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Click to email ChrisWhy We Still Need
Independent Record Stores
by Christopher Knab - Fourfront Media & Music -
May  2010

Back to Music Business 101

Every time I talked to someone I know who loves music, and I spoke to a LOT of them recently, I mentioned the recent National Record Store Day that happened for the 3rd time last month. Almost all those people said that they went to an indie record store that day to buy something. That was great to hear...

But when I was in San Francisco recently I went in to say "Hi" to the good guys who now own Aquarius Records, the store I owned from 1972-1980. They too said that they had a great National Record Store Day, but...that the next day, and the weeks since-business was immediately back to a normal day's business.

As Americans we love to help out when we feel there is a need, or when a special occasion arises to support a good cause. Supporting indie record stores has come down to this? You support them ONLY when there is a day set aside every year to raise awareness of how important they are?

I don't get it.

I heard that the National Record Store Day was very successful, and that business that day contributed to a week of great sales for indie stores, up 466% from the previous week. Sounds good huh? Well, go back to your favorite indie store now, and ask them if the momentum from that day celebrating indie stores has lasted.

I asked that question. The answer was that after that big splash of a day, business returned to so-called 'normal' real quick.

Because of that one day 'burst' of retail excitement you may have gone to an indie store to take advantage of the one-day specials, limited edition CDs or vinyl releases or whatever.

But think of it this way:


Maybe you have to have worked in a record store to know how important they are EVERYDAY, especially to local and/or independent labels and artists.

Music retail stores need your business more that once a year!

In case you missed this news: In 2000 there were over 20,000 independent record stores around the country selling independent music of all kinds and doing their best to support new music and champion the little guy....today there only around 1400 independent music stores around.

As indie labels and indie artists and bands, YOU NEED A HEALTHY INDEPENDENT RECORD STORE IN YOUR CITY or locale.

Look what they can do for you:

1. Take your indie releases on consignment (CDs are not dead yet, ok?)

2. Perhaps they will play your music in their stores. Indie stores are like small radio stations in a way. If they are good at what they do, they check-out their shoppers and play music that is appropriate for those particular shoppers.

3. Most of the good indie stores have spaces available for local and touring acts to put on a live show the afternoon of their regular gig that night.

4. Indie stores can offer space for your posters and flyers, or do displays for you. This can happen through the many 'indie store coalitions' around the country that offer at a reasonable price a 'package' of promotional services within each coalition store's membership: like sale pricing, listening post positioning, a display option for putting your release in a easy-to-spot place in their store. Ask you local store if they belong to a coalition.

5. Most employees and most owners of indie stores are 'early adopters' of music, meaning they are really on top of what's hot and what's not in new releases.

6. Good indie stores, space providing, carry a healthy selection of older music releases from era's past. Your music came from somewhere, ya know. Do you know
the cool artists that broke the ground for your music style? Good indie stores can turn you on to the best music you've missed out on.

7. The people who work at indie stores can help spread the word about your music if they really like it. I have always said the least appreciated person in the music business is the indie record store owner or clerk. So. get to know them.

I could go on and on about supporting indie record stores EVERY DAY, NOT JUST ONCE A YEAR!

The last thing I will say for now is this: If you think it's hard to establish yourself as a new act, then imagine the world without stores like Aquarius Records, Easy Street, Amoeba Records, Music Millennium, and so many others across the country. Imagine they are gone...no more National Record Store Day, no nothing.

You imagine it, I can't. It makes me too depressed to think a day like that could happen.

Support your local indie record store!

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