I'm wearing black today. Footlight Records is closing for good July 4th.
My fellow cast-albums aficionados will no doubt recall that the venerable Footlight Records closed its brick-and-mortar store a while back, and has now announced that it will be shuttering its Web shop for good as well.
It used to be that on my frequent trips to New York I would make my standard side trips down to Union Square to browse through the offerings at Footlight, pick up a few cast albums, and bask in the ambiance of out-of-print LPs from Ambassador, Drat! The Cat!, and Philemon. Now I have to make do with the admittedly robust but nonetheless marginalized Broadway section at the Virgin superstore in Times Square.
Where shall we get our beloved cast recordings now? Well, fortunately there are still some fairly reliable online sources of new releases, including Amazon and CD Universe. And eBay remains a valuable font of random esoterica and out-of-print titles. For foreign cast albums, I have found Dress Circle, Sound of Music, and Musical Shop quite fruitful, but the shipping costs and currency conversion rates can make this an expensive prospect.
But does the demise of Footlight reflect a larger trend in the music industry? Oh, yes, indeed. Even larger companies such as Tower Records and Virgin have had a tough time staying alive in the music business, largely owing to MP3 downloading and file sharing. In the not-too-distant future, will we receiving all of our show music in digital form?
I'm not typically much of a Luddite, but I'm hanging on to the ever-diminishing hope that my beloved CDs won't become quaint museum pieces. (Eight-track tapes, anyone?) I simply can't imagine not having something physical to hold, even if it's not a CD. I want liner notes. I want lyric sheets. I want cast pictures by Martha Swope.
Of course, digital distribution is less expensive, so we're likely to get more marginal cast recordings. But right now iTunes doesn't appear to traffic much in the obscure, just the stuff you can obtain readily elsewhere. Occasionally you get such digital-only release as The Capeman or the soundtrack to the movie The Boyfriend. Or the occasional bonus track, like Adam Guettel singing selections from The Light in the Piazza.
For once, technology will need to drag me kicking and screaming into the future.