Johnny Marr blogged this week regarding record stores in support of Independent Record Store Day. His opinion is quite different to what I posted earlier this week. On two levels ...
Firstly he argues that the record store has been forced off the high street by major retailers. I've always felt this is difficult to defend. Consumers make choices based on what they want. Great record stores - like Rough Trade - still exist and are doing just fine. They have built a strong business with clients who keep returning. Other stores - like Pure Groove - have decimated their retail stock in favour of a bar and performance space. I'm not sure many people wander past the meat markets into Clerkenwell to browse their selection, but they have a place in the community through the great free live shows they put on.
It seems to me that no one in this debate - like many other discussions about the music industry - is listening to the consumer. When we get nostalgic about record stores, we are thinking primarily of the experience that shaped our youth. Kids are clever - they don't need a high street to find great stores. Simply put, their high street is becoming digital and they choose where they shop.
Marr's second argument is that records are a great piece of art. We really need to move away from this mindset. Music is art, and the musician is an artist - who often works with great visual artists to create a beautiful experience. The CD you purchase in Tesco is not art - it is a commodity, just like the cereal and pizza you also put in your basket. Downloading an MP3 of music that creates a change inside of you - gives something back to you - is still art. We don't need a physical form with a store/label/distribution network attached to it in order to experience the art of music.
Tracey Thorn made a great comment in yesterday's Guardian. She reflected on the influence record stores have had in our lives, but then noted that we mustn't look back. Today's celebration should be less nostalgia, and more a vision of where we are going.
But in respect of today's observance, I'd like to give thanks to South Side Sound and Sound Connection in Edmonton, along with all the amazing shops on Seymour Street in Vancouver. And to the Music & Video Exchange on Berwick Street in London. But I'd like to give a giant thank you to the internet, my new independent musical universe, for connecting me to so many brilliant people and musicians over the past decade. I can't wait to see what's in store for our future!