Terry Teachout writes:
I take a look at the financial woes of Tower
Records and the wider implications of music downloading. One frequently
overlooked effect of downloading on the culture of music is the extent
to which it discourages in-store browsing, and the serendipitous
discoveries that can only be made by wandering at will up and down the
aisles of a deep-catalog record store.
I am (surprise) less pessimistic. I see one kind of serendipity as replacing another. The new serendipity relies on Internet browsing. Which CDs can be described in an intriguing way on a blog or an Amazon listing? The old serendipity depended more on the quality of the album or CD cover. I see the new serendipity as favoring the tastes of the highly literate, and as favoring artists with interesting biographies. Older methods favored groups with good album art, which tends to be correlated with a sense of the unusual or outrageous. I do not see why the new serendipity should be worse than the old, although admittedly it discriminates against those with Internet connections.
Addendum: Terry Teachout asks that I link to his longer discussion.