this is a bit of a weird subject for me. i like indie record stores. i like being in them, i like holding records and recently my love for buying and owning records has been rekindled. however, it would be obvious to anyone that they are dying. people aren’t buying as much music, therefore the record stores are unable to sustain themselves. many stores, artists and other people involved in the industry have fought fervently to get people interested in the idea of the record store once more in an attempt to try and save them from extinction, but i personally think this is just prolonging the inevitable. one day, the record store as we know it will cease to exist. many people will mourn the loss of such an establishment, but i personally have come to the conclusion that people shouldn’t really mind too much. you’ll get your music, it’s just the way you get it that’s changing - and i don’t mean that in the wishy washy “THE INTERNET IS MUSIC NOW” kinda way, record labels became redundant years ago in my eyes. the record store is only now catching up to that redundancy for me.
i say it’s a weird one for me because i think i always secretly thought this, but because so many people kept arguing about how they absolutely needed to survive in order for the music itself to survive, i kept thinking to myself that there has to be a reason for this. i loosely justified to myself that if important people think they need to exist, then surely they need to exist. however, slowly but surely i started to come to the opinion that as much as people in the industry try to blame people for not buying music for being the cause of the demise of the record store, i think that what these people ignore is the fact that the business model of having a place where you can only buy physical copies of records has become obsolete. that’s not to say i don’t think there’s a market for physical releases, i think there very much is, i just don’t think a record store is the place for it to cultivate.
what is the place for it then? well, as michael gira once said, “the merch booth is the last independent record store, it just happens to move around.” now, more than ever, the artist gets to be the king of their own domain. like i say, record labels became obsolete years ago. with the internet you can build up your own fanbase, and through that you can distribute your record entirely on your own. for me, anyway, the thought of having a label do that when you can easily do it yourself nowadays seems mental to me. that way, if you do all the work, you keep all the money and the customer gets it cheaper due to the lack of a record store mark-up. if i buy music nowadays i almost always buy it directly from the artist. if i can buy from the artist at a cheaper price and ensure that all the money goes to the person or people involved in the creative process, why would i go to the store where i get charged more simply to allow the store to exist? in that sense, it’s not really possible to argue that the business model of an indie record store is anything other than redundant.
are there any good points about record stores existing now then? surely there must be, otherwise people wouldn’t be so up in arms about their demise. i must say i feel part of this is music enthusiasts feeling like their clubhouse is getting torn down, so they feel threatened by it. really the only worthwhile argument i’ve seen for their existence is from ian mackaye when he talked about the importance of having somewhere to discuss music with other like-minded people. i would say that this is indeed fairly important. however, i should note that when i say the “death” of the independent record store, what i really mean is the death of the record store as its own entity. i think that places that sell records will continue to exist, but they’ll exist as part of something else, like a restaurant with a record store inside, for example (monorail in glasgow is an example of this). if you can provide something like food or drink as well as records, then i think you provide a very healthy, potentially financially sustainable place to sell records - it just means the premises won’t be exclusive to music enthusiasts anymore (and i feel that some hipsters might feel sour about that, but fuck ‘em). the record store on its own though? most certainly an obsolete business model.
i should say that this has partially been brought on by the whiny attitude you see from some indie record stores (namely places like avalanche and the like) - run by the kind of hipsters who will whine about people not buying music, but will whine about people not buying music exclusively through them. hell, they’ll whine about artists not selling their music exclusively through them so they can get a cut essentially. that’s not on. don’t moan about your customer base when it’s essentially your failure to adapt that is the problem. all you do then is make your establishment out to be a bunch of dickheads, and no one wants to talk about/buy music in a place like that. your two options are this - adapt to the market, or die. that’s it.
so yeah, buy more music, but don’t feel you have to buy it from record stores just because other artists fight for the existence of record stores. if you want to, that’s cool, but personally i’d much rather buy music direct from artists wherever possible - they’re the ones that really need your support. there wouldn’t even be any record stores without artists paying out their asses to produce the fucking stock.