Indie Record Stores — A Dying Breed

January 10, 2006 reports on a dying breed in today’s marketplace; the independent record store.
In a scene that plays out in many a music movie (Empire Records specifically, not so much High Fidelity), the corporate giants are again picking on the lowly independents and sucking the life blood out of the industry, indie vein by indie vein. But this constant, albeit gradual, takeover has been blocked in the past by a few barriers that have recently been torn down.

First, the physical, tangible form of the record is not nearly as important as in the past. With mp3 players and downloads, message boards and blogs, indie hipsters don’t require a local haven of cool to find their tastes and preferences. All these options for music are positive, easily attainable, and devastating for indie record shops.

Second, the shops refuse, or probably more accurately, cannot adapt to the new change. The niche of the local record store is availability and diversity of musical taste but this is no longer a commodity that can guarantee sales. In fact, considering the nature of such people that would drive out of their way to find that new xiu xiu record, anonymity might be one of the most attractive features of the new media.

Regardless of the reasons, record shops such as Vertigo in Grand Rapids, or Val Hallas in Oak Park, are at risk of shutting down. I don’t know the solution. Maybe buy a record now and then? If the concept of the album (vinyl or jewel case) means anything to you, perhaps drop buy your favorite haven, and make a contribution. But for all those shop owners out there, adaptation is needed. You won’t last the next wave of progress, because you’re years behind already, stuck with backrooms full of vinyl.



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