Independent record stores are being closed down left and right these days, there is simply no need for that friendly neighborhood record store that contains rows of used cds as well as all your new favorites. With the encroachment of the digital age as we know it, that record store that used to provide one with the “stick it to the man” attitude is rapidly becoming extinct. It started with burning cds, went to downloads and has finally come to handheld music devices that allow one to put up to 15,000 songs onto a little device that can be carried anywhere, no need for bulky cds or heaven forbid those ice age things called records. Cars do not have tape decks anymore to mine and many others dismay, and the tape is a rare find in general.
Record stores are not merely a place to by product, they are a cultural institution that we must save. They provide the music junky with a safe haven from corporations that market whatever music provides the largest potential market base. The independent record store provides a safe haven for misfits, deviants, folks with weird styles, anarchists, tattooed folks and other outcasts that get the “look” from patrons at the local “big box” music store like Best Buy or Tower Records. The suburban mother buying her favorite Kenny Loggins disc does not appreciate sharing her aisle with a man in black combat boots, a ripped Clash shirt and a metal pole sticking through his nose, nor does the business man casually looking at his favorite Bach or Mozart appreciate the black clad neo-Nazi looking guy who is air guitaring while listening to the latest from Scepultura from the music listening station located in close proximity to the classical music section. These societal outcasts will not be appreciated by the geek squad at Best Buy and may be asked to leave- due to them not buying or adding to the “atmosphere” of the store.
My local independent record store sucked down my paycheck in full many a time. The old Fantastic Records in Rochester’s Pittsford Plaza was my favorite for years until it met its eventual fate as a distant memory of fond times spent bobbing my head to the latest from Dream Theater or that great find of some new Egyptian Techno. Gone in an instant was my music junky self with the shuttering of that store. Rainy days would never be the same. Fantastic featured the best used selection of Jazz, Metal and Punk. Yes a weird mix- but those crowds are feverish in their music search since corporate music stores ignore these categories with glee. It is where I discovered there was more to punk then Bad Religion and Screeching Weasel, it is where I found out who Ben Folds was and it is where I was able to buy all my 80s metal favorites from the 99 cent rack, because who the hell listens to Whitesnake and Danger Danger anymore. It was the place to go to stare at weirdoes, green spiked hair, nipple pierced, shaved head beauties, Dykes on bikes, intellectual jazz junkies, little skater punks, teeny boppers trying to decide if there was more to life than Hanson and N’Sync.
After the untimely death of Fantastic Records I had to find a new place. Of course nothing could replace that store- but I had to acquire more music and develop my taste- it’s the natural progression of life. We cannot stay in place- move up or move down- I myself prefer up unless I am on skis or a bike.
The Record Archive is like a Rochester Tradition and up until last year they had two Rochester Locations. By the way I hate the record shops in Albany where I currently live- so I wait till I need to pass through Rochester to buy music. Anyway the Record Archive is like a vintage clothing shop, afro wearer’s hangout and lava lamp museum rolled into one. It features couches and lights straight out of Saturday Night Fever and it has the trippiest clothing you have ever seen- kind of like Sgt. Peppers style. Oh and in the middle of this hippie/disco fever cacophony there is a pretty fine collection of used cds all priced at 5 bucks. No there selection is not as good and the store layout sucks. Instead of having sections like S or for Z, they literally have files for every single band- which creates madness in an organizational sense- yes its fun to shop there- but not for the faint of heart. No it is not as bad trying to find something at the Great House of Guitars (HOG) but it is tough. Furthermore, they have a metal and punk section yay- but, when looking through the “pop-rock” section one finds the same bands as they have in metal and punk. The selection is great though, and unlike most music stores- you have no idea what you will find kind of like a Marshalls Clearance Rack in the used cd sense.
Finally we have the smallest, neatest, most convenient cd store on my list. The Compact Disc Exchange, located in Henrietta inside the Stereo Shop. A great store because of the convenience and interesting selection. The owner loves Jazz, Blues, Folk, and Bluegrass- so it features large sections of those. Bluegrass is next to impossible to find used besides the famous musicians like Tony Rice and Bela Fleck. This store also features used cd’s that do not have to be taken out of those damned security cases to listen to them- love that. How annoying is it to bring up 20 cd’s to listen to- and see the annoyed music store employee getting all pissed off cause they know you will only purchase three. I am one indecisive music buyer and need this ease that the CD exchange provides. Unfortunately his fan base is mostly normal looking folks- removing the chance for good people ogling. Not many straight edgers, Joey Ramone impersonators or plain old weirdoes frequent his store- but the convenience outweighs this area.
I plead with you to support your independent record store. Your downloads not only hurt the musician they hurt the music stores too. If corporate music behemoths received the same attention that Wal Mart has received maybe we could keep them alive.
Not likely most of you say and I know its true. It will be like the manual winding camera- cd’s will only be sold in specialty stores and flea markets or maybe digital will prove to be too much of a hassle and the hobbyist and seeker of hard copies of music will prevail and retain that local friendly hangout for outcasts that many of us don’t even realize is in danger of becoming extinct.