Growing up in rural asia, the markets were an important part of life.
A market in Thailand wasn’t anything like the ones on Bay street and you didn’t need a suit to go buy and sell.
Instead, the markets were on the streets, in parking lots, or an open space with a roof over top. You bought your fresh vegetables there, meat from who knows where, the fish were flopping in a bucket waiting for you to pick them for dinner. On the weekends there would be weekend markets that sold just about anything under the sun. Want a suit? Want your name written on a grain of rice? Want an endangered pet animal? All this and more was available at the weekend markets of Thailand.
Being in these markets created a sense of awe, wonder, fun, and amazement. It was part of the shopping experience. When you bought your food, you would bustle your way to a stall table and ask try to pick the best produce all while talking to your vendor. The experience of buying groceries was lively, interactive, communal and fun.
I now live in Toronto where I buy my food and groceries at a big store where the food is bottled or wrapped in plastic. It comes from no where magical. I don’t know who grew it. I can’t ask what’s really good today. There are people at grocery stores in Toronto behind deli counters and at cash registers or filling up shelves. But the experience of shopping isn’t an invigorating one. In fact, I always find myself zapped after leaving one and walking into a near by liquor store. But that had me thinking about other markets that are sterile, formal, and that leave you feeling zapped.
Have online markets taken to a street style or store style?
When I buy something on Amazon or Itunes, what is my experience? These two market places have done a good job of recreating some of the hustle and bustle of real street markets, open air markets or farmers markets. Prior to the internet, if you wanted to buy a book, you’d have to go to a book store and the magic of book stores is not the book you may be looking for, but the book you stumble upon accidentally. The reason stores like Virgin records were so big and popular was because it exposed you to all new artists and more so, they had listening stations. Those communal headphones probably lead to widespread ear infections, but it also gave people a chance to listen to new music. That was the fun of walking into a music store. Have we lost this?
With Amazon I feel like we have to some extent. The recommendations they give you are based on sales. The magic of a bookstore is finding something you love that was completely unrelated to what you went there for. In terms of iTunes, the magic of a music store isn’t fully there. The convenience of buying music without feeling a sense of guilt is the reason I would shop at iTunes. That is, until I discovered BandCamp.
When I’m on BandCamp there are two experiences that I get. The first is the sense of being able to discover new music for hours without feeling any pressure to buy. I’m able to find and discover new artists and try them before I buy them. BandCamp would have been like a music store that has every album (or at least a few songs from every album) available on those communal headsets. The second experience I get is that of being part of the worlds biggest music busker festival. Every artist is putting their music out for free listening so long as you are in front of them, I mean so long as you are on their page. If you want, you can give money and the music on your computer. But buying isn’t about the product you are receiving. It’s about supporting the artist and hoping that more will come.
How the Internet has Made Busking is More Lucrative Than Ever
The Internet has made music artists into a group of buskers. As an artist you can no longer require others to pay for your product before they consume it. You can steal music online easier than you can take candy from a baby, (mom’s know better than to give candy to babies these days). The music is up and whether or not someone choses to pay for it is completely up to them. The power is in their hands. The golden years of a few entitled artists with an entire industry backing them is over. It’s long been over, but it doesn’t mean that musicians are no longer able to be profitable. Rather, there needs to be a shift in attitude which is happening on a massive scale.
I know the next music I’m going to pay for will be from BandCamp, not Itunes.