Record Stores Rock

Apr 15, 2011
George Anderson

Many of us of a certain (older) age fondly remember record
stores. For us, it was a place called Mr. Muck’s in Pompton Plains, NJ where
many weekend and summer days were spent trolling through the massive collection
of vinyl looking for something new that would rock our world and rattle the
windows at home. Oh, those joyful teenage years having parents screaming at
you to "turn
it down."

Anyway, despite reports to the contrary, record stores are still
around today despite digital downloads. A few (very few) are still thriving
concerns and have managed to grow by sticking to fundamentals that made them
great back in the day, including product assortment and service. A big part
of the experience many years ago was talking to people working the store that
seemed to know everything about the artists and the recordings.

Another blast
from the past that has helped record stores is vinyl. While a small market
when compared to digital downloads and even compact disks, good old fashioned
LPs are a growing market. Vinyl sales rose 14 percent last year even as albums
as a category fell 13 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

This Sunday marks
the third annual Record Store Day, a initiative launched for independents
to remind consumers that they were still around and have something to offer.
As in the past, this year’s event will include in-store performances at some
locations and limited edition vinyl albums from new and classic acts including
AC/DC, Adele, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Buck Owens, Daft Punk,
Derek & The Dominos, Flogging Molly, Foo Fighters, My Chemical
Romance and a lot more. Ozzy Osbourne is the official Record Store Day ambassador.

Store Day co-founder Michael Kurtz said the annual event has helped raise awareness
of what independents have to offer and that has been good for business. Mr.
Kurtz told the Sacramento Bee that in the three years
since the event was launched, independent retailers have gone from six percent
of music sales to 10 percent. Thirty-five percent of respondents to a RetailWire poll
in 2009, said independents had a very or moderately big opportunity for growth.
Forty-six percent thought the upside was small and only 19 percent thought
there was almost no chance for independents.

"I firmly believe the future of the music industry lies in the hands
of the independents. We push the envelope by taking chances on and promoting
lesser known artists, and are passionate in our support and beliefs," said
Tom Kohn, owner of Bop Shop Records in Rochester, NY, in a statement. "The
independent record store is a place where folks can gather and connect around
a common interest, and in that respect, bears little difference from the quintessential
social networking sites — the old book and record stores of the fifties and

Discussion Questions: What is the future of independent record stores in your mind? Can independents migrate the in-store “experience” to online through websites, social media, etc. and how important will this be for the future of the channel?

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9 Comments on "Record Stores Rock"

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Ryan Mathews
10 years 22 days ago
My favorite independent record store–and the one that I wrote about in my first book “The Myth of Excellence”–finally closed this March after 28 years of operation. It broke my heart. I am happy to report that there are still several independent record stores operating in the Detroit area–and even some (very brave) new ones opening up. The key to success varies from survivor to survivor. Almost all are heavily into vinyl sales. And many use the store as a “buying counter” to obtain used product for a group of specialized collectors they’ve assembled over the years. Most are selling collectibles on vinyl and some have used depth of inventory in certain key musical categories as a draw. Almost universally absent from the equation–young consumers of what used to be called “Top Forty” music who are happy to download the latest Kate Perry or Lady Gaga offering. So, the surviving stores here are generally smaller, more thinly staffed and require owners to put in lots and lots of hours. Nationally, when you think of stores… Read more »
Max Goldberg
10 years 22 days ago

While I fondly remember browsing the aisles in the record stores of my youth, I don’t see a bright future for them. Today browsing is done on the Internet. The recommendations on what to sample and buy are coming from friends, who are easily accessed online. Everything available in the store is available online. And you can buy the cuts you want, rather than an entire album. Some record stores will survive through ingenuity, selection and innovation. Enjoy them while they are here.

Ian Percy
10 years 22 days ago
I can’t let this piece go by without commenting on one of the most remarkable business women I’ve ever met–who owns an indie record store here in Phoenix. First, this isn’t about a commodity, it’s about a community. Music lovers who still love the tactile sense of not only ‘listening’ to music but being able to ‘hold’ it as well are those who keep ‘records’ spinning. Kimber Lanning is a petite young woman who started her store Stinkweeds some 20 years ago, located between a hub cap “store” and a tattoo parlor. She couldn’t even get pizza delivered to her first location. Walk into her store (now in a more favorable location) and you literally feel love. I swear it’s like smelling your grandmother’s apple pie. It immediately gives you a sense that everything is okay in the world. I mention the community ethic as being the heart of this unique sector. Kimber has gone on to organize 1,800 local businesses into a Local First Arizona organization that makes a huge difference to the economics… Read more »
Mel Kleiman
10 years 22 days ago

There are still a few buggy whip manufacturers and retailers out there I just don’t know where. But people who need or want buggy whips will find them and shop them.

Just like a few great independent book stores, clothing retailers, and collector car dealers out there who are successful. There will be a few great independent record stores. But just a few.

Cathy Hotka
10 years 22 days ago

There aren’t many record stores left, but they attract a cult following. If you’re not sure about this, try putting some LPs out for sale at your next yard sale…they’ll be snapped up by professional record traders.

Mike Blackburn
10 years 22 days ago

To the casual music listener, the record/cd store is dead. With that said, there is still growth available for the remaining players of this niche market. To the audiophile and music lover, the compressed, low quality of the mp3 is unacceptable. Higher resolution file downloads are available from sites like HDtracks, but these take up significant hard drive space. For the audiophile, spinning vinyl and/or a CD is still the preferred choice. The music industry would be wise to recognize this by improving the quality of the CD, and target the audiophile and music lover who is more than willing to shell out $15-$20 for the physical product. Super Audio CDs are now no longer produced, yet they often sell in the hundreds on eBay. DVD-Audio discs are also in high demand.

Gene Detroyer
10 years 22 days ago

Two thoughts:
1. What are the demographics of the customers? Unless there are young people tuned into record stores, there is no future. I know 20-somethings who have never played a record. My 35 to 40 year-old children have never owned a record player.

2. On the other side, there are antique stores.

I can’t tell you that I am typical senior, but a few weeks ago my wife and I went through all our CDs. We got rid of all our records when we sold our house about 12 years ago.

There were about 80 or so CDs. We no longer had an interest in about half of them. Those that we did, we downloaded onto our computers. We brought all the CDs to the trash/recycle room on our floor. About 4 or 5 days later there was another stack of CDs in the trash/recycle room. Maybe as many as 40?

Craig Sundstrom
10 years 22 days ago

The answer to the question (as it is literally presented) is, of course, “none.” But this thread is somewhat of a tease in that it seems to be talking not about “record stores” per se, but “independent retailers” who offer records (and I would assume tapes, CDs, etc) promotions and lord who knows what else…in short, they should be described as music stores or even lifestyle stores; so the real issue is what future do independents have against chains (and we just happen to be focusing on the recording aspect of that issue): I’m going to be an optimist and say I think they have a bright future…after all, I need some place to complete that Pat Travers collection I never finished.

George Whalin
George Whalin
10 years 22 days ago

Having grown up two blocks from the original Tower Records store, I am a big fan of record stores. And yes, there are some excellent record stores that continue to serve the needs of music lovers. Among my favorites are Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas and Amoeba Music with stores in Southern and Northern California. The great difference in these record stores and Best Buy, Target, Walmart and other mass merchants is the people working in the stores love and care about the music. This lack of truly caring about the music is also evident among most of the online music sellers including Apple and

As long as there are consumers who care more about the music than about the technology record stores will continue to survive and serve the need of those customers.


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