Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rant #489: Record-A-Rama

It was National Record Store Day on April 16. It's a day when local record stores celebrate their existence, and there are giveaways, discounts and other things to keep these stores jam packed with people looking for records, and nothing else.

I don’t know if you noticed, but neighborhood record stores are a vanishing breed, like bookstores and video stores.

Now that kids believe having a file is more important than owning a piece of media, like an LP or a CD, record stores have become useless in their eyes.

Kids believe that record stores are old fashioned, and they would rather sit in front of their home computers and download music than browse through racks and racks of records.

Me, I am from a different generation, where record stores were literally the centers of the universe for some people. They heard the music on the radio, and then went to their local record stores to pick up a copy of the song or a brand-spanking-new album.

The first hit that record stores took was in the mid 1980s, when CDs replaced vinyl as the format of choice for many record collectors. This took away the beauty of vinyl, and made owning music less of owning a piece of art and more of simply having the tracks to play on your CD player.

The next hit, and the death knell, was the advent of the Internet, where just about anything was available, but in a file, not in something that you actually held and owned.

Files are nice, but actually owning a record is something else altogether. You get the look and feel of the piece of recorded music, including the artwork and the liner notes.

Well, before record stores go the way of the 8-track tape, there are still numerous outlets for old vinyl, and the rising wave of new vinyl that is out on the market.

I went to our local record store, and the place was jammed. Lots of people—mostly in their 40s and over—were there to search out various used and new treasures.

I feel that I am in my element when I go to a record store. I have thousands of records in my collection, and I love to add bits and pieces here and there to make it complete, or complete in my eyes.

And not everything is available on CD or digitally, so going to a record store can potentially turn up something that you have just got to have.

For a dollar apiece, I bought a Bill Dana (Jose Jimenez) album that I had digitally but not on record; I bought a record about manned space travel that was produced right around the time we set foot on the moon; and I bought a few Johnny Rivers LPs.I bought some other things, like a Lou Monte record (remember "Pepino the Italian Mouse"?), a few old soundtracks, and an album by comedian London Lee, who was the "Little Rich Kid" on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

No, there was nothing there that was very rare, but they were records that I simply didn’t have in my collection.

And much of it is not on CD, and not available digitally.

What is the future of the record store? I think that used stores will still dot the map, and I think that the resurgence of vinyl will keep these stores operating for many years to come.

And, I do think in the future, you will see younger people in these shops too. They will discover that you get a truer sound with vinyl, and since the local megastores like Best Buy either don’t carry vinyl or carry a minimal amount, they will find that the best place to go for this format is the local record store.

Long live record stores, and long live vinyl.

There is just nothing like either one--the digital age be damned!

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