According to a report on the BBC website this week, it appears that pubs are not the only sources of entertainment to be closing at a rapid rate in the UK – it seems that, on average, at least two independent record shops have closed for good every week for the last five years.
This is a very sad statistic.
In these days of identikit High Streets and never-ending out-of-town retail parks, all small, independent retailers are under threat, whatever they sell. And record shops seem to be particularly threatened by these changes to the retail environment. If they continue to close at a similar rate, the reputation of this country for producing internationally influential and important music will be seriously at risk.
I’m a music geek, so naturally I love independent record shops almost by definition – but this is more than the slightly obsessive love of a fan: they genuinely are a crucial aspect of a healthy alternative music scene. Ignoring internet sales for a moment (they’re just an extension of the mail order sales that have always been at the heart of such businesses), these shops offer vital access to the wider distribution of non-mainstream music of all genres for bands/musicians and fans alike.
Independent record shops also offer live exposure (the popular instore performances and gig nights at Rough Trade East on London’s Brick Lane or at Banquet Records in Kingston, Surrey spring to mind here) and the opportunity for bands and fans to meet and interact. Many indie stores also run their own labels too, offering many a brilliant new band ignored by the major labels the chance to release their debut single or album.