I’ve been thinking recently about music buying. When I can buy music online from the iTunes music store why should I want to buy it in a physical store? With the online store I can experience a sample of any track and get to listen to the music immediately. If I buy it offline I have to carry it home, convert it to mp3 and only then can I listen. I suppose a music store offers some browsing capability and there are some music stores where they have friendly staff who can offer suggestions, but I don’t really tend to see that kind of customer service very often and the browsing that experience online is often superior, especially with recommendations from other users.
So what is my conclusion? On the surface the online services have every advantage over the bricks and morter store. Unless the bricks and morter stores work very hard to catch up they’re going to fall behind. But where can they go? Bookstores are introducing cafe’s and relaxing chairs, but does a cafe make sense in a branch of HMV or Virgin? I suppose I can see a bar, maybe, but a cafe?
With bookshops I actually enjoy going to browse, but then with books you can really browse, reading the books as you go. No music store offers the ability to sample all of the music in the store, although it doesn’t seem insurmountable as a technical challenge, so maybe that is one direction to go in.
But I become increasingly disappointed with physical music and DVD stores. I go and then I wander around for a while looking vaguely for something worth buying. So I suspect that more of my business will be heading online unless something drastically changes.