This includes the following stores:
Slowtrain Records in Salt Lake City, Utah
Criminal Records in Atlanta, GA
Schoolkids Records in Athens, GA
Vinyl Fever in Tampa, FL.
We are coming to a crossroads of where and how we buy music. We can succumb to an environment where we have to settle for stores like Best Buy or Target to be our store of choice, or look at an online only retailer like Amazon.com.
The problem with all of the above are the following:
* No support of local artists
* Few Best Buy and Targets carry vinyl, vinyl record players and even keep up with releases. Have you gone to a Target or Best Buy on a new release Tuesday and expected to find the item out for sale, only to have to ask one of the employees to go to the back and pull it out of a box so you can buy it?
* Loss of independent voice as upcoming artists or new artists will have more obstacles to be discovered.
* More often, you'll have to settle for the "special order" scenario, whereby there is no guarantee that you'll even get your item and if it will be packed correctly and not get damaged during shipment ( a major issue buying vinyl online through most retailers, especially if they use Media Mail)
The fact of the matter is, the big Music labels don't give a shit about you as a fan. They don't give a shit about the small, independent music stores (no matter what verbal diarrhea their PR speak would have you believe). Despite the fact that vinyl sales have already surpassed their record from last year, labels would rather cater to a Best Buy or Amazon, because of volume. That is fine. It is understandable in this economy. 10,000 Best Buy stores has more buying power than 2 local music stores.
People want to pick and choose music now. People want to have the stream of the album before it's released to check it out. People want to pay .99c or $1.29 on ITUNES for just 1 song. I get that.
But for those that still prefer ANALOG to DIGITAL. Those that love the smell of vinyl. The pictures included in a Gatefold LP. The etching that can be found on a Picture Disc. The variations of colored vinyl available. The "Triple Decker Record". What about them. They are growing. Some have never gone away, but most are from a new generation.
The sound of vinyl is better than digital. It has been proven. But this is not an audiophile debate. This is a plea to do what we can from all angles to save music stores, so we can stop seeing articles like this. How do we do this. We do it twofold:
YOU AS THE MUSIC BUYER:
* You have to make an effort to shop at these stores. Yes, your new Coldplay CD will be $12.99 versus $9.99, but that extra $3.00 is keeping that roof above the owner's head. Do you think that same $9.99 at Best Buy is keeping the lights on??
* Try and discover new music and support events like Record Store Day's Black Friday and Record Store Day in April
* Buy some used CDs/Vinyl. It is where the stores make their most profit. Most stores usually have a buy 4 for $20 deal. Buy CDs to make a mixtape for your significant other. Rebuild your collection from high school to burn onto your various tablets/cellphones/mp3 players.
* Have you always wanted to buy XXX on vinyl, but think you can only get it on Ebay? Check with your local store, maybe that can find it. A lot of stores have a network of owners they can check with to find releases. You want them to special order something coming out overseas (e.g. Pearl Jam 20 3LP soundtrack), then order it through them. Don't go to Amazon.com.
* If they sell t-shirts, posters, concert tickets, DVDs, Blu-Ray's, etc......find something to give to friends and family for XMAS. Buy giftcards.
You can impact these stores bottom lines and keep them in business. Some stores are already doing pre-orders for the Black Friday releases. Was your Dad a big Beatles fan? Surprise him this Xmas with the Beatles 7" boxset, featuring the remastered versions of songs from next year's Beatles re-issues. These versions have not been on vinyl before and would be a nice surprise versus something from Home Depot or a tacky tie for a suit.
But it isn't just the fans that have to do something. It is the labels too. They are just as complicit in forcing these stores to go out of business. These are the same stores 20 years ago that they loved. But now their love has shifted to whomever can make them the most $$$$.
YOU AS THE MUSIC LABEL:
* Stop doing 6 different versions of albums. No more Itunes version, Best Buy version, etc. If you are forced to do different versions, at least do a "INDIE STORE EXCLUSIVE" version, that these stores can sell, that will have ALTERNATE/EXCLUSIVE tracks that will drive customers to these stores.
* Create an alternate pricing model for Independent Retailers (3 stores or less). Doing things Nonesuch did with the Black Keys, who raised the wholesale price of Brothers after the band took off HAS GOT TO STOP. Doing things like Warner Bros. did twice after Record Store Day, swearing that the Fleetwood Mac Rumors 2LP 45rpm vinyl and Flaming Lips Dark Side of the Moon LP wouldn't be repressed and then LYING and FLOODING THE MARKET due to unexpected sales HAS GOT TO STOP.
* Stop with the Direct to Consumer (D2C) "DELUXE" version online and give it to Indie Stores for 3 months and *THEN* go online D2C.
* Create limited runs (1000 to 2000 tops) of vinyl releases on LIMITED COLORED VINYL for Indie Stores. This was done with Primus and Blink 182's most recent release, but should be done for *ALL* artists that are popular on vinyl. Having exclusive releases, in limited quantities, WILL SELL. Record Store Day has proven that for the *popular* artist who has a numbered/limited release. Notice for Black Friday how many items are limited and/or numbered.....this is a good thing.
* Create a position at each label called "Indie Store Liaison"....this person would be the interface between the label and its artists and the stores. This person would help coordinate in-store signings/performances; send stores promo copies/posters/1 sheets to use as contest giveaways or listening parties; ensure that stores received items they ordered and make INTERNATIONAL RELEASES available (e.g. Japan SHM-CD releases, Music On Vinyl in Sweden, Australia tour edition releases, etc.) at AFFORDABLE PRICES to offer alternate import versions of CDs/Vinyl not available in the US.
Finally, Indie Stores need to create a partnership with Apple and Amazon to have exclusive "download kiosks" in each store. These kiosks would allow anyone to plug in their tablet or phone into the kiosk and download tracks. The cost can be billed to a credit card already tied to their ITUNES or Amazon account, or they can insert cash and have access to the songs. For every song downloaded, the store gets a percentage/fee (similar to an ATM fee), to justify having the kiosk in the store.
Again, we as the consumer have got to help these stores out. Having a choice on where to buy records, is a necessary and valuable option. But we can't do it alone. We have to get support from the major labels to finally show they care. If they can start creating alternate options for these stores, it will be a win-win situation for everyone. We'll buy more of their music, versus just downloading 1 or 2 tracks and stores will generate more sales due to added traffic.
This is not perfect and I am sure several people have other ideas on how to make this better. But we just can't wait until we see a future where Best Buy or Amazon is the "vinyl store" of choice in the United States. We will all lose in that scenario.