Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

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Record Store Day – April 17 2010

dw-recordstore-041609-p3
And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

- Morte d’Arthur (Tennyson) The campaign to save independent music stores is laudable, but also clearly doomed to fail. The function of the alternative record shop has long since been usurped by the internet. And residual goodwill alone does not a sustainable business model make.

Of course, we all have many fond memories associated with these places. I grew up in a town that had no music shop of any description. So the ones I did get the opportunity to visit when I was young were exotic and alluring places to me. As a teenager, I would spend weeks compiling and revising lists of the albums I wanted to buy next time I was in Galway.

To finance these expeditions, I worked as a builder’s labourer at weekends, pushing wheelbarrows of wet cement up wooden planks from 8am to 5pm on Saturdays. I remember I spent three years trying to find a copy of the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat. Eventually, when I was about fifteen, I tracked it down on cassette in a shop in Dublin.

I brought it home on the train, went up to my room, opened the cassette cover and the spools of the tape dropped out of the box and rolled across my floor. It must have broken along the way. I was crushed.

To be honest though, I’ve hardly darkened the door of a record store in five or six years now. That’s a shame, but such is the way of all things. At least the travel agents, when their time came, didn’t try to guilt us into booking our holidays with them for old time’s sake.

April 13th, 2010.

12 Responses to “Record Store Day – April 17 2010”

  1. Paul Says:

    Last time I tried to do the decent thing and help out independent record stores, I went looking for the Big Star box set in every shop in town. I was met by blank looks or “we thought HMV would undercut us so we didn’t bother ordering it”. Tower did have it but, y’know, are they worth supporting? Also, it was overpriced there. I went home and ordered it online. I spent every penny of my disposable income on overpriced imported hip-hop, soul or whatever for years, and have probably put the children of the owners of Freebird and Comet through third level education. I’ve done my bit, sorry guys, you are no longer needed.

  2. Chris Says:

    I think that record shops are not needed but are still wanted and that the reason that they are failing is not because people are ordering online its because the majority of people are downloading illegally (stating the obvious here) including those who bemoan the death of the independent store. If everyone was buying music online because it was cheaper that would be an acceptable economic reason and I could accept that. However I think its unfair that because there isn’t the capacity to stop what is essentially stealing, that these shops have to shut. I admit I do download but I still buy CDs fairly frequently as I like the artwork and having a lyric booklet etc. I wouldn’t lament the loss of chain stores such as HMW because the service they supply is as easily found on the net for a lower price. However I would miss independent records shops as they’ve always provided a way for me to support/discover local music and to get an educated (although subjective) opinion about an album or EP before I buy it. Unfortunately there is no way to turn enough of a profit to keep a store going on these kind of sales.

    I’m aware that eventually independent shops will have to shut down but while they are still around I am going to try and support them and make use of the service that they provide, which I consider worthwhile.

  3. Eoin Says:

    @ Paul – agreed on all of that

    @ Chris – I know illegal downloading is inextricably bound up in all of this. But I’d like to put that issue to one side if possible, since I assume it impacts on all retailers, major and independent, online and offline. (Certainly, if you’ve been in HMV recently you’ll see that very few CDs on their shelves anymore…)

    Even at their peak independent music shops got by on a shoestring. And truthfully, all of the functions you mention (discovering, learning about new music etc.) can be accomplished much more easily and methodically online.

  4. Conal Says:

    but inter-anorak music choice sniping is just not the same on an online forum

  5. Eoin Says:

    Yeah, those guy from High Fidelity – that’s who’s jobs we’re being asked to save!

  6. graham Says:

    You can’t seperate illegal downloading from decline in record sales. Jesus that’s like saying let’s look at the causes of the potato famine other than potato blight!!

  7. sean Says:

    @ graham – bad comparison. There were many more causes for the famine, besides potato blight

  8. El Kid Says:

    It was the Jews wasn’t it?

  9. Colin Says:

    I’d give 5 euro to see your face as the spools of that cassette rolled across the floor.

    The record shop is on it’s last legs as online ordering whether for physical or digital just makes better sense. And even if future laws curtail illegal download sites the main benefactors will be the online crowd. I always thought they should have chaed the make your own compilation album instore idea with more gusto.

    Anyway, I’ll still have my memories of Music Man and Multisound in Cavan town.

  10. Eoin Says:

    @ Colin – I think I may have punched the wall. If YouTube had been arouund then, a video of my reaction would probably have gone viral!

  11. Chris Says:

    Sure The church in Ireland secretly had lots of potatoes during the famine, and they hid the potatoes in pillows and sold them abroad in potato fairs. And the Pope closed down a lot of the factories that were makin’ the potatoes and turned them into prisons for children.

  12. Lisa Says:

    Read Nick Hornby’s “Juliet, Naked” on the topic of what happens when deliberate-obscurist fandom goes web-based. Toe-curlingly acute.

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