Monday, 21 January 2008

Independent Music Stores

I'm not a fan of the high street chain stores. I always been a sucker for small Independent Record Shops. I like getting to know the owner and discussing music. I find stores like HMV and Zavvi to be emotionless, boring and all about the cost - in fact, I wandered into my local HMV just before Christmas (there are no independent record stores left in the corner of London I live in), I overheard an employee of HMV informing a group of young eager trainees something along the lines of:

"the type of people round here are loaded and they'll pay any price, they don't care so it's so easy, you can charge them any price"

to which the group of five trainees let out little awkward laughs. At this point, the HMV employee with the big mouth noticed I was hovering, obviously interested in what he had to say about locals like me. He must have thought he was safe distributing his pearls of wisdom in the World Music section-unfortunately for him, Manu Chao can be found there in most UK shops and I was out to buy his latest album. I had no doubt these kind of conversations go on behind closed doors at HMV but doing it on the shop floor where your customers are?! That's just rude. Needless to say, I didn't buy the album and I haven't shopped there since.

So where can us so called 'loaded locals' go to buy our music if we don't want to give the big chains our buckets of cash and we don't want to necessarily buy on the Internet? (btw I'm a broke music lover!)

I searched on the Internet for lists of Independent Record Stores in central London to get an idea of what's out there. To my sadness, most of the recent lists contain stores that have now closed down. According to figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association, between 2004 and 2006, a quarter of independent record shops in Britain closed their doors.

Here is a list of a few of the Central London Music Industry Casualties:

Mister CD - Berwick street
Reckless Records - Berwick Street
Steve's Sounds - Newport Street
CD City - Berwick Street

FOPP has been closed down but news on their website seems to suggest they will be opening some of their stores again. -Actually, Jezz, in the comments box pointed out, FOPP is alive and kicking at 1 Earlham Street / 144 Shaftesbury Avenue (Covent Garden). In fact the following FOPP stores are open and trading with the FOPP name but under HMV ownership.
  • Cambridge, 37 Sidney Street.
  • Edinburgh, 3/15 Rose Street.
  • Glasgow, 19 Union Street.
  • Glasgow, 358 Byres Road.
  • London, 1 Earlham Street / 144 Shaftesbury Avenue (Covent Garden)
  • Manchester, 19 Brown Street.
  • Nottingham, The Frontage, Queen Street.

So what's left in Central London? (This is by no means all of them)

Sister Ray
Sounds of the Universe
Vinyl Junkies
Pure Groove
Deal Real
Music and Video Exchange
Honest Jons
Phonica Records
Urban Amplified
Rough Trade - no longer in Neal's Yard, Covent Garden but still in Notting Hill and a cool new shop on Brick Lane -yes, a new Independent Record Shop!

Quite a few of the independent stores hold in store gigs from time to time (e.g. Urban Amplified, Rough Trade)-these are well worth checking out for new artists and in the case of Rough Trade last week, Radiohead.

I'm bored of my local big chain store. I'm bored of the same old setup and the same old predictable promotions. I'm bored of the emotionless staff on the counters behaving like their serving at the supermarket checkout and could be selling you anything. I'm bored of being watched by security men making sure I'm not helping myself and making me feel like a thief and putting me off my music.

Buying music should be a pleasure, an excitement, an experience, lets not allow the big chain stores to let us forget that.

If you can know of any other Independent Record Stores (anywhere) you want to give a shout to, please leave a comment and I'll add them to the list. Any feedback or thoughts about what I've written, feel the same? Disagree? Would love to hear from you, remember there is no right or wrong comment.

If you're passionate about music, lets hear about it.



Jezz said...

The Fopp in Covent Garden/ Leicester Square re-oppened last year.

chalky said...

Thanks Jezz -updated the blog post


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