March 9, 2009: No More BMG or Columbia House

I got started on the early side this morning which is surprising considering how tired I was.  I got up and worked all morning getting stuck on a rather stressful call for an hour just before lunch.  It was a crappy morning.

Ramona and Dominica slept in late but we were all able to run out to a late breakfast (after noon) at Pastel’s at the Beach Shopping Center before Ramona had to make a run for the train into Manhattan.  We had just enough time to eat quickly and run for the train.

We got Ramona out on the 1:12 southbound train to Grand Central Terminal and then it was back home so that I could get back to the office.

Today is a historic day – BMG, the mail-order music service, has announced that it is shutting down.  For most of my readers this is probably about the least important news ever but this is an interesting change for me.  So, here is the story.

My parents got me a Fisher stereo system for my eleventh birthday.  It had a dual cassette deck, a long play record player and auxillery input.  This is back in the day when compact discs were exceedingly rare – I had never known anyone to have actually owned on even though they had been on the market for years and had started becoming popular in 1985 (this was not 1987.)

When I was twelve I saved and saved and came up with half of the money necessary for a Sony five-disc CD player that cost $300 (ergo I save $150.)  My parents agreed to match the money that I was able to save and in early December, if I remember correctly, of 1988 dad picked up the CD player on his way home from work one day and also picked up a copy of Amy Grant’s first Christmas album which, for a while, was my only CD.

I did a good analysis of the costs of CDs at the time (generally $15 per disc in the store in 1987 dollars which is a lot of money today.)  I looked into the music clubs of the time in order to save cost and decided to join CBS/Columbia House right away.  I carefully managed my account over the years and managed to consistently get CDs for around $7 after tax and shipping which was right around half of what everyone else that I knew at the time was paying even several years later.

Eventually I ended up joining BMG in addition to Columbia House because they carried different publishers and artists and sometimes different prices on the same albums so careful shopping would net the best prices especially if you understood how the sales worked and carefully waited to only shop at the best possible times.  I also did very well getting other people to join both clubs with me which resulted in hundred of CDs being given to be by the distributors as gifts.

I participated in both clubs actively until around 2000 or so when I all but stopped using them.  Eventually BMG bought Columbia House merging the two clubs under the BMG name.  Over the last decade I lost interest partially in the type of music that they tend to carry in general but also in that mode of purchasing music. For the last few years I have been buying my music as DRM-free MP3 downloads from Amazon which is far cheaper still.

But today’s announcement that BMG is closing shop and ceasing operations, while logical and obvious, is still strange to me.  I have been a member for twenty-one years!  Two-thirds of my life.  It is an end of an era.  A big piece of my older childhood is now gone.  Hard to believe.  This must be practically the end of the CD format as well.  Hard to believe that that can linger very much longer either.

I collected CDs very heavily from the time that I was twelve.  I had over a hundred while still in middle school and had close to a thousand by the time that I graduated from high school and far more than a thousand by the time that I all but stopped buying them in 1999.  I have amassed many since that time but stopped keeping track of them.  I was well known for my CD collection.  And with all of those CDs, which I used constantly, I never scratched or damaged a single one myself.

One of the saddest things is that that mammoth collection of music which ranges from amazing classical and jazz recording to forgotten 80s bands has spent the last six years completely packed away and forgotten.  It is so physically large that it is impractical to even make available in any useful way.  I started, several years ago, to convert the CDs to Ogg Vorbis files but with all of the moving that project fell by the wayside and I need to start doing it again at some point.  It will take a bit of storage to store all of that music. Much of it I will likely just convert to MP3 and only the few songs that I really care about.  There is just too much to use if I am not selective.

Someday that collection will belong to Liesl and she will wonder why I cared so much about it.  It is hard to believe now, looking back, what a big part of my life that music was when I was younger.  Youth is always obsessed with music for some reason.  I more than most.  I listened to those CDs constantly all through my childhood.  I used them every day.  I knew every one that I owned which no one ever believed.  I had them all organized very well, too.  I used to use these plastic shelving units with eject buttons but that became too expensive once the collection started to grow.  Eventually they just had to go onto large shelves.  There was no other way to deal with them.

I worked until almost nine this evening.  I decided that I had eaten so much over the last two meals that I really needed to have nothing more than vegetables for dinner.  So around ten I steamed myself a huge helping of mixed veggies and had nothing else for dinner except for a banana.  Maybe that will help to pay for the big lunch today and huge dinner last night.  I almost did not feel hungry enough to even eat the veggies but I figured that I would be sorry if I did not eat them.

We watched the rest of the fourth season of Murder She Wrote. We find it very entertaining at this point.  Even though we are less than halfway through the series as a whole we are already at a point where almost every single character has been on the show multiple times playing different people.  It is hilarious as we try to guess how many times each guest star has been on the show.  One of the most confusing bits is when the murderer in one episode showed up suddenly, and very suspiciously, as J.B. Fletcher’s best friend, the town doctor, just a few episodes later.

After having seen so many episodes so close together and seeing the strange interplay between the same characters over and over again, Dominica and I have decided that the real mystery is to figure out the underlying plot.  We are pretty sure that the lead character, J. B. Fletcher is actually a serial killer who is so good that she travels around murdering people that she does not know, implicates a nephew or niece of her own, then gets them off and gets someone else convicted who is so scared of her that they claim to be the actual murderer when, in fact, they are innocent and Jessica is the only killer.  Her friend, the doctor, who was the murder in season one, is actually her assistant whom she convinced to work with her after the episode where she proved that he killed a man but did not turn him in to the police.  It is awfully fishy that one of the only people that she helped get away with a crime then ends up moving to Maine and pretending to be the town doctor.  So we think that she blackmailed him into being her serial killing assistant by threatening to have him arrested for the murder that he did commit.

We can’t come up with anything else that would explain all of the dead people all around out “heroin” or the fact that a murderer moved to her town and because the town doctor and her “oldest friend” without anyone having ever seen him before.  The local sherif always seems very suspicious of doc as well.  I think that he knows something.

Well, it is two in the morning and I need some sleep.

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