Monday, November 21, 2011

Do We Need Record Stores?

Short answer, yes! Longer answer discussing many of the challenges facing record stores in the digital age is available below:

Some of my fondest memories are mulling albums and vinyl singles at various indie record stores in the Portland area back in the 70's. There were a bunch of stores back then with clerks that ranged from sullen to knowledgeable to enthusiastic to bored. You never knew what you'd be getting on any specific day! I remember a punky-new wave fellow named "Thor" at some short-lived hole in the wall selling/hyping the latest Stiff Records singles, everything from E. Costello to Dave Edmunds to Rachel Sweet. There was a short-lived super store called "Crystal Ship" that impressed with sheer abundance... two giant floors of records, records, records. To this day I stop by Music Millennium whenever I'm in Portland; they're still one of the best record stores around. And I get instant college flashbacks when the (pleasant!) patchouli/incense odor hits...

I also spend WAY too much $$$ at the Los Angeles Amoeba store, because for all the convenience of Amazon, I still like the tactile "flipping through CDs" search method. And I'm constantly finding/trying something new. Recent example: 2003's "The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place" by Explosions In The Sky. These guys evidently scored the film "Friday Night Lights" and yet someone never landed on my admittedly narrow radar. I'm not even sure what you would call this (blissful/angry instrumental trance music with a surprising beat?) but I sure like it, and I would never in a million years have found it if an Amoeba employee hadn't given it a listen and stuck a descriptive label extolling the CDs virtues on the shelf.

There's another "Record Store Day" this Friday... if I can fight through the crowds I might try to wrestle my way inside and support my local record store.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your experience at indie stores sounds great. I don't think we have much of an indie record store culture in Canada. My big brothers always went to HMV (a major British company that's all over Canada), so I did, too. The most I'd do is try to shop at other stores in the area if they had the same price to keep competition going.

I'd even tried to shop at indie-like chains, but I'm very picky and I'd get intimidating stares when I'd point out damaged packaging, a bent booklet, or broken tine that allows the DVD to fall out, and scratched CDs and DVDs piss me off. So, unfortunately, I'm one of those folks who buys all the stuff he's obsessive compulsive about on amazon because when you try to exchange stuff, they have to accept that it's "defective"; no anxiety about trying to justify yourself, just my own faceless authority via e-mail demanding customer service! I'm even willing to pay a higher price for that service.

Even HMV has started to suck; when I look back, I was subliminally eased into Radiohead, The Strokes, or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs playing over the speakers, and eventually bought those albums there. The folks playing this stuff had taste; years ago, this one HMV guy told me that "Porcupine" was Echo and the Bunnymen's best album; I bought it and only really listened to it this year, 7 later! Nowadays, though, head office orders they play official HMV radio selections. So, now I can't wait to get out of the store to avoid -- seriously -- Justin Bieber, the Spice Girls, the Jonas Brothers, or whatever horrible crap is popular among dumb tweens who wouldn't be carefully browsing and trying to discover new music at an HMV anyway!

10:27 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home