April 18 is the second annual Record Store Day, which is intended as a celebration of independent music retailers and the community which some fear might disappear as fans increasingly obtain their tunes online.
Stores all across the world are putting on shows and events, and labels are releasing special limited edition discs in an effort to get the kids back into the stores, and back to buying actual physical albums.
Is it just me, or is this more depressing than exciting?
The whole thing feels like a premature memorial; kind of like being able to attend your funeral while you're still alive.
On the official website you can read quotes from various musicians reminiscing about the role their local indie shop played in their own musical evolution, and bemoaning that so many of them are going out of business. The implication in most of this dialog is that if it weren't for these smaller retailers, we'd all be forced to listen only to whatever the big chains were willing to carry, and that the grassroots word-of-mouth buzz that indie acts traditionally relied on will disappear.
I've definitely discovered lots of music because of well-informed clerks, but I'm still calling shenanigans on this idea that independent music needs record store culture to thrive.
Yes, at one point it did, just like how at one point college radio was a huge part of how bands went from being obscure to ubiquitous. However, these stores are going out of business precisely because they're no longer the only way to find out about the hottest newest shit, and they're definitely not the best way anymore.
Complain all you want about the social interaction that some feel is missing from the internet age, but the fact remains that it's now easier to find out about more music (and to hear it immediately) on the web than it is in any store on earth. And contrary to what the anti-web naysayers claim, there is a huge amount of community building happening online. No matter how obscure your interests, you can find others out there, and you can easily share knowledge with them.
This wasn't always true in the era of the ye olde record shoppe. If the clerks didn't share your taste, they wouldn't be much help. If your city didn't have much of a scene for avant-garde noise bands, you probably wouldn't have much luck finding like-minded people at the local shop.
I'm not cheering for the death of the record shop, but I don't see the point in holding on to this nostalgia, let alone hoping that this kind of PR exercise has any hope in hell of turning the tides.
Putting all this effort into reminding fans about what once made these outlets vital is impotent because the problem isn't that they forgot, it's that they now have other options that they prefer. All the in-store concerts in the world aren't going to change that, and frankly, shouldn't we be caring more that the music is available, rather than about where you purchase it?