For about a two or three year stretch in the late 80s, if you wanted to track me down after-school or on a Saturday, you would have to go to a certain 2nd floor indie record store, housed in a heritage building in downtown Winnipeg. Without fail, you’d find me there, perched on a stool a the end of the counter, trying to maintain a conversation with the clerks over the ear-splitting volume of the latest 12″. And, if I wasn’t in “my spot”, I would be out fetching coffees or helping to unpack a fresh shipment of t-shirts. I didn’t get paid a cent to be there, save for the occasional bagel or coke; I was there simply for the atmosphere and my love of music.
It should come as no surprise, then, that my list of all-time-favourite movies includes “Pretty in Pink”, “Empire Records” and “High Fidelity”, or that visiting the local indie music store is always on my “to do” list whenever I travel to a new city. It seems that no matter where you go, indie record stores (both real and fictional) all share that common, inherent “cool factor”; something that you just don’t get in the big chain stores or their online divisions. I’m sure it’s a combination of several things – the music itself, the staffers who literally live for their love of music, and the underlying sense that the whole operation is barely hanging by a thread.
Sadly, though, that precarious existence is often the case for most independent record shops. With big-box electronics stores and online giants battling it out for the lion’s share of cd sales, and downloads becoming a preferred format; the indies are holding on, but barely. As SNL’s affable host Seth Meyers recently suggested, the next time you visit your local record shop, a Jamba Juice might be standing in its place.
In an effort to support, celebrate and preserve the unique culture of the indie record store, Record Store Day was born. Just 3 years old, this now-annual event is held in the 700+ independently-owned record stores across the US, as well as hundreds more internationally, and supported by retailers, artists, and consumers alike. The festivities range from in-store performances, “meet and greets”, parties, parades and more. In addition, many artists offer special, limited-edition releases and swag created especially for the day; which is now held yearly on the third Saturday of April.
Due to bad-planning on my part [Ed. and exacerbated by serious technical difficulties on my end!], this article is reaching you on the heels of Record Store Day 2010. For that I apologize, but it’s no excuse not to celebrate anyway. While the parades and hoopla may have passed, there are still plenty of reasons to pay your local music retailer a visit – hundreds and hundreds of reasons organized by genre and alphabetically, in fact. So, why not set some time aside this week to explore the sights and especially the sounds of your favourite (or new-favourite) record store? After you’ve made your rounds, be sure to talk to the people that work there to get a suggestion or two. Chances are, they’ll hook you up with something you’ll love…and possibly something that you would never have found on your own.
The shop where I whiled away hours upon hours as a teenager has since closed, but I have three current favourites that I absolutely have to mention: Into the Music, (Winnipeg, MB), Rasputin Music (San Francisco, CA) and Easy Street (Seattle, WA). And, when the urge to shop for cds strikes me in the middle of the night, CD Baby loves me and is open online 24-7.
The fabulous recycled-record necklaces featured above are by Yoshi of Random Prefect. (I recently grabbed one from her Etsy shop and absolutely adore it.)