Belfast Telegraph

Death of the record shop?

By John Mulgrew

Thank you for the music, for giving it to me.

While the lyrics of Abba resonate in your ears it could be time to finally pay tribute to the bastion of all things that spin — the record shop.

As HMV, the biggest player in music retail, gets into serious difficulties, could the old habits of being able to pick up a CD in your local record store soon be behind you? And with CD album sales at an all time low and digital sales on the up and up, it seems that the High Street store could soon be resigned to the history books.

Whether it is the independent store which is flogging used and collectable rarities, or the big High Street names, music fans remember with rose-tinted spectacles the heyday of buying albums and singles, whether they be CD, tape or vinyl.

It has now reached the point where many young people in Northern Ireland have never bought music on hard copy — opting for the ever-growing lure of the digital download instead.

The latest figures show that CD album sales across the UK fell by 20% last year alone — with the the total numbers sold down to just under 70 million in 2012.

Against declining CD sales, digital album sales jumped by 14.8% as customers take to webstores such as iTunes and Google Play instead of visiting their high-street rivals. And aside from the upsurge in music being bought, illegal downloads are also big news — with millions of tracks being downloaded each day.

But despite flagging sales and a new generation no longer interested in browsing in a store for a CD, there are many with burgeoning record collections who still prefer to be able to physically hold the music in their hands...

As HMV faces the prospect of going under, John Mulgrew and Amanda Poole talk to six music lovers about the joys of having an album to hold in their hand

Terri Hooley: Northern Ireland punk legend and founder of the Good |Vibrations record label and store:

“The internet has destroyed the music industry. People expect music for free and that doesn’t help artists or the industry.

It’s very sad that a whole generation won’t get the buzz of the record store experience.

Working behind the counter of a record shop is a great job, so I feel sorry for the staff too.

A few years ago there was a different record shop closing every week and I am surprised HMV has lasted so long.”

Alan Simpson: BBC Radio Ulster DJ

“The thing is, a lot of our generation worked in record shops. I worked in a place in Coleraine — at that time you would have had shops all over. Record shops were more than somewhere that sold records. You met people, and you talked to girls. It was like a mecca.

I miss out when I don’t have an album or a sleeve. The lyrics and the imagery. The graphic artists, what will happen to them? To me there are few advantages and pluses to digital media.”

Joe Lindsay: Broadcaster and DJ

“There is something so important about the beauty of record shopping.

I think vinyl is the perfect medium. It’s not just the actual albums and covers you peruse but the people you meet when out buying records.

I’ve met most of my best friends through record shops.

People will lose that interaction and lose the personal contact. I remember my first album was The Jam’s Snap!”

Stuart Bailie: Oh Yeah! Music Centre founder and former assistant editor of NME

“I think HMV tried everything they could to keep people coming in through the doors, like branching into headphones and the live gigs.

My children’s generation just don’t buy CDs and when Napster file-sharing first came out the music industry tried to stop it.

I remember there being 30 record shops in Belfast at one time and seeing new albums and artwork in shop windows was a big event.

That’s no more, and people are getting their music from different sources.”

Caroline Fleck: Downtown Radio DJ

“My 14-year-old son wouldn’t know what the inside of a record shop looked like and that’s sad for me. I remember in my teenage years an electrical shop which had a box full of singles — and it was the most exciting thing ever.

Back then in Belfast, that was how you spent your Saturday. Music is now taken for granted and it’s disposable. There’s a lesson there.

I remember the first album I ever bought — it was a toss-up between Michael Jackson’s Bad and Bucks Fizz.”

Professor Michael Alcorn: Head of the School of Creative Arts at Queen’s University

“It’s all very poignant with the Good Vibrations movie happening. On one level it’s not surprising and it looked like it was always going this way.

I still think there is a role for a store like HMV, but not one in every town or village. Records are still incredible elements of nostalgia.

On another level, while we love the social level, people are so attached to their devices now.

Will CDs become like vinyl? Do we like it because of the artwork or the sound of it?”

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