Currently on the endangered species list: your local record store. (You remember those, right?) In a valiant attempt to raise awareness of their existence and importance (and perhaps move some stock), hundreds of independently owned music emporia throughout North America are celebrating Record Store Day by holding special events and sales Friday April 19. Close to OC, Long Beach's Fingerprints and LA's Amoeba are participating.
I highly recommend frequenting a shop or two Saturday and showing some monetary love to these feisty survivors of music retail, which also serve as communal hubs for music freaks to exchange knowledge and bond. Buy some records, meet some cool people who often become friends for life. This has happened to me over and over. It's hard to do this while sitting at your computer. It's the difference between watching concert footage on YouTube and actually being in the venue for the show.
Over 3,000 record stores have gone out of business in the last decade. The causes are many: freeloading downloaders with a bloated sense of entitlement (maybe you've heard this rationale: “Why should I pay for music when I can get it for free on teh Internetz?”), the decrepit economy, the increasing popularity of video games and iTunes, Wal-Mart's ruthless CD-pricing practices, the looming specter of Al-Qaeda and other factors.
As someone who's spent a significant amount of his life in record stores, I am deeply saddened to see so many going under. It's like witnessing the erosion of your soul (or some equally self-pitying analogy). Every time an indie record shop folds, the culture becomes a little more bland and monolithic.
Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity, has an eloquent take on the matter:
Yes, yes, I know. It's easier to download music, and probably cheaper. But what's playing on your favourite download store when you walk into it?
Nothing, that's what. Who are you going to meet in there? Nobody. Where are the notice boards offering flatshares and vacant slots in bands destined for superstardom? Who's going to tell you to stop listening to that and start listening to this? Go ahead and save yourself a couple of quid. The saving will cost you a career, a set of cool friends, musical taste and, eventually, your soul. Record stores can't save your life. But they can give you a better one.
Anyway, Record Store Day is a nice gesture, and I hope it stirs a resurgence in people supporting these establishments, though I'm not optimistic about its positive long-term effects.
On a similar tip, a film titled I Need That Record is opening soon. It features Thurston Moore, Mike Watt, Ian MacKaye, a lot of other musical luminaries… and Noam Chomsky. The movie is a paean to the importance of record stores and an examination of their plight (spoiler alert: consensus here is that record stores rule). Get a taste of it in the trailer below.
I Need That Record