THE MUSIC OF OZ // ONE OF A KIND

What was once a chain of music stores in the South through the ‘70s and ‘80s is now a single music store in Tuscaloosa.
Oz Music is not only the last remaining store of the chain, but also the only independent and full service music store left in town.
Jason Patton, the manager of Oz Music, has been working at the store for 15 years and recalls seeing the changes in the music business in Tuscaloosa.
“At one point we were one of seven music stores in town,” he said. “Today we’re the only true music store left here.”
Even with the presence of chain stores like Target and Best Buy that sell CDs, Patton doesn’t consider them competition.
“To me they’re not competition because their selection is crap,” he said. “The people that work there don’t care about music like we do, they’re there for the paycheck and they don’t know music like us.”
The real competition has proved to be the Internet.
In recent years people have veered more toward shopping online, and the rise of digital music has taken away from sales of physical products.
One of the biggest issues the music industry has seen is the rise of piracy and illegal downloads, and that has become the biggest competitor.
“I can’t compete with free,” Patton said. “But I also think that if somebody downloads something for free and never tries to purchase physical product, they were never my customer anyway.”
Despite the increase in downloads and move towards digital music, recent years have also seen a rapid increase in demand for vinyl.
“Vinyl is definitely back,” Patton said. “Even though we mostly make CD sales, I’ve had to start ordering more records because a lot of people are going back to listening to vinyl.”
Stephen Peek, a regular customer, enjoys collecting records and prefers listening to music on vinyl.
“I feel like vinyl forces you to pay attention to the music you’re listening to as well as open you up to different sounds and genres,” he said. “And it’s more fun searching and looking for vinyl of your favorite music as opposed to it being readily available to you.”
Peek prefers shopping at Oz because of the selection they carry.
“I think because Oz is a smaller shop and it’s kind of a rarity in this area that it takes music more seriously,” he said. “They have a good selection and verity of music on vinyl, new and old, popular and abstract, so even though I may not find exactly what I’m looking for, there’s always something there that I’d like.”
Oz Music caters to customers who are interested in physical products, and Patton maintains that shopping online will never compete with the customer service found in the store.
“You can sit at your house in your underwear and order a CD at midnight to be shipped to your house, so why come out to a store?” he said. “Well, because we have customer service and you can’t talk to someone on Amazon and you can’t get recommendations on Amazon like you can here.”
Parker Evans, a Tuscaloosa native, has been shopping at the store for years. Evans said he values physical copies of music more than digital ones.
“I buy CDs partly because I like to support Oz as a local business, and also because I like having physical copies of my albums and books,” he said. “Some of that probably has to do with the fact that I like to have a physical representation of my music taste.”
Evans also prefers buying a product rather than downloading it for free.
“I feel like if you really enjoy an artist, then you want to show support and ensure that they are able to continue to produce music,” he said. “If you illegally download music you’re essentially robbing them of their product, especially if they’re a lesser known artist.”
Oz Music is a store that “lives and breathes music,” and Patton looks for employees that do the same.
“We try to only hire people that care about music,” he said. “We get people who only come in here for paychecks and it shows, and they usually weed themselves out pretty quickly.”
Employees who know and care about their product make for better customer service, and for a business like Oz Music, customer service ay be one of the most important factors for success.
“Customer service is what’s been our mantra since the owner bought this place,” Patton said. “And it’s what will continue to be our mantra for forever.”

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