An Ode to a Dying Breed: the Demise of the Record Store
by Rusty Conner
Last Saturday, April 21, was supposedly national record store day. This is something which, on the surface, sounds like a great idea…support your local record store. Those of the older generations appreciate the physical acquisition of our music over the years, be it on compact disc, vinyl or even cassette. If it wasn’t for Music Town on Stuebner-Airline in Spring, my knowledge of Metal would’ve been limited by my trickling cash flow. I would bum “lunch money” almost everyday during lunch at Klein High School, but never spent a dime on lunch. Almost daily, I would walk across Louetta to Music Town, sit on the floor and browse through the countless used tapes. Behind me towered a wall of new cassettes still in the shrink wrap, and from above my head came the dusty smell of old vinyl from the shelves that covered where the used cassettes were randomly placed. These cassettes helped me discover lesser known bands like Warlock, Overkill, Savatage, and even Accept,and their prices ranged in the $.75-$1 price-tags. My collection grew exponentially. James, the owner, was always willing to order any strange request my friends and I had, as well. I think the coolest part about this store, and many like it, were the collectibles. I still remember drooling over the Creeping Death glow-in-the-dark vinyl displayed on the wall behind the counter, and countless other picture discs framed around it. I still go in there on my trips to Houston, but never did pick up the Metallica record.
Other notable shops in Houston are Soundwaves and Sound Exchange, both of which can be found inside the loop. I’m not personally familiar with Soundwaves, but I’ve heard good things. Sound Exchange was, at one time, the mecca for in-store signings and impromtu record store shows. There was also Diamondhead Records, a bootleg mail-order venture turned record store. Diamondhead has since gone under, but the others remain to this day. Houston does not corner the market on record stores either. Austin has Waterloo Records, Cheapo, and the soon to be closed, Encore. I can safely argue that Encore was the epitome of the record store experience, and I’m saddened at it’s closing. San Antonio has Hogwild Records, another great store, and I’m sure there are more scattered about the state that I need to be aware of. All of these store have one common factor…they support the local markets. I know that most, if not all, of these stores also carry local musicians’ music.
However, these places are fast approaching extinction, and this leads me back to my original point; the Record Store appreciation day. What really made me look at this whole thing, and sparked the idea for this article, was a sign on the marquee at the Hastings in my town, and something that was mentioned on the radio. The DJ mentioned the “holiday” and said to support your local mom/pop shops. Great idea. Then I see the Hastings sign, a store that probably put many of these mom/pop stores out of business. The sign simply read, “4/21 National Record Store Day.” It should have read, “Fuck you little people!” Then a revelation hit me. You should be supporting your local record store weekly, if not every other day. Places like Hastings and Best Buy couldn’t care less if they don’t have the artist you were looking for, and certainly don’t have the diverse and knowledgeable staff that would even know what you were talking about. I’d rather go see James at Music Town, Jaime at Hogwild, or Jason McMaster at Encore than this teenager who just wants you to leave him alone. Yes…I said Jason McMaster. Imagine buying your Dangerous Toys DVD from the singer himself. These are the kind of things you will never see at a chain store. I’ve also noticed that Hastings is carrying vinyl again. Guess what!
These others never stopped!
My point is this; if you’re going to support these local stores, then support them 100% of the time. You shouldn’t need a “holiday” to remind you. In an age of digital downloads and millions of sheep following the trends, stand out and support the local scene. I’d also recommend watching the movie Empire Records, a somewhat prophetic tale of exactly what I’m talking about.
Amen brotha! I’m really going to miss picking up a CD and looking through the book and enjoying all the artwork. Shit, I remember trying to master drawing the logo so that I could draw it on everything in site. Hell, I would even draw it on people! The whole music experience seems to be going backwards in my opinion. Everything else is becoming bigger with higher definition, but music turned into this low quality, anti-climatic experience. For 10 bucks, you could get a perfect quality CD with artwork, lyrics, and a physical disc. Now, for 10 bucks you get just compressed songs…that’s it. I’ve only bought 2 CD’s digitally, and I’ll never do it again. I can’t stand that I’m being sent compressed MP3’s for the same price as a regular CD. Fucking garbage! I hope things will change back to the way things used to be, but I fear they won’t.