Observing the End of Record Retail

This week marks the arrival of the so-called "Independent Record Store Day". The observance hopes to highlight the demise of the shops which for so many of us formed a key building block of our youth and musical upbringing.

This is in light of the fact that the number of independent record stores has fallen since 2005 from 734 to 305. The Independent on Sunday reports the decline is due to the recession, downloads and major retailers taking their piece of the pie.

This misses the point entirely. People are now choosing not to go into record stores. The internet has created a new experience for music fans who can now get what they previously needed from indie stores in a much more rewarding way.

While some of us may have marvelled at the encyclopedic knowledge of the boffin behind the indie store counter, the musical resource that the wikiuniverse provides is infinitely more accessible. This comes with the added benefit of the intimidation removed. I can count on one hand the number of times where I haven't been insulted by the fool on the other side of the counter (invariably male, in a band or a DJ themselves) who felt the need to gratify himself by mocking my requests for information on an artist or release.

The web can get us the info faster and whenever we need it - often direct from the artist themselves - thereby removing the barrier provided by record shop guy's ego. Bloggers have also contributed to keeping us informed - and should they suffer from their own opinions, readers can choose to simply click away.

While shuffling through new releases has always satisfied our hunter gatherer instincts, getting musical tips from biased self-declared experts has never been rewarding. In fact our recent Gaymonkey poll revealed that most of us (75%) still prefer to get musical recommendations from friends. We don't need four walls full of dusty plastic to find new music.

Nick Hornby comments in the IoS that the indie store was a great place to meet like minded musical souls. And while we owe so many important musical unions of the past to this, the web has been allowing us to make lasting connections on a global scale. People are forming their own creative communities online, resulting in brilliant collaborations.

We needed record stores in the old industry to help us develop our musical knowledge and connections. It is a shame that their time is fading - but what replaces their function in our lives is a deeper, more tailored and rewarding experience. Sadly, the days of Duckie crashing into Trax to serenade Andie are over.

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