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John Timmons Again Begging For Help

November 18th, 2010 by jake · 35 Comments

ear X-tacy owner John Timmons has released yet another video plea for help:




I love the store. I buy merchandise there on occasion. But until ear X and other retailers have a product that’s as simple to use as iTunes, I don’t know many of my friends who will shop there. Sure, you can buy MP3s from ear X-tacy. But next to no one knows about it.

Hope it succeeds. Just not sure it’s possible to lure people away from a more convenient and cheaper option on the internet, sadly.

Tags: Business · Economy · Music

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 hobbster // Nov 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    I love ear X tacy and shop there. But it’s turning into a dinosaur. I try to shop locally, but the store is just not competitive. Amazon.com offers the same CD’s at half the price – and that’s just too tempting to cash-strapped shoppers like me.
    I think it’s starting to get embarrassing. How many more times is he going to plead with us?
    It results only in a temporary sales bump as the dutiful schlep to the store and do their thing; then, like me, return home and continue to download MP3′s.
    And if ear X tacy does indeed sell MP3′s why hasn’t he publicized that more?
    I’m really ambivalent. It’s important for a city to have an independent record store. It’s important for people to shop locally. But how long can we keep this business on life support?

  • 2 jake // Nov 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I get the appeal of the record store. High-end consumers want vinyl and such.

    But I think most folks are like us – they have an iPhone, iPod or some other electronic cube that plays audio files. The CD is effectively dead in the water now that you can easily download high-quality files from dozens of sources online.

    I think complaining about declining music sales – and I’m trying to be somewhat sensitive here, as I love the store – is a bit like complaining that folks no longer buy movies VHS. It’s time for him to reinvent his store in order to deliver what consumers want.

  • 3 JamesH // Nov 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Exactly Jake. The market has changed and Ear X tacy has not changed with it. Timmons is trying to sell typewriters to a public that already uses computers. I wish he’d figure it out because I love the store and think it’s great for Louisville. Admittedly I don’t shop there any longer because I get my music from more convenient inexpensive places.

  • 4 jake // Nov 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I admit to using iTunes. Which is not really cheaper and certainly doesn’t provide anything nearly the audio quality other forms provide. Primarily because it’s easy for me to discover new music, to quickly get what I want and to easily manage my library.

    And, to be further honest… sometimes you just hear something, find out what it is with Shazam and instantaneously download it on the spot. Tough to compete with that.

    Amazon is also great. Better quality. More flexibility. Sometimes cheaper.

    Those are probably the two primary ways people tend to buy music today – when they aren’t stealing it, which is stupid.

    If it’s a local band I love, I buy direct from the label or artist.

    If ear X had some sort of alternative that was easy to use, cheap and flexible? I’d give it a whirl. Especially if harder to find material was available digitally.

  • 5 tbrauch // Nov 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I think the have an identity problem. If they want to sell to the masses, they need to cater to the masses. That means offering cheap, easily accessible, digital music. But, let’s be honest, it’d be hard to compete with iTunes or Amazon in that market.

    Instead, they should focus on they can be a big player in. Perhaps that is vinyl. Or local musicians. But they need to pick that and push that. Go worldwide in shipping vinyl. Become a mecca for local musicians and not just Louisville local, but any musician whose only current fan base is local.

    I know a number of people who are in Austin or Nashville who are local to those cities. If I want to get their music, I have to call them and order a CD or have them email me mp3′s. They don’t have away to get into Louisville, or anywhere else.

    That’s just my thoughts… they are trying to hard to do everything and are doing nothing exceptionally.

  • 6 Phil // Nov 18, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    There is no easy way for me to explain myself but heres a start. Sure you can buy from Amazon or any other internet retailer. It is easier and it may have the appearance of being more affordable but is it really? When earX closes up where are those people going to work? Sure its easy to say “they’ll find work elsewhere” but will they, and at what cost to us?

    For everyone who bitches about unemployment and no jobs, let me ask, do you go out of your way to put an end to the madness we are experiencing? Do you really go out of your way to make a difference?

    Do you get movies from Netflix? If so, you are taking away jobs from people right here in your own city/state.

    Do you use the automatic checkout at the grocery store or go through the lane that has a real, live, tax paying, contributing member of society? I shop at local grocery stores that give you paper and not plastic, and many of which do not have the automatic check out.

    How about the bank? ATM or do you go in and deposit and withdraw money from a real, live, tax paying, contributing member of society?

    Pay your bills online so a computer gets credit for taking the payment or do you mail them in so that a person has to open that envelope? And lets not forget the person who is delivering the mail and the people who touch it from its beginning to end.

    Do you do business with a company that does not employ a receptionist or do you have to punch some numbers to get through?

    Do you buy only goods made in America or better yet, as close to Louisville as possible? Or do you allow yourself to purchase inferior, disposable goods made with sub-par materials, by a person who has no chance in hell of spending their paycheck with you, the business you work for, your neighbors business, etc.?

    The reality of the situation we are in is that waste is necessary for survival. Labor costs are the greatest expense to almost any operation. Cutting labor is the quickest way to cut expenses for any operation. Thats fine and dandy until you can’t cut any more jobs. Take the rail-road crossing attendant. In 1926, when the automatic railroad crossing guard was patented and then put into use, the statement that the former attendants “will find work elsewhere” did hold true. They did not go into engineering or tech/science related fields. They found jobs as elevator operators. And then they were removed from society, to find work as door men, who have almost been removed from society.

    Fast forward to 2010, there are more people, and fewer jobs for a majority of unskilled people. The idea that technology will produce jobs for everyone that it deletes does not hold true. A railroad crossing attendant is not going to transition into a tech job any quicker than the person managing a movie rental store.

    “Convenience” is how big business sold us on the idea that cutting the workforce is a good thing for us as a country, and while technology gives us the impression that we are more intelligent, people are actually dumber because they allow a computer to make decisions for them and have no clue why those decisions are being made.

    So what if you pay more for something when you buy it from a good, local establishment. What about your profession? Are you cool with the fact that a computer/robot/third-world sub-contractor can replace you to allow your customers to pay less, for crappier service?

    Everyone talks about how good they are, and how their product/service is better than anyone elses and demand top dollar, but when it comes to spending money on someone elses product/service, they become the tightest of anyone around.

    I believe that everyone would much rather spend more money on goods and services in exchange for lower taxes (ie, salaries instead of welfare). We all need to go out of our way to help produce jobs, and that is done by spending our money with companies that employ people–not convenience. The joy of convenience dissipates very quickly, while the joy of going into a store, talking to the owners, same employees, browsing and experimenting lasts and you begin to take pride in where you shop. You also have the benefit that if and when something goes wrong, local ownership fixes it or makes it as right as they can! When is the last time you were satisfied when “Bob” over in India “helped” you with something?

    Buy smart. By buying local and American!

  • 7 jake // Nov 18, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    That’s nice. Seriously. And it’s something I subscribe to 95% of the time.

    But here’s reality: Most of Louisville and the rest of this country aren’t on that same wagon. Likely won’t be for quite some time.

    It’s always best to buy local, in my opinion, when you can. That doesn’t necessarily apply to music. Not when the high-tech method isn’t really an option on the local front.

    Neither Amazon nor Apple are foreign companies. Their music operations are on U.S. soil. Their call centers are based in the states. And both companies have operations inside Kentucky’s border. So the foreign argument doesn’t really apply.

    I’d love to keep supporting ear X. But a few dozen jobs disappearing isn’t enough to motivate the masses when the entire country is experiencing economic turmoil.

  • 8 Phil // Nov 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Those few dozen jobs isn’t a big deal mentality is partly how we came to be where we are. I wasn’t particularly trashing the digital music buying practices, but rather how this method of thinking is what needs to change and I saw my opportunity and took the chance to preach for a moment. Didn’t mean to take the topic off course.

    In regards to Apple, great product, but not one thing they produce is made here in America, or if there is, I have yet to find one that has Made in the USA on it. There are many companies that are headquartered here in America that produce everything outside of our boarders. The fact that they do not employ Americans to do the jobs they have overseas is reason enough for me to not spend money with them (and then my wife got an iPad).

