April 19, 2008
It's Record Store Day. Play it again, Sam!
BY BRADLEY BAMBARGER
The best record stores have always been cultural trading posts, not just dealing in widgets of sound but in the romance of music -- the way it can look and feel, the things about it that people need to share. Endangered now, and so more romantic than ever, record stores and their devotees are rallying against the notion they are bound to follow the dinosaur.
Today is National Record Store Day. Shops across the country are hosting performances, holding contests, having sales, giving away samplers and other freebies. Inspired by the success of a national awareness day for another pop-culture throwback -- comic books -- Record Store Day was organized by the various leagues of independent music retailers.
Internet shopping and illegal downloading have decimated the brick-and-mortar record business. About 3,100 shops have closed since 2003, according to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail (a marketing data-base firm), with 1,400 of those being independent stores. But 2,450 indies remain open. For hardcore buffs, these outlets remain vital as much for their atmospheric pleasures as for the product.
Boosters of Record Store Day include big names, with even Metallica playing an in-store show in California. The organizers have posted quotes on recordstoreday.com from famous record-buyers, including Bruce Springsteen, music-obsessed filmmaker Cameron Crowe and author Nick Hornby, whose 1995 novel "High Fidelity" (and the subsequent movie) both tweaks and celebrates the pop fetishists of an indie music shop.
"Yes, it's easier to download music and probably cheaper," Hornby says. "But what's playing on your favorite download store when you walk into it? Nothing. Who are you going to meet in there? Nobody. Record stores can't save your life. But they can give you a better one."
In New Jersey, participating stores include Vintage Vinyl in Fords, Scotti's Record Shops in Summit and Morristown, Jack's Music Shoppe in Red Bank, Grooveground in Collingswood, Record Collector in Bordentown and the Princeton Record Exchange. As Hornby suggests, these shops have helped form people's lives.
Jon Solomon, 34, recalls using his "bar mitzvah money to buy a bunch of Talking Heads cassettes at Princeton Record Exchange -- that place was so important to me." Now, he's a deejay with a freeform rock show on Princeton's WPRB FM. Solomon still combs through racks of used CDs and LPs for out-of-print finds at the store, founded in 1980. And he still chats across the counter with owner Barry Weisfeld and obsessively expert clerks who have been there since his teens.
Vintage Vinyl, one of the country's most famous indie shops, is a 10,000-square-foot, 100,000-title den of new and used CDs, DVDs and LPs. Renowned for its in-store performances -- photos of shows by Ozzy Osbourne, the New York Dolls, My Chemical Romance and more adorn the walls -- Vintage Vinyl hosts a full day today: Nada Surf, Article A and Ben Taylor (son of James).
Vintage Vinyl owner Rob Roth hopes that Record Store Day "will shine a light, showing people that we're still here," he says. "Business isn't what it was, but it's still vigorous. LPs are bigger than they've been in 15 years because they're the ultimate reaction against the one-dimensional experience of digital files, even for young people."
A veteran East Coast sales rep for RED, Sony-BMG's independent distribution arm, Frank Mazza has worked with Roth for years. As a New Jersey resident, the 50-year-old has also shopped at Vintage Vinyl since its initial location opened in Irvington in 1979. He marvels at Roth's mental file on his customers.
"I don't remember the first record I bought at Vintage Vinyl, but I bet Rob does," Mazza says. And Roth does: "Oh, yeah, it was a Link Wray album, on Epic."
Not every music retailer is as bullish about the future as Roth. Gary Scotti's father, Anthony, founded Scotti's Records in 1956 in Summit, eventually opening outposts in Morristown, Chester, Gillette and Madison. Having closed those last three stores since 2004, Gary says, "I don't consider myself pessimistic, but I'm a realist. I'm not sure I can suffer another 10 percent decline in sales."
Scotti has retooled his stores for the market, offering more T-shirts, headphones, etc. He gets upset that record companies give exclusives to iTunes. Yet he appreciates the way labels have supported Record Store Day, with his employees opening boxes of free goods all week. In Summit, he'll be getting into the spirit, holding a 45 rpm single ring toss for a customer to win a turntable.
