Is the Record Store Dead?

vinyl1by Joe Wallace

I’m throwing this question out because I’d really like to know what Turntabling readers think (there’s a hint–post your opinions in the comments section!) about the state of indie record stores in America. In the last two years we’ve lost a LOT of good ones, but the ones that have survived seem to be in it for the long haul.

One of my favorite indie record shops, Laurie’s Planet of Sound in my Lincoln Square, Chicago neighborhood, is a good example of what I’m talking about. Recently Laurie’s revamped the store setup–once upon a time CDs were the main event judging from the placement and display of the compact discs. But now the shiny disc has been almost marginalized and vinyl is front and center.

It was a brilliant move and one that was long needed–CDs aren’t totally extinct, but they’re really for people with old car stereos and people resistant to going all-digital. There are enough digi-resistant folks out there that the compact disc will probably limp along for a decade or so more, but the writing is on the wall.

Laurie’s will survive if the local vinyl junkies come out and support. I’m one and I do. But what about the record store in general? Do you think it’s an endangered species? Chicago has more vinyl shops than I can name here-literally. In or near Lincoln Square alone we have Laurie’s Planet of Sound, Deadwax, and until only recently, Metal Haven which died in spring of 2010. Elsewhere in Chicago there is the local chain of Reckless Records shops, Dave’s Records, Dusty Groove America, and the recently-opened Leland Hardware Records.

Are they all running uphill here? I personally think not, partly because of changing business tactics (bravo, Laurie’s Planet of Sound) and partly because of a (painfully slow) economic recovery which keeps trying to happen. And then there’s US. The few, the rabid, the vinyl junkies.

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