    Thanks for letting me get on the soap-box for a moment Jake!

  • 9 jake // Nov 18, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Yup, that mentality is rough. But reality is rough.

    You’re definitely extending the conversation and readers appreciate it. So do I.

    Apple’s music business isn’t Chinese, like the rest of their products. But you can’t really buy a telephone or computer or tablet that isn’t produced in China. Nigh impossible. Even many Korean products are produced in China.

    I think this situation is pretty unique. ear X is selling products that consumers – even local consumers – don’t want and don’t have a need for. Most people I know don’t even own a CD player today. And a turntable? Only a small amount of people.

    I don’t believe it’s fair to compare ear X to the housing bubble or the other problems this country faces.

  • 10 Phil // Nov 18, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Yeah reality sucks sometimes, but I try to keep a positive mental attitude until I convince EVERYONE that buying from your neighbor is much better than another continent!

    I agree that it is very hard if not impossible sometimes to find electronics made here. And frankly, until the process is more environmentally healthy, I really don’t want them made in America. My phone is a Blackberry though made in Canada. Not America but close enough. I even settle for Mexican made products when I have to choose, a job down there means one less person coming up here for one. My laptop was assembled in Mexico.

    In regards to music, by not buyng CD’s you are destroying many jobs. EarX is just the end of the line and who we interact with. What about the people that package the CD’s? Printing companies that print the inserts? Transportation companies that deliver the product? And then last but not least, the stock clerks and sales people that know more about music than Apple or Amazon? We are an ecosystem, and our own people are destroying it and not on purpose, but because we either don’t know any better, or because we are not educating our own.

  • 11 Phil // Nov 18, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    If you want me to get started on how our great-grand parents were more “Green” than we could ever be you just say the word and I’m on it!

  • 12 jake // Nov 18, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Most of that BlackBerry was made in China. RIM merely assembles part of it in Canadur.

    CD = nearly dead. That’s like telling me to buy a DVD or Blu-ray instead of streaming.

    You can’t save something that’s nigh obsolete. Either adapt or get out of the way.

  • 13 jake // Nov 18, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    P.S. Those discs? Usually manufactured in China. Many times the finished product is actually printed/created in China. Tons of Indian printing (the paper stuff), too.

  • 14 Phil // Nov 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    I opened the berry up this past weekend to fix the thumbwheel, and saw nothing with China on it. the battery and board are from Japan.

    I understand your points, but when you stream something, you don’t own it. You can’t touch it, or play it whenever you want. While it is cool now, what do you have to show for your efforts after the fact? You can’t let someone borrow it. The only thing that form of technology did positive, is that its easier for the relatives of the deceased to clean up their stuff, leaving less for the family to fight over. You also don’t have to hound someone for that DVD back that you let them borrow.

    Waiting is where the fun is. I don’t know if anyone here ever ordered something out of the back of a magazine or recalls doing so. Fill out the order form, send it and a check, and have to wait 4-6 weeks for delivery, and then you come home one day and bam! right there on the door step is what you have been waiting for. Next-day shipping and crap like that is for the birds. If one truely cannot wait to get something, go buy it locally.

  • 15 jake // Nov 18, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    When you download something? You can own it.

    And, yes, when you stream things you can own them. You can own the things you stream from Amazon, for example. Or what you stream via SlingBox. With the adoption of cloud storage you’ll be able to stream nearly everything you own.

    I understand the desire to keep a specific local business strong. But a business built on CDs is not going to remain strong anywhere in the world, really. It’s nearly 2011. Even MP3 compression will soon be old useless technology.

  • 16 Phil // Nov 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I didn’t exactly mean that you don’t own what you down load. I mean that you don’t have a physical product. I’m not a big music fan, if it’s on the radio I listen, other than that I don’t buy music. But I have friends that are HUGE music fans. Their CD, tape, and record collections are evidence of this passion. There are people that probably have more music on the computer, but they don’t own anything they can be proud of. They don’t have a wall of mp3′s. They don’t have signatures from the band on their mp3′s.

    I guess I am making an argument that has no legs but I like to think that it does.

