Independent Record Store Day

Independent Record Store Day celebrates these fast-disappearing bastions of alternative culture. Click the link and read leading musicians on what their favourite record shops mean to them.

I have fond memories of Vincent’s, a record shop specialising in classical music, hidden away up Needless Alley in Birmingham city centre.

Why are there no shops like this nowadays?

Back when the classical album was an important sub-set of music buying, the listener was prepared to invest in their recordings. This was in the tacit understanding that paying a premium meant getting a better quality product, and paying those who made that product a living wage.

Then everyone got greedy. Performers began to act like celebrities and demand celebrity salaries. At the same time, buyers started bargain hunting and the whole shooting match began to collapse in upon itself.

The problem going forward is one of educating the next generation. Good, independent record shops (like Vincent’s) had a knowledgeable staff who could make customers progress from genre to genre and deepen the listener’s interest and understanding of the music. I have the guy from a little specialist shop called Musgrave’s Records to thank for taking my teenage interest in Emerson Lake & Palmer into an interest in Aaron Copland and from there pointing me towards Samuel Barber, Albinoni and then onward. Were I simply buying off iTunes or Amazon, my teenage interest in ELP would have gone no further than the limits of prog rock.

His shop closed long ago, because people kept asking for premium products at discount prices.

This is the key problem. Classical music does not sell in the sort of numbers to make price discounting economically viable for most labels. This means the output and scope of a label is either reduced to pop classics (that sell comparatively well), forced to sell back catalogue and not much else or follow the Naxos model of recording the Smolensk Symphony Orchestra or the Latvian Dinner Ladies String Quartet because they are cheap.

The majority of classical recordings currently released sell less than 10,000 at the moment. With those numbers, the costs involved in making a classical recording are difficult to recoup at premium price, but you want to pay as little as possible for these recordings. How do you expect this to last?

Is it any wonder classical labels and classical stores are closing?


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One Response to “Independent Record Store Day”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Classical Music. Classical Music said: Independent Record Store Day « The Eton Mess: Classical music does not sell in the sort of numbers to make pric.. […]

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