Is It OK to Buy Records at Urban Outfitters?

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www.artisansolutions.net
The other day, I found myself flipping through records in massive clothing chain Urban Outfitters. I know. I had certain expectations about what I'd find: Bob Marley, Dr. Dre, maybe some new dance records like Niki & The Dove, and not much else. Basically, the vinyl equivalent of a sidewalk dorm room poster sale.

Instead, I kept finding more and more crates full of more and more records. And pretty decent ones! And not super expensive (generally between $10 and $20). Still, I thought, I probably shouldn't buy a record at Urban Outfitters. Right?

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I couldn't really articulate why I felt like I shouldn't shop there. They're putting small record stores out of business? Their CEO is evil? Somehow nothing in my size ever makes it to the deep sale rack? Something. I honestly didn't know.

In recent years, Urban has gone big in music sales, becoming one of the nation's largest retailers of vinyl records (they were already probably the nation's largest backless tankini and Charlie Brown Christmas Tree retailer). Is this something we should be worried about? Is Urban Outfitters devaluing musical culture, or doing the important work of actually putting music in front of people who are in a mood to spend money?

One person who's a big fan of music shopping at Urban Outfitters is Jason Jordan. Today, he's at a company called SynchTank, after many years in major label A&R. But back in 1992, he was putting himself through college with a bunch of jobs, including one as a security guard at Urban Outfitters' flagship Philadelphia store.

"Part of working in a store is that you hear the same songs over and over," he says. "It becomes the fabric of the retail buying experience." In 1992, that music was Lenny Kravitz's Are You Gonna Go My Way. "It was on constantly. To this day, I know that album backwards and forwards." Eventually, he couldn't stand to hear it one more time.

"It was 20 years ago, so I don't remember all the details," he says, "but I remember talking to [Urban Outfitters CEO] Dick Hayne, and saying, look, there's an opportunity here to really get into the culture business." Part of that was choosing the music they played in their store more carefully. Instead of being fired, he was given a job in the advertising department and put in charge of coordinating all the music for their thirty-six stores. He's proud of what he helped start.

This approval isn't universal. It's true that the store has developed something of an icky reputation as they've expanded over the past decade, whether it be for incorporating Native American patterns into their panties, planning to open up a bar in a store in Williamsburg, or just straight stealing designs. To many people, the store represents the commodification of culture, the watering down of things that are supposed to be independent and somehow, in some way, anti-establishment. Like rap in a McDonald's commercial, or Iggy Pop in that car ad.


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9 comments
ScottB
ScottB

The article's info regarding Silk soy milk and Horizon foods is outdated (it links to pieces from 2009 & 2010). Both brands are part of WhiteWave Foods, which was acquired by Dean in the early 2000s but was spun off last year. WhiteWave is now an independent company.

Statue-of-Asterisk
Statue-of-Asterisk

I think I can do the whole libeling of the side I don't agree with just as well as Mr. Chafin... let me know what you think:  If you buy records from Urban Outfitters, they will just end up being confiscated and put in the hands of people who don't have as many records, right?  Worship of redistribution demands that, correct?

Anyway, I'm over 26, so I won't have any extra money to spend on records come 2014.  That disposable income is all gonna have to go toward paying the bill for health insurance I don't want to purchase but I have to anyway because our government is forcing me to:  over a hundred bucks a month... just about what I spend on records now! 

Angela Lundberg
Angela Lundberg

It's not okay to buy records at Urban Outfitters. No, it's not. There.

jamesw.vickers
jamesw.vickers

Fuck these tool bags and because Wholefoods supports right-wing assholes that makes Urban more okay? Fuck em all.

ovvnt
ovvnt

Went there for an emergency pair of shorts. Asked a hipster for a particular size. He did not work there, turned out.

Sarah Niblack
Sarah Niblack

For the love of all things holy why are you shopping at Urban Outfitters?!

Alex Hernandez
Alex Hernandez

yes. i felt dirty there yesterday when i actually found some good shirts there for once. i wonder who fired whom in their marketing sector and picked someone with good taste

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