Very few things in life will make me stand outside, lined up for an hour on a cold Minnesota morning, but it is an annual tradition throughout the Twin Cities every November. Real estate sales go on hold as I freeze with the masses, lined up at various locations from Forest Lake to White Bear Lake and Shoreview to St. Paul.
Not for a discounted flat screen or new game system, but for the Cities 97 Sampler. The coveted CD is a collection of Studio C cuts from awesome musical artists that have visited Minneapolis and St. Paul and cut a limited edition version of a song for local charities. This is the 19th year of the Sampler and it has quite a following.
The group that lines up for a Cities97 Sampler isn’t your normal line up of card-playing partiers; most are dressed in suits and skirts stopping on their way to work. Last year while in line, I overheard several who were retirees picking up the musical treasure for a daughter in school or son who had to work. No one under 16 is allowed to purchase the CD. Not for graphic-language or violence, but to keep parents from keeping kids out of school to assist in buying a few extra copies for of state residents for the upcoming holidays. It is an orderly group but as the line grows longer, those at the end start getting nervous as there is only a limited amount at each store, usually around 200-400 depending on the Target location. There are people who will walk up and down the line counting and multiplying by 2 to predict who will be out of luck in the cold.
It wasn’t a decade ago that someone could waltz into a Target Store in the listening area and pick up the 17-20 song exclusive at a reasonable hour like 10:00 AM but never wait until after noon or you missed out forever. On Sampler 14, I got one of the last three just before 10 and made a mental note to get there early next year. Arriving at 8:10 after dropping my son at school, I arrived to a sold out rack. Along with many other disappointed people we found that Ebay had arrived. It has changed our system forever. Now, non-listeners who want to make a buck or two, come in packs to pick up their two copies of the disk to sell to the highest bidder.
The Cities 97 radio station has done many things to help out the loyal listeners. There is a Frequent Listener Club where members can sign up and pre-buy on-line. They also save several copies and run their own on-line CD auction where the profits, like all profits from the Sampler sale, go to Minnesota charities. Additionally, you can hear the entire disk played without commercials over the weekend if you want to create your own disk of the unique music.
Not one to open a Christmas present early, I always one that waited until I purchased my Sampler to see the songs and artists on the new disk. As soon as I arrived home, I would pop in the CD to hear the new tracks that I had waited so long for. Last year I was pleasantly surprised that The Fray and Death Cab for Cutie has participated in the event. The year before Snow Patrol’s Studio C version of “Chocolate” was included. And. a few years previous, John Mayer cut a version of “Real World” and Five for Fighting participated with a unique version of “Superman”. There are too many favorites to name them all, but they are archived on the Cities 97 website. This year I got a sneak peek when writing up the post of the new Sampler cover, artists and songs on the station’s website. Looks like the line might be longer for the music this year.
So, no matter what the weather is on November 15th, I will be dressed warm and standing in the cold to pick up my two copies of the Cities Sampler. The new music will keep me warm all winter long.
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