Not today's record store. Jump back 20, 25 years. When I was high school age, at the center of the record-buying demographic.
There's about four choices then. No, five.
- The Record Section in K-Mart or the Equivalent - About four racks at best
- The Mall Record Store - Better selection. If it was popular, there was a good chance for you to find it. If not? Well, I special ordered Allan Holdsworth's Metal Fatigue. I saved up my money for it before I ordered it. Got a postcard later, saying it was unavailable. So I bought something else. Then I looked in the Jazz section and found it, after I had spent my money.
- The Cool Record Store - Cool record stores didn't exist in every town. The place I had my Mall Record Store experience was in Goldsboro, North Carolina. The nearest Cool Record Store, the place I got the first Suicidal Tendencies album, was in Raleigh, about an hour drive away. I had to beg my parents to take me when we were there for another reason. And once you were there ... well, watch High Fidelity. Many more Jack Blacks than Todd Louisos in those places. And, for another point, those were pre-Soundscan days. Those were the guys who would say they're selling the "cool" stuff rather than what they were really selling. For example, they notoriously underreported Country. Garth Brooks came out right after Soundscan. He probably wouldn't have been nearly as big if the contrast wasn't as big.
- Mail Order - That works when you know about it. I got Program: Annihilator via mail order, on cassette. But if you don't know about the band, about the label, how do you know where to order? You had to send a dollar to even get the catalog in the first place.
- The Columbia Record Club - 10 CDs for 1 cent or so, but a) you had to get some later at a higher price, and b) they're all Columbia. Columbia was a cool label — DYLAN and MILES were on Columbia — but not everything cool was on Columbia and not everything on Columbia was cool.