Longtime Scotti's customer Helen Ryan, 47, of Madison, cuts against the stereotype of record collecting as being a man's game. She uses iTunes, but she prefers the physical aspect of CDs and the human touch in a store.
"Gary suggested I buy the latest Amy Winehouse album," Ryan says. "I would've never picked it up on my own, but I loved it, all the way through. And I talked my daughter into buying the 'Juno' CD instead of downloading it a track at a time. I think she enjoyed it so much more that way."
Nada Surf singer-guitarist Matthew Caws, 40, has been a music connoisseur since he was a Manhattan teen. He was intoxicated by the sight of rare 45s by the Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth thumbtacked to the walls of tiny stores in the Village, now mostly closed. The indie shops in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are his haunts now, yet he's looking forward to not only playing today at Vintage Vinyl but getting the chance to browse.
"As people spend all their time in front of their computer screens, it would be a shame to lose these special places," Caws says. "Shopping at a record store is one of the best ways I know of getting out into the world."
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Article List• March 27, 2013 - Glendale News-Press - It's a matter of record: Burbank's Atomic Records and Backside
• December 30, 2012 - Detroit News - As one record shop closes, vinyl music plays on in another
• April 20, 2012 - Boston.com - New vinyl album releases give record stores a kick
• November 20, 2011 - Salon.com - In an iTunes age, do we need the record store?
• June 9, 2011 - NJ.com - Curmudgeon Records closes its doors for good
• April 16, 2011 - Wall Street Journal - One-Day Record-Store Revival
• February 1, 2011 - Charlottesville News & Arts - Plan 9 Changes Location
• August 13, 2010 - The Tennesean - Anita Wadhwani: Nashville indie record stores' sales spin in right direction
• January 3, 2010 - Delaware News Journal - Delaware music shops get creative to compete with downloads, chain music stores
• September 24, 2009 - Los Angeles Times - L.A. independent record shop is still in a groove
• August 20, 2009 - CNN Money - You can make money off online music
• June 14, 2009 - New York Times - Retailing Era Closes With Music Megastore
• May 13, 2009 - Medill Reports - Resurgence in vinyl helps record store in recession
• April 26, 2009 - Los Angeles Times - In a digital age, vinyl albums are making a comeback
• April 18, 2009 - Charlotte Observer - Record stores band together
• April 17, 2009 - Detroit News - Record Store Day spins profits and good beats at Metro Detroit shops
• April 17, 2009 - Associated Press - Record Store Day celebrates indie retailers
• April 10, 2009 - Detroit News - Street Corner Music moving to Oak Park plaza
• April 10, 2009 - Toledo Free Press - New record store shakes up Adams Street
• January 8, 2009 - OC Register - Closing date for Virgin Megastore at The Block
• October 28, 2008 - Reuters - AC/DC back in "Black" with global smash
• September 23, 2008 - Chicago Daily Herald - Independent music stores haven't yet disappeared from suburbia
• June 23, 2008 - New York Times - For Tom Petty Fans, the True Sound of Vinyl, Also Captured on a CD
• April 19, 2008 - Lafayette Journal Courier - For some, record stores live on
• April 19, 2008 - New Jersey Star Ledger - It's Record Store Day. Play it again, Sam!
