By Susan Sliwicki
Once upon a time, before the days of digital downloads, we listened to records, tapes and albums. Sometimes we’d swap music with our friends or swipe it from our siblings; other times, the music was so good, we had to find a way to save up and buy it for ourselves.
I remember being out shopping with my mom, begging her to let me head to the record section of a certain local department store. It was an enticing place, decked out with a neon sign, posters, bins filled with orange price-tagged albums and the latest singles pumping out through the speakers. Why she preferred to hunt for housewares beneath the hellish tones of Muzak piped in on the store’s low-fi public address system, when she could’ve been shopping for records, I’ll never know. Although I couldn’t always make an escape, I relished the times I was allowed to accompany an older sibling to this veritable oasis inside retail purgatory.
But one day, the department store closed its building and moved into a newfangled thing called “the mall.” It didn’t take its record section along for the ride, but there were a few music chain stores inside and a local record shop nearby. For many communities (including mine), that marked the beginning of the end for the record-shop culture and the dawn of a new, frightening era where refrigerators and ranges get more real estate than anything even vaguely related to music in big-box stores, or one where you can pitch a censored CD in your shopping cart next to your frozen pizza and laundry detergent.
But there is one thing that gives me great hope for the future of music: Record Store Day. The event’s founders, a group of record store owners and employees, have managed to breathe life back into what looked to be a terminally ill industry at the time. The sale and manufacture of vinyl records has made a major comeback in the seven years since Record Store Day began.
(Warning: Shameless self-promotion: Goldmine is saluting vinyl’s renaissance with our new “Keep Calm and Play Vinyl” T-shirt. We’d love to have you order one for you and all of your vinyl-loving friends; available in adult sizes S-4XL. End of self-promotion.)
So whether you head out to your favorite haunt on April 19 — mine sports an aromatic blend of old books and vintage Deadhead — or prefer to skip the crowds in favor of a quieter day of shopping at another time, please take a moment to give thanks for the revival of the independent record shop and the renaissance of vinyl records … and, for the sake of the children, pray that vintage Muzak doesn’t make a similar resurgence. GM