My attachment to record stores

Posted on March 11, 2012

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I was out and about in Central London window shopping recently, browsing around for bargains to be had, whilst I have barely a penny to my name that is addressed to me on my bank statements every month. Because like most of us, I’m quite the consumerist, I like my food and I’m also a cologne snob. Don’t act like it’s just me here.

But since I was around the age of about 17 or 18 years of age this has been the general pattern of my life anyway, though I would without fail or on pain of death not come away empty handed without swinging home in my hand a piece or several pieces of 7” vinyl. Record stores meant the absolute world to me and then some. Consider this: its no exaggeration that I could spend two hours at a time in a store digging out the newest release, a record with a weird sleeve on the cover that caught my eye and insisted that I have a listen on the turntable. Rough Trade, Sister Ray and Phonica felt like a second home from home.

Going even further back in time, as a pre-teen adolescent, or to put it another way, when cd singles were selling by the shedload at Woolworths, HMV and all other good high street outlets. And some bad ones too. I’m not ashamed to admit that the first record I bought with my own pocket money was ‘Mmm Bop’ by Hanson. I’m not particularly fond of show-offs who brag about theirs being Suede, Blur, Hefner or Half Man Half Biscuit. And quite frankly, I’ll bet your first record was a Take That or East 17 single if you’re a) my age and b) outnumbered significantly by girls to boys in a class.

I guess however much I would try to deny it, I’ll always feel some sort of attachment to a record store and can never ever see the appeal of a physical element being replaced by an mp3. Despite me having bought downloads before at a small rate and without sounding contrite, I feel a bit cheated. While I’m helping to contribute to the mass machine that is the music industry, with the artist getting a royalty check a 7-11 employee would laugh in your face at, its not something I can hold, recommend to my mates, sit on my shelf and come back to it like an old friend. Each record I own (and there’s a fair few) has its own space and time. In equal parts good and bad. Something that an iTunes library can never replace.

For the first time, we have a generation coming through that has a sense of entitlement in music purchasing, or not as the case may be. Spotify and Napster before it have taken away the human element and ownership of the physical format and copyright for consumer and artist alike. This fills me with apprehension. In an environment of Beats headphones (yuck) the over-polished mastering where music is unlistenable (even yuckier), it’ll allow for a dark age – a black hole void of a listenership with little to no interest in quality music and not venturing beyond the dubstep threshold and even lower record sales. Though the latter is a near-certain inevitability anyway.

Like any parent – which I’m not – I love small, independent record stores unconditionally as much as any serious, discernible music fan and its vital that there’s a presence for the underdog.

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Posted in: Music