RE: Record Store Day


Did you remember to celebrate Record Store Day last weekend by patronizing your favorite shop? Can’t say that I did. Don’t get me wrong: I like the sights, sounds, and smells of an independent record store… I just can’t quite grab ahold of the whole Record Store Day movement.

Think hard: Do we really need record stores any more, indie or non? I agree in a general sense in fighting for independent businesses in the face of hideous big box encroachment (particularly when it comes to restaurants and grocery stores). But when it comes to music, given the awesome, awesome, democratizing power of the Internet, I feel I am forced to draw something of a line.

Brendan Tollar’s new, Record Store Day-released documentary, I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store (currently streaming at Pitchfork), gets the argument particularly muddled. He spends entirely too much time decrying the commodification of music by record companies, the consolidation of radio stations by Clear Channel, and the overall shittiness of MTV, when all three of these problems (1) are generally of no consequence to an independent record store that sells independent music, and (2) are all rendered null and void by the Internet: albums that are marketed and distributed online without the input of a label bring more money and more exposure to an artist than any previous model. MP3 blogs and Internet radio stations make payola a thing of the past. And MTV? Who consults MTV for music recommendations any more? And yet Tollar’s got a whole stable of graying Gen X-ers who would have you believe otherwise (and listen to The Cramps).

To be fair, I Need That Record! comes around to the Internet in the second half, at which point Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore comments that while powerful and convenient, Internet music shopping is lonely (!).  Eureka! We finally have a coherent argument for preserving brick-and-mortar record shops. In the face of unassailable technological improvement, it might be nice to save a physical space here and there for music lovers to walk to and exchange opinions. But how many spaces do we need?  And where? Are indie shops still honestly competing with Best Buy? (Last I heard, Minneapolis’s beloved Electric Fetus was moving too many Maroon 5 units.)

You see there are numerous discussions to be had about the fate of the music industry, and too many rambling, “damn the man” arguments out there that do us little good in the record store-versus-Internet argument. So this is why I didn’t celebrate Record Store Day this year.

That, and I’m kind of broke.


2 Responses to “RE: Record Store Day”

  1. 1 raka
    April 27, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    ah now luke, this is simply ridiculous. it’s nothing so complicated as internet vs. brick & mortar and commodification and god knows what else – record stores are simply delightful places, there’s no way to deny it! they’re stores filled with music and the comforting smell of old records and some cool bearded dude in a plaid shirt chilling out behind the counter and ENDLESS POSSIBILITY. ah, luke, there’s no point pursuing this discussion any further – it’s an open-and-shut case, buddy.

    long live record stores and used bookstores and other warm & friendly places to feed the imagination and the soul

    • 2 lchennig
      April 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm

      Raks, I didn’t say that record stores weren’t delightful places. I just said that our bleeding-heart attempts to save them are starting to clash with the reality that people don’t want to buy CD’s anymore anyway. On this point I’m a bit of a shrewd economist: let the market decide how many stores we need! We’ll still have coffee shops and rock clubs to go hear music being played. And my mention of the commodification of art was in reference to a rather grating documentary I’m guessing you didn’t watch. And in the Age of the Internet, can a record store or bookstore (which is one word for some reason) still be described as a place of “endless possibility”? Either they have “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in stock or they don’t!

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