I walked into the store, and even though I was the only one in there, I saw a thousand faces staring back at me. The glare of the cellophane made it hard to see, but I liked it. By not having Blu-ray players and plasma TV’s distracting me in the next aisle, I was able to focus on getting lost in the sea of artwork, searching for nothing. I loved the crinkle of the plastic every time I awoke an album from its place on the shelf. The feeling of the case in my hand with its pictures and words gave a concreteness to the intangible. It allowed me to actually hold music.
April 20 is this year’s Record Store Day, the day we all celebrate our favorite local record store. I am particularly fond of this unofficial holiday, because I happen to work at my favorite local record store. (Lucky? Yep.)
Record Store Day began in 2007 and falls annually on the third Saturday in April. According to their official website, “This is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music.”
It’s always filled with special releases, available exclusively at participating stores. Artists releasing albums in conjunction with this year’s National Record Store Day include Sarah Jarosz, The Avett Brothers & Randy Travis, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins, Mumford & Sons, and more. Many stores also include concerts, food, and other activities to celebrate this special day.
Chain stores such as Best Buy and Wal-mart, along with the rise of digital downloads, have hurt brick and mortar music stores over the past several years. There are fewer and fewer of them every year. The local music store has long been a staple in communities, along with the barber shop and bakery, but that image has faded over the past couple decades. Record Store Day is a great way to show appreciation for this hallmark of the American landscape.
Not going to a record store to get your music doesn’t make sense to me. A sports enthusiast would go to a sporting goods store. You would go to an actual jewelry store to get your girlfriend an engagement ring. I’m sure you go to a florist to get flowers on Mother’s Day. Going into an actual store which specializes in music should be a priority for a true music lover.
The ability to browse is one of the advantages brick and mortar music stores have over digital downloads. I did some online shopping this past Christmas season, and what I missed the most about the experience was browsing: just roaming around the store, with no particular purchase in mind, looking for something to catch my eye. It is nearly impossible to browse on a computer. The term “web browser” is misleading, because you actually have to be searching for something. (Correct me if I’m wrong… you can’t.) Being able to go into a music store and just get lost in the endless rows of album covers is one of life’s little pleasures. Some of my favorite albums are ones I stumbled upon by accident. I would be browsing the shelves, and come across albums which I wouldn’t have found had I gone into the store with a set goal in mind.
A local music store also has someone there to help you who actually cares about the music. All too often I have asked about a particular band or artist while browsing around Best Buy, and they have no idea who or what I am talking about. They are more concerned with trying to sell you an iPod rather than helping you find the album or artists you’re looking for in their two aisles of a CD section. At a local music shop, the employees love the music just as much as you do, which is probably why they’re working at a music store. They can help you find what you’re looking for, but more importantly, they can make recommendations.
I can’t tell you how many customers come back or call later and tell my co-worker, Justin, and I how much they enjoyed an album which we recommended. Only at a store which specializes in music would you be able to receive a recommendation based off music you have purchased. iTunes does have the “Genius” recommendation, but would you really trust a computer to tell you what to purchase? I would rather take a recommendation from a person I can trust.
On the flip side (the pun is intended), other than recommendations, good music store employees will also steer you away from music that wouldn’t fit your taste or that simply isn’t good. Because we have developed relationships with our customers over the years, they know we will be honest with them about an album or artist. If a customer comes up and asks “I liked Frank Reynolds & The Flip-a-delphians first album a lot because it was traditional bluegrass, but I didn’t care for their second one because it was a little too contemporary for me. Would I like their new album that just came out?” It would be a disservice to the customer and to myself to not discourage them from purchasing Frank Reynolds & The Flip-a-delphians’ new album because they switched to reggae. Fun Fact: A computer won’t tell you NOT to buy something.
These are just a few of the reasons you should support your local record store. Don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Go to www.recordstoreday.com and search for a local independent music store near you, and be sure to support them on Record Store Day, April 20.