A stranger once stopped me on a street in London to comment on my Other Music T-shirt, saying something like, "That's the best record shop in the world" -- pretty impressive for a little store in Manhattan, even one that has become a local institution of sorts.
That guy will soon be able to shop there himself, all the way from England, after Other Music takes its handpicked approach to music sales online with the launch of its own digital music store. Located at digital.othermusic.com, the site will stock high-quality MP3s from Pitchfork-friendly bands, without using digital rights management of any kind. Hallelujah.
I interviewed Other Music co-owner Josh Madell to see what music fans can expect from the store after it goes up in late February. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Wired News: Other Music has been a strong presence in New York's East Village for years, but the thing that always amazed me was that you guys set up shop right across the street from a massive Tower Records store. Talk about cojones. Were you guys happy when you found out Tower was shutting down? Did Other Music "win"?
Josh Madell: Funny, a friend of mine said that to me last night, how it gave him hope for the little guy with our triumph over Tower. Sadly, I think Tower's passing is more accurately a sign of how tough record retailing has become. It was always a difficult business, but all stores are suffering these days, and while Tower had definitely fallen off in quality over the past several years, they were once a really good store, a good chain overall, and I don't take any hope from their going bankrupt. There will be a lot more closings to follow, I'm certain.
WN: Why is Other Music launching a digital music store next month?
Madell: We are trying to stay current, and to continue our "mission" of spreading great music. I personally prefer vinyl to CDs and CDs to MP3s, but in the end I'm just glad people are listening to music, and the convenience factor of MP3s is undeniable. Our weekly e-mail update, where we review the week's interesting new releases, has been one of the most popular aspects of the store. Our new site will be an extension of that, with recommendations and reviews of great music and a simple click-to-buy option.
WN: I read an article from late last year that included a quote from you about the notorious "Pitchfork effect," in which albums recommended by that site start flying off the shelves. Have you noticed a "MySpace effect," or is that something you'll be going after with Other Music's digital music store?
Madell: Sure, it's undeniable that these days the influence of traditional print magazines has been overshadowed by websites and blogs; they're quick and convenient, and have their ears a bit closer to the ground than traditional media. As for MySpace and the like, I guess I feel like the biggest drawback of these types of social-networking sites is that there is just too much information. If you don't have the time or energy to listen to every band in existence, but you love interesting new music, a place like Other Music can be great, because our staff is paid to sort through all the crap. We can feature the best stuff out there, and hopefully present a convenient, well-maintained site where you can listen, learn and buy.