Here at Matador HQ we couldn’t be more upset at the announcements of the closures of Ear X-Tacy and Slowtrain, and the uncertain ground that Criminal Records now sits on; however, what a lot of people don’t seem to realize (or at least recognize) is that there is a growing community of independent record stores out there, many of whom are not only doing great business but in fact growing.
Just as it’s much easier to slam a shitty record than it is to praise an excellent one, there seems to be a trend to point out the independent record stores which are closing rather than highlighting all of the amazing new stores that are popping up on what seems like a monthly basis. Many of these have quickly become a part of our daily, weekly or monthly routine.
Of course, the landscape is changing – this isn’t news to anyone. However, we are constantly seeing proof that there are still people out there who would rather spend the majority of their free afternoons in a cramped record store than most anywhere else. As we all grow as professionals, businesses and people it is our job to find out what those people need and want.
A trend seems to be arising from the flux: stores that are far smaller, more curated and focused than the rock and roll pleasure domes of years past. Unfortunately, those days are over. However, this means little for the record store itself, especially the record store that is growing and adapting in this new physical culture.
I think the thesis here is that stores are becoming less commercial entities and more cultural ones, which in our opinion is great. That’s what a record store should be and places like Origami, Other Music, Good Records and scads of others are becoming beacons of the rock community in their respective locales.
Now more than ever getting your hands on new music is simple (and free if you want it to be), but what new and blossoming record stores have realized is that their brand is becoming more than a point of purchase. Rather they have become a name to be trusted and a place to convene. The record store is once again becoming a destination.
A few facts:
Permanent Records (Chicago) just opened a location in Los Angeles which is thriving and filling a void that has long plagued LA; a store that is smaller and more personable than the ever-amazing Amoeba yet a bit more mid-sized than vinyl mavens Vacation and Origami.
Speaking of Origami, in their three years they have become a hub of their community sharing both remarkably memorable events and giving back as a charitable entity, working with non-profits such as 826LA, Los Angeles Arts Alliance and various local schools and their fundraisers.
End Of An Ear (Austin) is in the midst of constant expansion while continually having fiscal years better than the previous. 2010 was their best year yet and they’re already 23% over that for 2011. Take a look at the store in 2005 and take a look at them now.
By December, Guestroom Records will open their third location in downtown Oklahoma City.
Bull City recently finished their move into a bigger store in Durham.
Slowtrain (Salt Lake City) is about to close their doors but what the general public seemingly fails to recognize is how the closing is a personal family decision on the part of the owners whose interests have understandably shifted from running a record store to starting a family. What remains unnoticed is how Slowtrain has been steadily growing since they’ve opened: their total sales for 2011 we’re up 11% from last year.
Meanwhile new independent record shops are popping up all over the nation, not the least of which are Steady Sounds (Richmond, VA), Cyklopx (Forest Park, IL), All Day Records (Carrboro, NC), Co Op 87 (Brooklyn), and Saki (Chicago).
These examples are just a small sampling of so many positives in the independent retail community and I wish we could point out each and every one. We simply felt it was our job speak to the fact that while things may seem like they’re going downhill for small record stores, in most instances it is just the opposite. Whereas most people on the periphery of what we hold so dear to our hearts see the decline of the independent record store, we down here in the trenches realize that we sit on the precipice of something great. We see the new dawn of physical retail just over the horizon and we’re fucking psyched beyond words to be a part of it.
Please feel free to use the comments section of this post to tell us what your local indie shop has going on. Thanks.