• April 18, 2008 - New York Times - Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing
• April 18, 2008 - Dallas Morning News - Retailers hope Record Store Day turns up volume at mom-and-pop shops
• April 16, 2008 - Timeout New York - Platter Up
• December 27, 2007 - Los Angeles Times - Virgin Megastore to close shop
• December 16, 2007 - New York Times - For a "Dinosaur," an Exuberant Second Life (Looney Tunes Reopens)
• December 3, 2007 - Detroit Free Press - The same old song: Music store closing
• November 7, 2007 - Washington Post - Eagles soar past Britney to top of charts
• November 4, 2007 - The Ledger - Two Young Entrepreneurs Unafraid of Risk of Going on Records
• August 20, 2007 - Billboard - Almighty Taps Hans As VP
• June 29, 2007 - ABC News - Long Live the Record Store
• June 28, 2007 - Orange County Weekly - Locals Only
• June 13, 2007 - Reuters - McCartney's Starbucks album heats up U.S. charts
• June 9, 2007 - Billboard - Commentary: Retail Recovery
• May 9, 2007 - Columbia Free Times - High Fidelity
• March 22, 2007 - NARM Awards - Almighty Retail Named NARM Related Supplier Finalist For Third Consecutive Year
• March 16, 2007 - Chortler - Shout! Factory Has Revamped Its Website
• March 9, 2007 - PhillyBurbs.com - Internet killed the record store?
• March 4, 2007 - Sacramento Bee - New groove for Solomon
• February 28, 2007 - USA Today - Exclusives aim to pull music fans into stores
• February 28, 2007 - New York Newsday - Latin record shops thrive despite changes in music business
• February 23, 2007 - Montpelier Bridge - Buch Spieler Sails On Despite a Music Industry Decline
• November 20, 2006 - Austin 360 - In Austin, Niche Indies Rule
• October 20, 2006 - Sacramento Bee - Tower brand could survive
• October 15, 2006 - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Tables have turned on record stores
• October 14, 2006 - Sacramento Bee - Small labels lose valuable ally in Tower
• October 6, 2006 - Desert Sun - Record Alley remodels
• September 27, 2006 - Music & Copyright - Niche Marketing of CD albums continues to rise in the US and Physical Sales overall decline
• September 22, 2006 - CNN.com - Indie stores confront a new era
• September 19, 2006 - New York Newsday - 34 years, and that's not all, folks
• August 18, 2006 - The Roanoke Times - Plan 9 Music puts new spin on 5 Record Exchange stores
• August 3, 2006 - The Hollywood Reporter - Nervous music retailers face hazy digital future
• July 16, 2006 - New York Times - The Graying of the Record Store
• July 13, 2006 - Rolling Stone - The iTunes Holdouts
• July 11, 2006 - Roanoke Times - Record store's "last dance"
• July 5, 2006 - Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader - Quimper Sound moves, expands to change with times
• June 6, 2006 - Billboard - NARM Nominations Announced
• May 10, 2006 - Detroit MetroTimes - Out of the Groove
• March 18, 2006 - Billboard - Indies in a bind
• January 16, 2006 - Los Angeles Business Journal - Slipped Discs
• January 6, 2006 - Los Angeles Times - Indie record stores doing slow fade out
• December 26, 2005 - Los Angeles Times - The Music Stops for Indie Shop
• December 1, 2005 - Rolling Stone - Fall Sales Dry Up
• October 13, 2005 - Desert Sun - Music snobs rejoice: Independent record stores still thrive in desert
• September 12, 2005 - Salt Lake Tribune - Twilight for Starbound Records
• August 18, 2005 - New York Post - Oldies are now singing a new tune - Music stores go digital
• July 2005 - Rolling Stone - Record Biz Still Sinking
• June 18, 2005 - Billboard - NARM Noms Announced
• March 21, 2005 - CMJ - Hart of the Matter
• February 16, 2005 - MSN - Genius Loves Company
• October 12, 2004 - Rolling Stone - Wal-Mart wants $10 CDs
• July 10, 2004 - Billboard - Almighty Institute To The Rescue
• January 14, 2004 - Creative Loafing Charlotte - Manifest Destiny
• December 29, 2003 - New York Times - on the rise of mass marketers
• November 13, 2003 - Rolling Stone - Best Buy snags rights to band's new DVD
• October 9, 2003 - USA Today - Best Buy wins sales rights to Rolling Stones DVD box set
• October 6, 2003 - Reuters - Stones Paint It Black For Retailers
• May 31, 2003 - Billboard - Retail Track
• May 9, 2003 - Hits - Rerap