Before I transferred to the U and moved to Minneapolis for the spring semester, I spent my days slinging albums and annoying customers with my obsession of feminist folk punk in a small North Dakota music shop. It has, by far, been the best job I've come across. Over the course of my employment and the time I spent walking down the aisles of CD's and LP's, I've collected some tracks of wisdom.
1. People still listen to Nickelback
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I have a personal vendetta against Chad Kroeger. When my brother was 12, he made the unfortunate life decision of attending a Nickelback concert and in the middle of the set, the Canadian lead singer threw a red solo cup of beer at my little brother's head.
That being said, people still spend money on the universally hated rock band's albums and every time they do so, I'm forced to ring them up at the cash register, stifle my judgement, smile and say "enjoy your new CD!"
2. It's important to gamble with music purchases
If you come across a funny looking album cover of some ridiculous 80's hair metal band, just buy it. Some of my favorite musicians have been discovered through the act of impulsive transactions. Before I'd ever heard of Devendra Banhart (North Dakota isn't really known for it's buzzing, hip music scene), I bought a used CD of "Mala" without knowing anything about it. I just thought the album art and song titles were interesting.
To this day, it's always my go-to road trip album. The same goes for Stryper's "To Hell with the Devil" (for wildly different reasons). Of course there are going to be misses with this consumer practice, but the hits will always be worth it.
3. The old, crazy regulars know their tunes
One of my favorite regulars is an older, leather jacket wearing, grey bearded gentleman. For the purposes of this article, let's just call him Orson. The last time I saw Orson, he was wearing neon orange suspenders decorated with black skulls and had his long wizard beard tucked into his crewneck shirt. He waltzed in and asked me about my first semester and how I liked living in Minneapolis. He then proceeded to school me on Ty Segall's discography. No joke, this dude is old enough to be my grandpa and he corrected me on which album "Rusted Dust" was on. So, don't judge a book by its wrinkles.
4. Every item of clothing I own will permanently smell like India Moon incense
I frequented this music store before I started working there and one of the things I loved about it was the scent of incense when I walked in. It gave the shop a nice and cozy feel and it was a memorable shopping experience for me.
Now that I'm back for the summer, I remember that not everyone appreciates the smell of Nag Champa and Patchouli. Whenever I come home from working a night shift, someone always comments, "Hannah, you straight up smell like a head shop."
5. Too many people make dumb pot jokes while looking at the water pipes and spoons
Like most record stores, the one I work at sells a variety of glass. There are certain terms you're supposed to use when mentioning to me which item you'd like to take a closer look at. Even though we both know you're not going to pack tobacco in a wooden dug-out with the words "420 BLAZE IT" printed on it in bright green vinyl decal, I have to play dumb and you have to lie. I'm not interested in how ripped you're about to get and what kind of hook-ups your friend has because his girlfriend just moved to Colorado to work as a bud trimmer. If you make a weed joke, I've heard it a million times and I'm not even going to give you a courtesy laugh.
6. We get It, The Beatles are important
7. We're not infallible music scholars
Yes, if you work in a record store, you need to be aware of genre cultures and the influential musicians that helped guide the music scene to where it's at today. That being said: I don't listen to everything and I don't know everything. If you mosey into the store and ask, "what's that one album by Slayer that has that one song on it?" I'm going to stare at you with a dumb look on my face until you give me more information. I cannot read your mind.
One of my favorite things about working at this shop is I get to travel through the subgenre waves of Spotify and discover new musicians and albums constantly. However, I experience tiny little existential crises when I realize that I'm never going to have the time or energy to learn everything about the music that's been released and continues to be released without pause. I get over this immobilizing anxiety when I remember musicians like Chad Kroeger exist and I don't need to listen to or know everything.
However, I do know one of the most intimidating aspects of talking to someone who works in a music store is the myth that they know more than you do...they don't and if they act like they do, they're a dick so you have the moral high ground. Ask your questions and don't feel dumb, but also don't assume we've heard of that crappy local ska band that your friend plays bass in.