Guide to Mail-Order Music

These mail-order companies can turn your mailbox into your favorite record store.

| July/August 1984

In 1877, two years before he created the bulb that bathed the world in incandescent light, Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph.

Nobody can say for sure which of those two devices had more impact over the course of the ensuing century. But it's probably a safe guess that many Americans today would sooner spend their evenings in the dark again than live without their stereos.

Unfortunately, finding the varieties of music that you'd like to play on that stereo can sometimes be a frustrating task. And this can be particularly true if you happen to live a couple of dozen four-wheel-drive miles from the nearest music merchant. However, even if you live next door to a record store, you might have the same problem, since the average album emporium these days carries little more than a few bins of country-western, a smattering of classical, and an avalanche of major-label rock ... an assortment that no more represents the full breadth, depth, and texture of the world's music than the menu at McDonald's typifies all the flavors and aromas of international cuisine.

There's good news for the musically malnourished, though. While the big American record companies have spent their money and efforts producing mainstream music and mass-marketing it in chain record stores, a whole slew of small, independent recording companies have emerged to offer a smorgasbord of aural alternatives. And along with these new studios there has come a different breed of record retailer: mail-order companies (sometimes the recording firms themselves) that are just as delighted to send an order to Midnight, Mississippi, as to midtown Manhattan.

Result: No matter where you live, no matter what your musical tastes, your mailbox can be the very best record store of all.


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