  • 17 KYGuy // Nov 18, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    The Timmons plea has been a big topic of conversation in our house. If you’ve ever watched any of the “save the restaurant” (or whatever it’s called) shows with Gordon Ramsey going in to try to turn an eatery around, there is a parallel there with Timmons. I’ve been told he’s had plenty of advice about how to market and run that place in creative, new ways. It appears he took some of the advice but something made him discard most of it and he simply continued pursuing his old business model at the new location. Now, here he is again asking for help? The fact that I didn’t even know Ear-X had an on-line store until Jake mentioned it here is a perfect example of the problems.

    It’s not our fault as consumers if we no longer want to buy buggy whips. Even locally made, wrapped-in-paper-not-plastic, great people, great service buggy whips.

    I’ll miss the place. But I feel it’s absence will not be the cultural catastrophe Timmons and others fear.

    Here’s a final idea – There’s a lot of local good will and cache behind the Ear-X-Tacy brand. Why not contact some local producers, maybe the folks who have done well with “Secrets Of Louisville Chefs” and develop a TV show like “Austin City Limits”…except the set is a record store. Sell local/regional entertainment, in ALL forms. Pair up with the Rudyard Kipling or expand your cooperation with Louisville Public Media. Get out of the record business and get into show business. OK – just wild, ideas, I know. But that’s what I’d do if that buggy whip store was mine.

  • 18 Laurie Spezzano // Nov 18, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Music’s a big part of my life, and I love that I can go into Ear x and use the listening stations, hear free concerts at the store (often a better experience than seeing the same artist’s “big show” later that night), and browse the CD’s – new, used and local. I love that I can ask Matt Anthony about what he’s got playing in the store and he’ll personally tell me all about it. I listen to CD’s in my car, put’em on my computer, but don’t like Mp3′s. I’m not the MASS market, but I’m part of a niche market that keeps telling John Timmons we don’t want to lose Ear x-tacy, and he’s responding to that. I hope we customers who love having a personal, real-life relationship with our music can buy enough to keep the store alive.

  • 19 jtomm // Nov 18, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    phil, fyi: netflix has a large distribution center here

  • 20 Phil // Nov 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Jtomm, I’m very aware of netflix. They hardly employ anywhere near the number of people as movie rental stores. Nor do they have the economic collateral affect that brick and mortar stores have in a community.

  • 21 The Tim // Nov 18, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    I find Timmons’ appeal to the public interesting/intriguing.

    When he first went on the air earlier in the year, I had mixed thoughts. I don’t like to see any business — locally owned or national — shut its doors, but, as some of you stated previously, Timmons didn’t change/adapt with the times. Someone with a business degree or background needs to slap him upside the head and tell him it’s time to make drastic changes.

    BTW, the poor pitiful me act is getting old, John.

  • 22 Megan // Nov 19, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Am I the only person who still listens to and buys CD’s? LOL

  • 23 Mary // Nov 19, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Yes, people have suggested many ideas to Timmons & co. but what a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that in order to execute many of the great ideas, it takes money. They have to build revenue in order to execute. The move was a big part of that. Yes, the location isn’t as great as the old one, but the new location is one of the many ways they’re trying to save money.

    Yes, people want to turn the store into more of a live music venue, but that would cost money.
    Many people want to work on building up ear X-tacy’s online mp3 based store, but that takes money as well. And all the other ideas floating around, they can’t just happen in an instant.

    How can you expect ONE business to do all of these great things if they can’t front the bill? Do you realize how many hundreds of local artists sell their music there? You’d do well to take a moment and listen to the amazing talent we have right here in this great city.

    ear Xtacy may be stuck in the stone age for a lot of people, especially in my generation (i’m in my mid-twenties.) I think I’m the only one of my peers who still buys physical records & cds. But when you get down to it, the reality is that they’ve been here for 25 years providing great music and great service. Their staff is knowledgeable and friendly and many of them are local musicians themselves. They’ve brought great live bands to town. They’ve provided a place for the kids, who maybe felt like they didn’t fit in, to feel welcomed & encouraged.
    Why are we suddenly so quick to turn our backs on them when they’re clearly making an effort to change? It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s only been months since the initial move, and recently, every time I go there, there are hardly any people shopping. We all rallied behind them before to “Save ear X-tacy” but did we really do it? Did we go once and then forget about them again?
    I’ve lived in the Highlands my entire life and I’ve always felt such a strong sense of community coming from this ONE place. Ever since I was a kid I’ve cherished it. I take all of my visiting friends & relatives there and they all WISH they had something as great as ear Xtacy in their town. It just breaks my heart to see so many people giving up on them.

