Record store day: Have music shops really come to their demise?
Over the past few years it has been declared that the time has come for music in its physical format. It is said that nowadays nobody is prepared to pay for music when they can acquire the track they’re after for free in a matter of seconds. Is this really the case? Have music shops really come to their demise?
In these times of economic hardship, people deem getting what they want more important than the ethics of how they get it. This leads to the widespread culture of illegal downloads. People can’t seem to understand why it’s immoral, asking “everybody does it, so why can’t I?” Because of illegal downloads music sales have plummeted. Between 1999 and 2009, the amount of music being sold dropped by a staggering 47%.
As Woolworths and Zavvi have been put into administration, the only remaining major high-street music retailer is HMV. HMV is not doing very well, and it has recently been forced to sell electronics, accessories and clothing in order to continue making a profit. From a consumer’s point of view, why should someone pay more for an album in HMV than they would do online, delivered straight to their door? The “it’s nice to browse” argument is not valid in this case, as frankly browsing in a HMV store is not a pleasant experience for anyone. It’s heaving, dark, loud, and the staff never seem to have a huge knowledge of music beyond the frontiers of the top forty.
However, some towns and cities are lucky enough to be home to an independent music retailer. These are a haven for music-fans; friendly and extremely helpful staff, a wide range of excellent music across many formats and vibrant and comfortable atmospheres are the typical traits of such a store. Unfortunately over recent years many of these retailers have been forced to close down due to a lack of sales, but there are some remaining indie stores which continue to prosper.
One of these companies is Rise Music, run by Lawrence Montgomery. Set up in November 2007 in Cheltenham, Rise quickly established a great reputation for bargains and knowledgeable staff. Since then, a further three Rise stores have opened across the West Midlands. Rise’s flagship store in Bristol opened in 2009 and has since hosted many free in-store gigs from the likes of Laura Marling, The XX and Josh T. Pearson. The company continues to prosper, but why is this, when illegal music downloading is so popular? The answer is quite simple: Rise offers (in Lawrence’s own words) “an environment and service that is unique and unrivalled in the local area”. This is 100% accurate; the ultra-friendly staff in each of Rise’s shops have a collective knowledge of music larger than Wikipedia’s. The atmosphere in the stores is a friendly and relaxed one where you really do feel welcome.
Lawrence does not at all begrudge the migration in consumers’ buying habits, in fact the blog culture has made people more musically open minded than ever, he says. He admits that for an independent record shop to survive, it needs to evolve to match the current industry. For instance, in 2011 Rise’s website was launched with a huge range of products at great prices. Lawrence argues that independent music retailers will always survive provided they do one thing: offer great value to the customer. This may be in the way of offering outstanding prices, or offering priceless staff knowledge and atmosphere. Rise has stumbled upon the perfect formula, and is one of the loveliest music retailers in the country.
Tomorrow, independent record shops similar to Rise all over the country will celebrate Record Store Day. This is the biggest day of the year for many music fans. Artists produce ultra-limited vinyl copies of one off singles and albums for sale only at your local indie store. This is what Resident Music in Brighton had to say about the event: “It’s an international recognition of the importance of the record shop, a chance for music fans to come together and celebrate this recognition, in their own churches of culture – the record store. It’s also an opportunity for high profile artists to give something back to both the record shops and fans that have supported & nurtured them from their inception – a desirable, limited, physical item to be cherished.” Over 300 artists are releasing limited material for the event, including the likes of Beach House and Tindersticks.
Taking the success of Rise Music and Resident Music as examples, it is clear that the time has not yet come for music in its physical format, nor will it be coming in the foreseeable future. These stores, among many other independent music shops all over the world, have proved that digital music has not killed the retail industry. Many stores are more successful than ever and will continue to prosper as the musical landscape continues to develop.Tagged in: downloading, HMV, illegal download, Josh T. Pearson, Laura Marling, music, music shops, Record Store Day, Records, rise music, the xx, woolworths, zavvi
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