Spending the better part of the last 20 years in music retail has been a rollercoaster of emotion. At its very best, music retail allowed me to live my dream, supporting my family by listening to and spreading the music I loved all over the world. I had been happily doing this for free for the first 20 years of my life, so one can only imagine the thrill of turning your hobby and lifelong passion into a moneymaker.
As with all peaks, there are valleys. iPods, file sharing, and the greedy boneheads running the major labels, seemed to form a perfect storm. Now it's 2008, and though I am sure it wasn't the intention of all those people to kill the music industry, music retail, or more specifically, those glorious hangouts for impassioned record buyers and collectors -- record stores -- have all but disappeared. Or have they?
Saturday, April 19th has been declared "Record Store Day." The idea, according to Eric Levin, an Atlanta retailer who heads the 32-store Alliance of Independent Media Stores, is to dispel the perception that "record stores are something of a joke; like we are all dinosaurs stuck in the tar." Big names such as Metallica, Steve Earle, and Panic! At The Disco have signed on to participate and to spread the word that the record store is alive! I think this is a fabulous idea. I just wish I was a little less bitter about the whole campaign. I feel like Don Mattingly. "Donnie Baseball" gave his all as a member of the New York Yankees. He did everything right and earned the respect of everyone around him, both fans and players alike. But it was only after his retirement, that the New York Yankees went on to win 4 out of the next 5 championships. Don Mattingly had a passion for his craft, yet the World Series' ring has eluded him.
The last days manning the counter at NYCD, the once successful CD shop I owned with my friend and fellow Huff Po blogger Tony Sachs, were on par with sitting on the sidelines at the wake of a dead loved one. It was a parade of friends and family all visiting, paying their respects, saying they were sorry, and wishing there was something they could have done to keep us around. Well, nothing short of a New Testament-type miracle would have resurrected Uncle Tonoose with the simple purchase of the new Annie Lennox CD. But in NYCD's case, it may have saved our life. People just stopped buying CDs.
There have been countless articles written about what went wrong with the music industry and the ongoing decline in CD sales. It's old news. And now, NYCD is nothing but a memory. Come Saturday morning, retailers across the country wiil get their day. A second, or possibly third and fourth chance of making a go at the job they were born to do. Indie retailers are true blue. They were born to sell music. They need to gush over, talk about, ridicule, and sell music in order to survive, not just financially, but spiritually. As a dear friend once said to me during my last days of retail, "It's just so sad to have something you are so good at doing, taken away from you." Amen, Brother!
I don't have much hope in "Record Store Day." I only hope the remaining indie retailers get some long overdue glory. A breath of life. I wish I was playing with them on Saturday the 19th. Maybe I can be invited to a future Old Timers Game.