I can order music through my local FYE or other mall music shop. There is no 10% discount or anything for ordering through Vinyl Fever.
That brings me to another point: cost. For the CDs I do find, and I do find things on occasion, Vinyl Fever is no cheaper than any other store. As a matter of fact, their usual $12-16 per CD was severely undercut by a sale at one of the local mall stores that marked every CD down to $9.99.
$9.99 for a Miles Davis, a Sly and the Family Stone, a Ghostface Killah, and a Black Label Society? I can't turn that down.
If they are going to price their stuff the same or higher than the bigger vendors, it might help if Vinyl Fever Tampa had buyer reward cards. Perhaps if they created a community amongst their clientele and maybe gave one used CD free for every 10 new CD purchases. That would keep me coming back.
Finally, I also have a small complaint with their customer service. Normally, they are average to above average. However, there was an incident lately that really rubbed me the wrong way. A few weeks ago, I went there on a Sunday. Unfortunately, I was there five minutes before their opening time of noon. Noon passed and the store was still not open. 12:05 someone finally wandered out from the back and opened the door.
It would be have nice if the person acknowledged my presence, especially considering he was late opening the store. He could have said hi, maybe asked if I had been waiting long, and maybe even apologized for my wait. If he was really customer friendly, he could have offered 10% off one of my CD purchases.
That would have cost Vinyl Fever $1.60, but would have won them my loyalty.
As it is, I have no overwhelming reason to shop at my local record store.
(Apparently, a commenter on the Rolling Stone site doesn't think too highly of them as well. I wish they had listed which Tampa-based record stores they thought were better.)