Belfast Telegraph

Sadness as days of browsing record racks over as Belfast stores vanish

Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations
Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations
Caroline Music which was formerly in Donegall Place
Hector’s House, which was situated in North Street
Crowds thronging the Virgin Megastore in CastleCourt
Paul and Dougie Knight of Knight’s Record Shop which traded in Botanic Avenue for 50 years
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

As Belfast looks set to lose its only remaining commercial record store, three Northern Ireland music professionals have spoken of their sadness.

They said the void on the high street will take the fun out of discovering new music.

BBC radio DJ Ralph McLean described HMV's administration warning as a "sad day".

"I never had a great love of HMV but to see Belfast lose its last commercial music store would be a significant and sad moment," he said.

"Music will never die, but the way we ingest it is different. People prefer to stream music because even downloading seems too much of an investment, but without that investment how can you feel you can have anything out of music?"

"I spent a lot of my childhood digging through the racks in music shops. That's how I got my passion and became who I am, by going to Caroline Music and It Records in Lisburn, where I met friends and pondered over what purchases to make.

"They were big decisions and those record shops were VIP places where you formed your opinions on music. I think the high street is a much less fun experience when you strip those individual places away. Going shopping feels really corporate now."

Radio presenter Ivan Martin said the potential closure of HMV was a long time coming.

"It's a massive loss but it has been coming. I would spend afternoons in record stores in the States and that was a joy for me, but the last time I was over gradually the record stores were disappearing," he said.

"This is a worldwide issue and recently I was in HMV in Oxford Street in London where I was looking for something rare and was ready to spend money, but there was nothing there that I didn't already have. It was disappointing."

James Rollins, former Golden Discs and EMI Records representative, is now an entertainment publicist for many of the high-profile arena tours visiting Belfast.

He said: "Back in the day you had to go find a record. You might have read about it and then you had to traipse around to find it. If I went into Making Tracks and found that record, it was something else. Now you just punch it into Spotify, but where's the fun in that?"

Recalling the thriving industry here during the 1980s and 1990s, he added: "Northern Ireland had well over 50 independently owned music stores in the 1980s when I worked as a rep.

"In the early '90s that number grew but when HMV, Our Price and Virgin came onto the high street that closed some of the local ones. When I left EMI in 2006 that was the beginning of the end."

Avid vinyl collectors Ralph and James still support the remaining specialist stores here catering to a niche consumer base. They include Boneyard in Omagh, Bending Sound in Bangor, Number One Records in Larne and Dragon Records and Abbazappa in Belfast.

"I'm a vinyl fanatic," added Mr McLean. "It's the best way to consume music and I love the ritual and the sound from playing a vinyl."

Mr Rollins added: "The vinyl revival, it's still very niche. When I was at EMI we sold thousands of vinyls and the Now album would've sold over 20,000 copies but that's changed now.

"I also don't think artists are getting the same revenue from downloads as they would have from a tape or LP sale.

"Browsing and buying, that experience has gone and I suppose that's just the development of technology."

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