i Fidelity: Human Interaction in the Cyber mall…

Online retailers like iTunes, Amazon and other music commerce outlets offer a lot of great new conveniences, but I wonder if one of the more unfortunate, and under appreciated, repercussions of the death of bricks and mortar record stores is the total absence of human clerks. At their worst (see Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity”) music clerks were a nuisance, snobby geeks who judge their customers with a hipper than thou sneer and unfriendly demeanour. But even that chill was a form of human contact. And, in the best of circumstances, music clerks can find the music you want based on you humming a line of a song or half-remembering the words. They were experts, keen students of recorded music who could steer you not only to what you came in for but could gently guide you to something you didn’t even know about. Well, that’s all done isn’t it?

What would a live online human “music store clerk” service look like, one that interacts with the consumer, online and by phone, in real time, to perform the old style music clerk function – perhaps without the attitude. The website would have knowledgeable articles, shopping tips and guides on the site but it would also have a phone number that leads to a kind of 1 800 “call center” with live “operators” standing by 24/7 to answer questions and steer consumer’s mouses to anything and everything available online. You could hum a tune to them, or tell them what commercial you heard the song on, and the call center operators would endeavor to help you find the music. Heck, you might even have a snobby department that would sneer at you for wanting to find a Billy Joel album and try to play you the new Band of Horses instead.
True, there will be consumers who will want to navigate the cyber seas, gellin’ like Magellan, to find their own stuff just like in the brick and mortar days. But for some consumers, live interaction with human consultants could prove very popular. Not quite sure about “monetization”, i.e. who would pay and for what, or how the service could pay for its staff.

That’s the question of the day then, how would we go about making this work?
John Cusack, Jack Black, Todd Louiso and Tim Robbins in High Fidelity.

4 Responses to “i Fidelity: Human Interaction in the Cyber mall…”

  1. Debbie Salisbury Says:

    Makes me pine for the old Sam The Record Man store on Yonge Street.

  2. pulmyears Says:

    Ah yes, Sam’s – many great memories there from childhood and from many years later when I had an indie CD out. Best store in town, god rest its soul (and rock and classical and everything else)

  3. Nicely time with Canada’s recent ‘National Record Store Day”, Paul.

    While I do love those wonderful automated programs from Amazon that send notices of records they think I might like, I’d still much rather wander up the hill and buy them all at Red Cat Records. I may be occasionally mocked for my purchases. But along with that mocking comes a wink and a smile, and the privilege of exchanging commerce with the local music intelligentsia. (Aka, the snobby, opinionated, unshaven, sexy-in-their-rocknroll-nerdiness- music clerks, otherwise known as “my boys”.). Ya just cant’ get that kind of service online…

  4. Debbie Salisbury Says:

    Maybe because I am now “middle age” I should be shopping online anyways for albums…ahem…cd’s. Maybe for me it is a good sign that “Sam’s” closed. A recent visit to one of few remaining, if not the only remaining, local “record shop”….I asked a ’17-year- old- something’ clerk for “Max Webster”. In return I received a blank stare. I then had to explain “you know, the band Kim Mitchell use to be in?”…….checking in his trusty computer….”uh, sorry MAME, we dont have it”. When did I become a “Mame”?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: