I was visiting the eFest site today and just catching up on the rumors for this year (even though I’m not going…I can still be obsessed a little, right?)
There was a thread about HMV closing 60 stores: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12117510 I ended up commenting and thought I’d carry those thoughts over here since they do relate to my passion/obsession/insanity about music. I also linked from there to a really cool article about record stores in the UK….and I was thrilled to find the first place listed was a small store in Yeovil that I’d stumbled upon in 2008 on a trip and actually visited myself. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12164531
I had to say first that I’m really saddened by the impending demise of physical stores. Almost the first place that I ran to on my first trip ever to London was the Virgin MegaStore on Oxford Street…followed shortly thereafter by a trip to Tower at Picadilly and then HMV on back on Oxford Street (Of those only HMV remains, and how much longer for them?). The main souvenirs that I would bring home from any trip there was a huge pile of new CD’s…many that I couldn’t find here in America back then. (Camel for example was a real challenge to find over here.) Each time I’ve returned over the past decade another store had bitten the dust. My last trip for Glasto (last summer) there was only HMV and Fopp left to visit.
It’s sort of a chicken-egg thing to me. They sell less CD’s, because there less places to buy them which just cycles down until they are a niche market for fanatics like me. I have a few options living in So Cal…But, they are require a major trip (Amoeba in Hollywood or Fingerprintz in Long Beach cool, but a hassle to reach). There are two somewhat nearby small stores….nearby being within 10 miles….one is a mostly used store and one is a struggling little place that charges a huge premium because of their limited buying power…I try to buy something from them once in a while just as a show of support.) We are talking about a metro area of millions, with a huge music scene and history in pop music to rival London (Beach Boys, Doors, Eagles, Jackson Browne, X, etc)….and my only close options are Best Buy, Walmart, Target and Barnes & Noble….it’s horrible. And each of those last four have a poor selection that keeps shrinking every time I visit one of them.
They say they don’t sell enough CD’s, yet without a good selection, there’s nothing to buy. I spent weeks looking for anything by Hot Chip for example last year. I saw they were headed to Glasto, saw them on YouTube and wanted to buy the CD. I visited numerous Best Buys for weeks before I finally stumbled across one that had a copy of their latest CD…forget buying anything from the catalog of previous stuff. Or, Bonobo….which I never did find until I got to the UK….seen one copy since at Fingerprintz, how can anyone get into a band if you can’t find their music anywhere at all (except online)? A friend and I joke we’re going to be the last two dinosaurs in the world looking for CD’s in 10 years….and sadly, it’s likely true.
My second job was in a record store, the Warehouse Records, they had 144 stores and each one had some character back then.
The folks I worked with had a passion for music. I spent more than my first paycheck the day I got it on LP’s I had held to buy. We took delight in introducing each other to cool stuff…I discovered Dire Straits and played it to death, some else discoved Graham Parker. One guy looked a lot like Jimi Hendrix and he loved Neil Young and Renaissance…who I came to like simply because he played them so much. I recall when AC/DC’s Back in Back arrived and Lanny, the resident “metal guy” in the store declared it a masterpiece and lobbied to order many more copies. (He ended up playing in House of Lords, Guffria and a some other hair bands in the 80’s). The point being, we had a store full of people we cared deeply about what we sold (the pay sure wasn’t the the reason we worked there….). That seems to be gone now. Where is that love and passion in selling music?
I buy stuff off Amazon, even off iTunes on a rare occasion…but ever nothing compares to flipping through stacks and finding something that catches your eye, (or forgotten until that moment).
I mourn that experience going away because it has been so important to me.
And, my next trip to London will have a missing gap where making that special trip to those stores used to reside.