Today is Record Store Day... a day specifically designed to remind people of the joys of independent record shops.
As this piece on the BBC News hightlights in the UK... there were 408 independent record shops in 2007, but only 305 remained by the end of 2008.
I love music... and whilst I can't play, I love to listen. Music is my joy... my hobby... my muse... and I love spending time digging through the racks of vinyl and CDs looking for something special. I need to replace my record player... so its predominately CDs just now that I hunt for. Ask Olly... she gets to experience the glint in my eye when I see CDs - whether they are in a store, a market stall or a charity shop - I love the hunt.
Downloading will never replicate this hunt... and as a result, will never kill the record shop.
This makes me think of the retail model (can be physical, online or both):
- Mass "super" markets :: general populist product lines for the masses - think ASDA or AMAZON.
- Specialist boutique :: specific products tailored for a specific niche - think ROUGH TRADE or HANON SHOP.
- Handcrafted :: products made by hand... and sold direct to the consumer - think Farmers' Markets or ETSY.
- Vintage/Charity/Second-hand :: products being redistributed with the end recipient either individuals or charities - think OXFAM or EBAY.
You can buy "popular" music at a supermarket (I got U2's latest for £6 in Morrisons) or you can go to a specialist record shop - anything from HMV & FOPP to AVALANCHE (Glasgow) or JUMBO (Leeds). These shops are on a continuum of specialistness with HMV being more populist with a wider selection of product (eg games & DVDs) to the more specialist with JUMBO selling a wide selection of CDs and Vinyl only.
You can also get music directly from the producer or pick up tunes second-hand.
There is value in all four categories... but if the indie record shops focus on the second to fourth categories then they will continue to exist. Not everyone wants mainstream... not everyone watches X-Factor... not everyone is happy with the latest Music Industry pimped "thing".
Some people, myself included, want talent, experience and authenticity... they want to discover and appreciate music... regardless of whether its the latest thing or its something "classic". They want choice.
At the end of the day... music is a very broad church with something for everyone. As shown above... there is something for everyone... but this must be maintained... encouraged... supported... that is why I support Record Store Day... and would be out there in Glasgow digging through the racks, if it wasn't for the fact I'm not long back from a break whereby I managed to find some amazing albums.