Record Store Day 2013 is quickly approaching. Originally started in 2007, RSD has not only become one of the most important days in the year for physical retail, but it also gives us a chance to reflect upon and celebrate the joy of the indie record store.
Growing up in Suburbia, USA, I had little concept of what an independent record shop was. Tuesdays involved trips to the mall to buy the latest new releases at Sam Goody or Wee Three Records. It wasn’t until I started going to Philadelphia as a teenager that I was first introduced to independent record shops and all that they had to offer. My first indie record shop experience was at Noise Pollution, just off South Street. I was awed by the selection of out-of-print vinyl singles of my favourite band and many others, and I spent many an hour and dollar there over the years. Wall to Wall Listening Booth this was not.
As a university student, independent record shops became a huge part of my life, and one was spoiled for choice in ‘90’s Philadelphia. Each shop had its own temperament, flavour and memorable characters within, from the cute guy who made me blush to the dodgy one who would sticker and sell promos.
I spent many evenings after class with friends flipping through racks of used CDs trying to find a bargain and just generally hanging out with the shop owners, playing each week’s new releases and discovering so much great music. Social media today allows us to share our music with friends and have them share music with us, algorithms introduce us to music we like in new and exciting ways — but the world of the indie record shop is social sans media. I spoke to new people and made friends amongst the CD racks, and some albums will always carry with them a gentle memory of someone that I used to know.
While in university and for several years later, I declined to buy music anywhere except at one of my favourite indie shops. As with many others though, as online shopping became possible and downloads and streaming came into being, my loyalty gave way to convenience (and the explosion of choice and availability). Many of my beloved Philly record shops no longer exist, and it’s been a tough ride for any retailer to survive, let alone a quirky independent.
Record Store Day celebrates a world that still exists, but is not as prevalent in the lives of many music fans as it once was. I, for one, hope that we never lose it completely. So this April 20, how about tearing your eyes from whatever size screen you are glued to, and allow yourself to linger in a world of cover art, gatefolds and special editions, finding things through serendipity not algorithms, and join me at your local indie.
Not only will there be exclusive releases and performances from some of your favourite artists, but also like-minded people. Tell the person behind the counter your favourite band. They just may have a new band for you. Maybe they‘ll even be cute enough to make you blush.