  • 24 Mark Stanton // Nov 19, 2010 at 10:19 am

    It’s funny how old school artists still refer to their product as an “album”. But can you download the pictures, liner notes and lyrics? Can you listen to, or do you even know the thousands of songs on your i-pods? The way I learned to listen to and love music was by getting an album and playing it over and over while looking at the pictures and reading the lyrics. I know I’m a dinosauer but I think I got more out of it that way. When you pick out a record or even a CD from your collection and put it into a player that is an intentional action, a choice to listen to something specific. When you turn on your ipod out of habit it becomes background noise.

    That said, I know I am in a huge minority. KYGuy suggests some good ideas by using the brand to partner with folks like the Rudyard Kipling, Derby City Espresso, WFPK, etc. etc. although they do partner with WFPK already.

    The TV is also an excellent idea, although the way television is done here they would probably expect EarX and the Rud to pay for it, which would be another barrier.

  • 25 jake // Nov 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Mary: Here’s the deal…

    No other business gets to beg the public for help when it needs an influx of cash. They build a product, prove it works and can grow and then they go out to secure funding if they don’t have family money. It’s how I did it. It’s how everyone does it.

    And sometimes businesses fail.

    My understanding is that John’s wife is a physician – so they’re not exactly living the slum life. He’s known around the world. If he’s really serious, he’ll find a way to work his connections to make this thing work. But it’s not gonna happen by begging the public for sympathy dollars.

  • 26 Melody // Nov 19, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I am a huge believer in local businesses. I think they’re great for a community.

    That said, the last time ear X-tacy issued their plea, I went into the store. I bought a CD and paid a few dollars more for it than I would if I bought it from Amazon. I paid with cash, because I know paying with a credit card means the business incurs an extra expense.

    The sales clerk hardly said a word to me, and didn’t look me in the eye. He did not offer me a bag for my purchase (I was strolling up and down Bardstown Road, so I needed a bag–my purse wasn’t large enough for the CD). Most ridiculous, I was not given my change. It wasn’t a lot–less than a dollar–but not giving the customer their change is downright bizarre.

    In the many times I have shopped at ear X-tacy, I have never felt as though I was valued as a customer. So, I’ve decided that I won’t make it a priority to give them my business in the future.

    If they can find a way to survive, that’s wonderful for them, and I think it would be nice for Louisville. But they have to earn their survival–not take it for granted out of a sense of self-importance.

  • 27 jake // Nov 19, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Interesting. I think your alleged experience is far and few between. The folks who work there thrive in their positions and know everything about music. You can’t walk into the store without being overrun with solid customer service.

  • 28 Mark H (Not Hebert) // Nov 19, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Phil, as a business owner myself, I can understand your belief in the value that you and your store bring. However, you are basically stating that your business is “too unique to fail,” and as such, you are entitled to free marketing and public support.

    To your point, you are correct in that technology has reduced labor needs. Just as the cotton gin did, the backhoe, UPS, email, internet retailing, etc, etc, etc. That said, there are numerous small businesses that have developed due to the efficiencies gained by those technologies. I would argue this site is one of them. If the internet and online publishing didn’t exist and Jake had to print a daily, his business likely wouldn’t have developed.

    Look, your starting to sound like the resort owner in the movie dirty dancing complaining that kids don’t want to go the Catskills and learn Cha-Cha lessons instead of flying to Europe.

    Retail brick and mortar music stores are obsolete. Your store was a nostalgic and fun, but is now outdated. It will go the way of the drive-in theatre and the small one-screen movie house.

