View from a Record Store #3
This week our man behind the counter answers the question: How important are record stores to new music?
Very sadly, I am not sure that they are very important. And in reality, shops have rarely been the source of breaking new music. The means by which 'new music' is pushed into the public arena may have changed in terms of medium, but in essence it is basically the same as it has always been. Infact, the PR side of music management has got even slicker.
Now, there is however a very different angle on this. Do I think shops influence new music? Oh yes. Do I think shops are a good place to listen to new music. Most definitely. The thing here is, what do you mean by new music. For a geezer flying a desk at Sony, the latest Leona Lewis is new music, the rep at SRD the latest re-issue from Light in the Attic (who recently did the Rodriguez stuff) is new music. To a 17 year old looking for inspiration, Bauhaus, the Pixies, The Beatles, Neu, Amon Duul etc etc are all new music. I could do this forever, but will refrain.
But essentially, what you want to know is, how important are record shops to the latest indie release. I know this sounds pompous, it's not meant to, and this is my point. New music is all about perspective. And here, I return to my original statement, no impact at all.
The live market outside of the big cities is bordering on non-existing (the licence trade is in even worse shape than record shops), and things start with live performances. But ironically, it is choice that is now doing the most damage. It has always been the case that the top 2% is actually quality music worth keeping. Now its more like 0.5%. Not because there is less quality music, but because the market is flooded with music. The number of record releases in any given period is just ridiculous. I look through pre-sales of around 800 album release every week. No shop in the country, neigh the world will stock it all. Not good.
I try to get behind things that I see as very good, innovative and interesting, and I try to sell them. And for the 7 or 8 things a year that fall into this bracket, it works. But finding them is harder and harder. Record labels are doing such short print runs, that promos are non existent. Or the labels are so small that they have no time or ability to do a promo.
So I get sent a snippet on a soundcloud link, or I get one track on YouTube. And even then I'll often only get that 2 days before a sell in. Giving me no time to weed out the good shit. Reps, who now have little or no time, can sometimes advise you. But out of the 27 wholesale companies I use only 5 have reps call me regularly, and are then able to advise me/punt me on what gear I should get. What is interesting is that as a result my shop is filled mostly with gear from these five companies (it's PIAS, Proper, SRD, Cargo and Shellshock if you're wondering). It often takes time to build a relationship with a rep; and when they change it can knock my interest in buying stuff.
Thus proving again the most important fact about music. Its a human experience. If I stand before you and enthuse about something, it not just me selling it, its because I like it. This rubs off on the product. And when someone else is enthusiastic about something, you can get enthusiastic about it. Over time, you come in more often; and we can figure out between us what you will like. This is how music retail should be, it's personal and most defintly enjoyable. And this is what HMV, Amazon and Pirate Bay simply do not do.
But I did sell 2 more dark sides this week, and heres a funny thing. Dealer told me that Band On The Run (by Wings) is selling on LP again. So put a few out..... sold em all..... bizarre.