11/23/09

Columbia Cartridge Club - Squarin' the Night Away

Many people old enough to have a mortgage or buy shamwows with a credit card still aren't old enough to remember record clubs. But, they used to be the most popular way to buy music. Well, they were a popular way to buy music. That is to say, they were a way to buy music. Actually, they were a way for several people to buy music once and then immediately hate that way of buying music.
For everyone under 30, here's how they worked.

1. You subscribe to the club and immediately get from one to ten albums free. You chose from maybe a hundred or so albums listed in the ad. Nomatter what you chose, your shipment would always include one Captain and Tenille album. This is the last time you ever have a choice in your life as a club member.

2. Every month, the record company sends you The Monthly Selections, and you pay full price for the albums. It was usually around four albums, and every member gets the same records. No choice. Why would you want to choose? What's wrong with you? Giving people choice is bad for business, you communist.

3. The very day you receive your first set of shitty albums, you regret ever signing up and begin a life-long resentment of the record industry that still shows you new facets to your capacity for loathing to this very day. You can send the records back for a refund, but in discovering how shitty the albums are, you had opened the package, and now you could enjoy repacking the albums and paying shipping charges. The business model of the record club relies heavily on people's laziness and procrastination, as there was usually a time limit on returning your albums. How's that for customer-oriented marketing?

4. Upon quitting the club, the record company would send you a friendly letter reminding you that your membership obligation didn't expire for one to one thousand years in the future, and as such, suicide would only transfer your membership obligation to your heirs. Because of this clause, there is a woman in Baraboo, Wisconsin who is responsible for purchasing over six hunderd LP's, 8-tracks, and cassettes every month featuring bands she neither likes, nor has ever heard of, apart from their occurrence in the monthly music shipment, delivered via CH-47 helicopter to her roof, courtesy of the Columbia Music Club. Due to the financial burden of her inherited contractual obligations, she declares bankruptcy every four hours, and the record company has resorted to claiming her monthly membership fees in organ "donations".

Now, in 2009, record companies are still finding new ways to punish their customers. From Sony BMG's rootkit disaster, to DRM, there's always another way for music publishers to make music buyers angry and take away their choices.

Yeah yeah, big deal. Look at these happy squares, swinging away the night, thanks to Generic Man's two new 8-track cartridges. Well, presumably he owns a third one, which hopefully is already playing. Otherwise, the couple in the background are doing what, exactly? Are they in their pre-dance pose, ready to rock, as soon as Generic Man chooses between Little Green Apples and Goin' Out of My Head? Maybe the man with Tiny Legs Syndrome (TLS) is just standing around looking normal, and the lady in the groovy dress is recoiling in horror? I'll assume that Little Green Apples is playing and she's recoiling in horror.

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