    There’s no reason why you can become an online purveyor of hard-to-get and local music. The only thing that’s really tying you down is the brick and mortar. Many other businesses have shed the overhead, maybe it’s time to do the same.

  • 29 Steve Magruder // Nov 19, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Does ear X-tacy have an affiliate program for their online music sales? I run a local discussion board (soon to be commercial in approach), and I’d be happy to entertain linking to their store in creative ways if I can get a decent cut. I’d bet other local bloggers and media would be interested as well.

  • 30 Steve Magruder // Nov 19, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I’ll also put my weight (har har) behind the idea of ear X-tacy extending its fame and ‘local’ brand around the country.

    ear X-tacy can become the hyperlocal online music sales company, catering to all the local music around the country. And think of all the potential affiliations that can be developed with community blogs, media and such.

  • 31 tbrauch // Nov 19, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Phil, this argument:

    In regards to music, by not buyng CD’s you are destroying many jobs. EarX is just the end of the line and who we interact with. What about the people that package the CD’s? Printing companies that print the inserts?

    is invalid. That is, unless you are also going to ask “What about the barbershop quartets that went away with radio?” and “What about the radio soap operas that disappeared when tv was invented?”

    CD’s destroyed the tape market. Tapes destroyed the vinyl market. Vinyl destroyed the wax tube market. Wax tubes destroyed the live musician for rent market. Think about how many people are out of jobs as street muscians because we can now purchase a record and not need them to perform for us.

    And so, you are a modern day Amish person. You think that technology from 10 years ago is great and we should stop there. Remember, at one time the horse and buggy was high tech. At one time, the Amish were high tech.

  • 32 Mike // Nov 19, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Before his first public plea, I thought the guy owned the building. After that fact was let out it gets real simple,overhead dude. Y ou can not pay that kind of rent,with this type store in this day in which we live. Get real. I am a third generation small business person and if the first generation had to pay rent like this, there would not have been a second or third. If this guy is half as hip as he presents himself, he should have know this was coming ten years ago. So quit crying that all the trust funders that have filled the store for years are gone.

  • 33 JTT // Nov 20, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I went into EarX in the last year, once, I’m not a music person. (I’m flat out tone deaf.) But I wanted to get a couple of gift certificates for young family members. HORRIBLE customer service, the clerk was chatting, then texting, then chatting on the cell phone while I was standing at the check out. It wasn’t until I put the items down and headed out the door that they said, literally, whatcha want? The fact that I was standing at the counter with items IN MY HAND should have been a clue. I returned and paid for the gift certificates (not the other items) and he never did quit talking on the phone, it was bizarre.

  • 34 LMNEditor // Nov 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

    I had a discussion with Ben Jones, owner of Better Days Records in Lyles Mall, and he was thrilled that he had expanded his store and added a number of new racks and sections – he got them from ear X-tacy. Ben has a decent business that deals predominately in used CDs. He echoed everybody else’s remarks that Timmons hadn’t adapted to the new reality of the music marketplace. Record stores aren’t the only victims of the change in the way music is made and marketed – the number of major labels is way down, the total sales revenue is much lower. (Many musicians are perfectly fine with that, given that the labels have had a long history of screwing the musicians.)
    The fundamental business question is this: what does ear X-tacy offer that’s different from what can be found online and that’s different enough to make buyers drive to his store instead of downloading a file? The usual answer is expertise but that’s a boutique model, not a mass model and so unlikely to support a bricks-and-mortar business. The primary source of revenue in the music business these days is from live performances, which is why there are so many ‘legacy’ acts suddenly back on the road. CDs and DLs are a smaller part of the business and sometimes are given away as ‘business cards,’ hence are an expense, not income. In short all, the signs point to the end of ear X-tacy is it is currently configured. Whether or not Timmons can devise a strategy that will keep ear X-tacy in business is unknown, but it’s a certainty that begging customers to come to his store won’t work for long.

  • 35 A Life Less Responsible.... // Nov 22, 2010 at 6:44 am

    I’m sure the horse and buggy companies were upset to see automobiles become so poular as well. Maybe music stores will make a comeback one day, like canvas Converse and lava lamps.

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