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4 February 2009

Ubiquitous Elitists

This may take a memory jog, but do you remember going to a record store (ever?) and seeing two greasy-haired locals with crusty headphones blaring hunched over a pile of Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies records?

Well, go check out that record store again. I can assure you, you’ll find most of the same music that iTunes and Amazon house, but you won’t see those indie rockers. At this point, those guys are simply outdated.

The days of the music elitists are not long gone, but in the age of YouTube award shows and YouPorn applications for iPhones, they seem to be distant memories. That’s probably because those elitists used to actually visit record stores and stay for longer than to pick up “Learn Guitar: First Lesson Free!” flyers.

I remember one of my first solo journeys to the record store – a visit marked by a long inner debate about purchasing Big Willie Style or Wyclef’s The Carnival. On that particular day, Willie from Philly prevailed. And shelling out  $15 to repeatedly listen to “Miami” was then much more logical than saving up for a pair of Jordans. Even after the purchase, the trip was more an event than a simple transaction.

That’s because when record stores mattered, people didn’t mind endlessly searching through piles and piles of old 45s and tapes in hopes that someone accidentally misplaced a Brand Nubian cassette or a Talking Heads vinyl. Simply put, genuine music fans lived and breathed music, and researched it accordingly.

And fittingly, after all the years of crate digging, these collections eventually amounted to nothing more than…collections. Like your uncle’s assortment of Finnish coins or your granny’s stamps from 1941, these piles of “coveted” records are pretty much obsolete.

Whether you consider the influx of music blogs a travesty or the best thing since Aladdin, you just might have to deal with it. From electro-funk to minimal-house, blogs across the web have just about every genre of music covered and devoted fans can get their fill with mp3s and torrents instead of actual albums.

There’s still a healthy dose of haters out there who still think technology killed the radio star, but there’s no denying how many new acts the Internet helped break. From MySpace-plucking to imeem-probing, there’s tons of talent to be found online.

As a result, every blog surfer can’t wait to flaunt their picks before an artist hits the mainstream, whether they’re admitting that they knew about Santogold before she was the subject of Kanye’s wet dreams or loved The Fray before Grey’s Anatomy‘s music supervisors did.

But if every person with computer access can become an elitist, is there even an elite left? Since modern-day crate digging is as easy as searching “hipster hop” on Google, the idea of an elitist is just as outdated as those greasy indie rockers.

Welcome to the world of ubiquitous elitism. From your 11-year-old nephew to your sister in art school, the music snob is everywhere.

Or maybe the age of the blog is a passing fad and the true elitist is the technologically challenged person who sits at home and drinks hot chai while jamming to Sinatra.

Either way, to someone who was almost too young to enjoy the crate-digging era, visiting Bleecker Street Records and finding The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff’s second record is far more rewarding than jerking it in a local coffee joint to my astoundingly cool music library.