Sunday, August 16, 2009

I'm Reconsidering My Idea After Actually Seeing It In Action

I have a lot of CDs. The vast majority of them are jazz, but there are plenty of other genres in there as well. And although I know of a few people who actually try to separate their CDs by musical genre, I'm not one of them.

For me, it's alphabetical order all the way; Charlie Parker right next to Pantera, Erykah Badu right after J.S. Bach. And I often used to say that, if I owned a CD store, everything would be in alphabetical order as well, especially back in the days when I listened to a lot more rock music and used to get aggravated at some of those (now defunct) mall chains that would split their rock into (to my mind) meaningless subcategories. If I'm looking for a specific CD, I don't want to have to look through Rock, Alternative and Post-Modern (huh?) in order to figure out whether or not it's in stock. Out of that frustration grew the idea that maybe a CD store should be stocked like my own shelves: Alphabetically, without regard to genre.

I felt that way until this afternoon, when someone actually did that.

I had a chance today to visit the new Entertainmart store in my area (it's the place I riffed on a few weeks ago for having a Santa Claus balloon in its parking lot to celebrate its grand opening). It's a new concept from Mark Kane, the guy who founded CD Warehouse and Movie Trading Company (and later sold both for big profits), and run by his three nephews. Just picture those two stores glommed together in a much bigger location (this one took over an old Ultimate Electronics store) and you'll get the idea. (The five-store chain was profiled by Cheryl Hall of the Dallas Morning News a few weeks ago.)

So it didn't take very long to realize, while browsing the CD selection, that they'd done exactly what I'd always said I'd do: Arrange their CDs in alphabetical order (the only thing that gets a separate section is movie/TV/show soundtracks). And at least on first impression, the idea works better in theory than in practice.

For one thing, if you're looking for a specific genre (let's say jazz), you have to go down every aisle if you want to browse all the offerings. While this might make for a nice, healthy walk, it also takes up a lot more time than it would if you didn't have to cover quite so much real estate.

It is amusing to see some widely divergent artists side-by-side (Miles Davis next to Paul Davis? Joe Henderson right after a group called Hellyeah?), but something else came to mind as well: If you have kids, and you're trying to regulate the music they're listening to, the genre-less shelving makes that difficult. I did a little test to see if, say, some of the popular Christian performers turned up right next to artists whose CDs had "Parental Advisory" stickers on them. Sure enough, Jars of Clay was right next to Ja Rule, and the Dead Kennedys turn up in very close proximity to both dc Talk and Delirious, so that might be an issue for some.

On the other hand, I can see the benefit--assuming you have a lot of time--to wandering the entire section and, in the process of looking for something, find another completely different CD of a different genre that you might have never considered before.

I didn't quite wander the entire section today; as I said, it's huge, and there's space for a lot more. Still, I hope the company does well and Kane can strike gold a third time. His previous two concepts have certainly done well.

So how do you stack your CD's--alphabetically, by genre, or just completely random? And would you enjoy shopping an alphabetically-stocked CD store more or less than the more conventional model?


Eric Grubbs said...

All of my CDs are in alphabetical order, regardless of genre. So yes, Barry Manilow is next to Aimee Mann, and Killswitch Engage is next to Carole King. It's the only way I can any of my CDs. Now, my CD-Rs, that's a different story.

Kev said...

Yeah, my CD-R's are making my (admitted rather gargantuan) shelf overflow at the moment. If my computer were still capable of burning CDs, it would be even worse, as my eMusic subscription yields me several new ones each month.