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.
With the election now widely assumed to be on May 6th, the campaign for Britain’s hearts and minds has really begun in earnest, although said campaign doesn’t seem to be working very well – that’ll be on all sides, but particularly on that of the current New Labour government – even before Tony Blair weighed in with his dubious backing of Brown.
For example, the recent budget (which may not even ever be fully implemented at this rate) can only be described as a prime example of New Labour desperation and a rather pathetic attempt at saving the government’s electoral skin. In fact, this governmental desperation is already at such levels that this year’s Guardian April Fool on Labour’s alleged new hard-man-vote-Labour-or-else election strategy actually came very close to being convincing. Scary.
And it’s only going to get worse. I had already received my first batch of election propaganda back in late February, and now, in early April, even more of this rubbish has started coming through my letter box at a steady rate – and the quality of it has got so bad that it would actually be hilarious if this election wasn’t so damn important.
Just like last time, the Tory propaganda was the first to arrive, complete with exactly the same set of slightly sinister photos of that identikit Tory blonde candidate we saw before. However, instead of their previous desperate attempts at politely begging the reader to vote Conservative, this time their desperation just seeps through the paper: