The internet: it’s apparently killed off a lot of things. Our knack for communication that cannot be squeezed into 140 characters, the concept of privacy, the local record shop…Not only do we get unlimited free (and legal) listens to almost any album via Spotify, but there is the seemingly unlimited bank of iTunes.
For those who still value the physical ownership of vinyl, tape or CD, eBay and Amazon Marketplace (often drawing stock from VAT-free Jersey) have proven their effectiveness as forums for trade of rarities and major label hits at the click of a mouse. Even national megastore chains are feeling the pinch caused by the dwindling necessity for music addicts to leave their computer screens to get their fix: HMV is set to close 10% of its stores over the coming year, and anyone remember Zavvi?
Despite what may seem like obvious STOP! DANGER! signs, the old Videosyncratic shop on the Cowley Road has just become home to a brand spanking new Independent Record Shop(TM) – and it’s going to be a success.
For a start, there is much to be said for the joy of browsing – and I don’t mean on the web. This is something that the often disappointingly stocked, poorly laid out, de-personalised HMV and its ilk have never properly catered for. If you are not entering the megastore with a specific record in mind, browsing often drifts towards the realm of the very-much-known, but getting lost amongst the shelves of the Independent Record Shop(TM) can lead to finding things that you never knew you just had to have, or at least can provide some amusement when rifling through the more alternative sections of the bargain (for a reason) bin.
Secondly, as quick and easy as internet retail is, there’s something rather depressing about its solitary nature. Naturally, listening to music is often a highly personal experience, be it bedroom dancing to Motown classics or weeping alone, save for Leonard Cohen in your headphones, some things we just don’t want to share.
However, clichéd as it sounds, music is also about togetherness. Gigs, festivals and specialist club nights may often end in misguided, alcohol-induced attempts to pull, but their enduring popularity is really down to people who like music wanting to mix and mingle with other people who like music. Honestly.
The Independent Record Shop(TM) can also be a forum for this: maybe the shop assistant will deride your choice à la the employees of Championship Vinyl in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, but they may also recommend you the best record you’ve ever heard, or provide you with some delightful over-the-counter conversation when you each discover another die hard [insert obscure country/jazz/post-punk artist here] fan.
Despite the difficulties that all music retail outlets are encountering, the Independent Record Shop(TM) keeps hanging on, not only thanks to dedicated fan bases but from international and UK based initiatives hoping to raise the next generation of shoppers.
Record Store Day, established in the States in 2007, is an event where artists and the purveyors of their records come together in a global celebration of their trade. Taking place on the third Saturday in April, the event features a series of gigs, DJ sets and meet-and-greets, as well as hosting special releases from acts as diverse as Tom Waits, Blur, Gogol Bordello, LCD Soundsystem and Bob Dylan. Josh Homme of QOSTA/Them Crooked Vultures announced last year that he was to become the official ambassador of the event, and this year is set to see just as much industry support. On a smaller scale, the BBC 6Music listener will probably have come across their regular feature which celebrates the record shop’s enduring appeal from Tyneside to Tenby.
If the Independent Record Shop(TM) can combine the personal touch that comes from staff-customer interaction with a wider community draw, then, it is surely onto a winner. And here we return to 101 Cowley Road, now The Truck Store. After a highly successful taster weekend at last autumn’s OX4 festival, the latest addition to the Oxford music scene is here to stay.
Brought to you by the people at Rapture records in Witney (one of the early participants of Record Store Day) and branded by Steventon’s answer to Eavis family, the Bennets of the wonderful Truck festival, the store not only offers a fine selection of CD and vinyl for the discerning music fan, but is also home to a mini-stage, perfect for in-store gigs, that will hopefully soften the blow when The Old Bookbinders is demolished at the end of March.
Taking the lead from legendary hubs of musical activity such as Rough Trade East in London, and Glasgow’s Mono, The Truck Store promises to give Oxford what it has been missing for a long time.
If you want to buy from people who love what they are selling, not those from the anonymous eBay-er with 97% positive feedback or the moody weekender who is just after their minimum wage, then visit your friendly, local Independent Record Shop(TM) today.