What's the point of record stores these days?

As part of my usual music discovery I was just trawling the latest release lists to see what’s hot this week -
Bandcamp - check my feed daily or else it gets out of hand (currently following 4000+ artists, labels, tastemakers
Spotify Release Radar - 130 tracks of great artists I follow.
Boomkat is always next - full of new names, oddball sounds and alternative sounds - always surprising
Piccadilly Records - vinyl copies of LPs, a lot of which have already released weeks/months ago from big indies and majors on the whole.
Hardwax - 50% reissues of classic house/techno/reggae the other half quality dance electronica
Sounds of the Universe - Need all your new bigger name soul, jazz, proper dance on wax then great and then tons of classic reissues.

I’ve been feeling the last two years but haven’t publically uttered it so thought I drop it here - not trolling, but I’m sure it will wind a couple of people up! The new record stores are really just a home for the major labels and big indies these days. Once in a blue moon I might find an LP I’ve never heard of and on a weekly basis an EP or two, but apart from that it’s all well known/worn big name artists and quite often the digital version has already been out for weeks/months.

I say this from someone who used to do the Soho rounds every Friday, bouncing around to grab the latest releases, beg for promos and get turned on to new artists and come home €200 poorer but 200% happier - if there’s nothing new to discover, they’re increasingly mainstream focused, well behind the times or a home for the endless reissues, what’s the point? They really are just a home for petrol heads (now I’m trolling :smile:), Discogs hawks, die hard collectors, kids looking to buy some retro cool and the well heeled - fuck me the price of some records these days!

The vinyl hype is remarkable but the reality is actually pretty sad. Bandcamp, Soundcloud and even Youtube are more interesting these days.

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I do still buy from independent record sellers as often as I can however, this is almost exclusively through Discogs now. The clear categorisation and grading system, plus price comparison, (not to mention the fact that I can preview stuff instantly) for me at least - just completely blows the record store experience out of the water.

I could go in there with my phone out, but who wants to be that guy? Plus it’s so much easier to just sit at home and put a cart together with my feet up. The only exception to this is when i’m out of town or abroad. Given the opportunity I still love to pop into new and exotic records stores to pick something up as a memento.

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If I go into a record shop abroad I’ll ask for something by a local producer, something I hopefully can’t find elsewhere.

Otherwise it’s primarily Bandcamp as a platform to discover and buy music. Feel a little bad that I always check any vinyl recommendations from here, people I follow or from record stores to see if it’s available as digital but hey records are too expensive to buy all the time nowadays.

A couple of good points - the whole world at your fingertips through Discogs, with your slippers on and a cup of tea, sounds better than jumping on a bus or trying to find a parking spot.

Also got me thinking that most artists labels have sort of cut the throats of shops as well by offering physical via their own stores or Bandcamp so more people are preferring to support the artist directly rather than support the shop-distributor and artist/label.

I think one of the final nails in the coffin for me was in the last few years as I’ve been moving countries and thinning out my collection as I go, is I found I had so many records/LPs I’d bought for just one track when I was DJing, I really want a start to finish listen which buying digital and creating playlists allows, plus expense again.

Also on that same point of a release just having one track, playlisting really is the best thing that has happened to music since the invention of the drum. Start to finish, cherry picked killers and you don’t have to get up to change the record over or find another one…

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Playing Devil’s advocate here but do you not think that the vinyl format allowed producers to create those more experimental leftfield ‘B2’ types of tracks to fill the release?

Having said that I am in the process of switching to mainly digital, there seems little point to me buying something new on vinyl if it is available digitally, second hand 1970s stuff is a different matter though.

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‘What’s the point of record shops’ or ‘What’s the point of records?’ which is it?

The later has been done to death.

Big Love to the record shops (although they are quite often most terrible places), long may they struggle on!

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in general, i don’t buy new records out of shops. i try to buy direct from the artists, or there’s a couple of really good online shops that i mail order from (i’d go to VDSF if i lived in SF, but i don’t, so i just mail order).

but a well-curated used store? ain’t nothin’ better. going in with absolutely no intentions and just seeing what cries out to you - it’s the only form of “shopping” that i really like. i have about a half-dozen really great stores that really compete to procure amazing collections, and the best ones might get a major haul and put out some eye-raisers and crowd-pleasers, and then sit on the bulk of it and let it drizzle out over the course of years, so there’s always something amazing to find.

those same stores have crept into reissues and new product here and there and understandably so. a kid comes in with purpose, both wanting to get into vinyl and really wanting that new whatever’s hot, you don’t want to disappoint them or miss a sale. but if you give them a good experience and get them as a repeat customer, they’ll be back to take chances on cool used stuff and that’s when they can really start to build something. i’ve seen it happen scads of times, and it never stops being fun.

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Yeah I agree with what Joe touched on. Digital has taken all the joy out of a long listen. Be interested to know the stats on how many albums actually get listened to from start to finish.

Artists now have to change and make music more immediate if aiming for a young audience and other knock on isn’t so great.

I’m not an old man waves at cloud type as I love rekordbox and usb etc but to think record shops are redundant is a bit worrying really for the culture. Maybe it’s just a fact they are but it’s a sad thought.

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There is nothing more therapeutic after a hard day at work to walk into a record store and flick through bins of records while having a yarn with the people inside the place. Always leave happier, and, yes, I could’ve got the music sooner or cheaper but that’s not really why I still buy music, I like the idea of being in the now and seeing what I can unearth in the wild. There is no greater thrill than looking through a bin of records and seeing something that either you had when you first started DJing or something that reminds you of an easier mortgage-free existence.

Record stores have always been our home base, our little oasis to meet like-minded souls who even with our bad backs and creaking knees will still roll back the years when finding something you didn’t know you needed when you walked in the door.

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I definitely don’t go into physical record shops as much as I used to (I don’t buy as much) but I still love the feeling of going into one.

I have Lorenzo’s shop around the corner from me and always make the effort to go in every couple of weeks. he’s put me onto stuff I wouldn’t have normally picked. I like the social interaction. It’s also something nice to do rather than stare at a screen. It gets my step count up haha.

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The only thing I miss about record stores is physically browsing/digging. I came of age in the first wave of internet music, sampling music via mp3s from Hotline IRC, then Napster/Kazaa etc and buying in-store or online. I generally had bad experiences with snotty record store folks and by the mid-00s I’d transitioned completely to online. I tried to throw our local stores a bone once in a while, but it was mostly an inconvenience - for them. Memorably, in 2005 I tried to special order Roisin Murphy’s Ruby Blue at Easy Street in Seattle and got a bit of lip. I’m sure there’s a place for them in the ecosystem (I support independents via Discogs) but I quite prefer how things are now…

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Its really sad that grumpy cliched fucks have ruined it for you. There are truly wonderful record store owners out there though, George at Soundtracks in Beverely, Mike at VDSF and a host of others who would love to recommend gigs, records, people and places to you without hesitation. The kind of people that communities form around and you don’t need to buy records to partake.

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I was in SF last summer for a brief stop, had lunch with a friend who knows Mike and was going to stop by VD but they were closed that afternoon - next time. :grinning:

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Currently in France and some great shops in Toulouse.


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That’s a fair point. Not sure if it “allowed” them to produce those track, but that b-side, record label hugging spot, certainly provided an outlet for them. Digital allows a whole lot more freedom these days, one of the issues is though that at least those B-side tracks got properly mastered!

I guess it’s a bit of both. I don’t see any point in either these days, certainly not for new releases. Once I settle down again I will start buying some classic old LPs though on a limited basis as I still find owning iconic recordings on their original format (tape excluded!) somewhat alluring.

Used stores are a different kettle of fish and will always have a historical library type worth utility - especially if the “librarian” is on his game. If they are communicative and friendly even better. :slightly_smiling_face:

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You can see the stats on Spotify - just take into account the singles. Digital has just changed the nature of a long listen by providing a playlist option. Fandom is still the same though, a rabid fan will still devour every second of their favourite band’s new LP mulitiple times. As a picky old sod, I’ll just dive into the LP pick my favouite track and drop it in an hour long playlist of complimentary tunes.

“Artists now have to change and make music more immediate if aiming for a young audience and other knock on isn’t so great.” - Every new format every invented has changed the nature of music listening David Byrne’s book, How Music Works details that, although digital has perhaps has the most profound effect, has has all things digital - computers, mobiles, internet…

I don’t think record shops existing is any sort of barometer for music culture. If they vanished tomorrow music would still flourish and the neglible % of vinyl nuts would finally move to digital and start a new chapter in their journey at last :slightly_smiling_face:

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I still get a buzz from browsing my Bandcamp feed and Release Radar playlist, when that music hits my ears it’s the same buzz. Obviously the social aspect is missing but then I always preferred to go digging on my own so I didn’t have to worry about my mates getting bored. Ending up in If Music as my last stop on a Friday, with a shutters down lock in and people rolling joints and cracking beers in the store was a Friday highlight and often ended in a Soho restaurant after. Happy times.