Editor’s comment: Why record shops are like newspapers
PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 April 2017
Most of my free time and spare money has been swallowed up by record shops since I was about eight years old, so it’s a joy to read Flashback’s success story.
Those unlucky enough to have spoken to me in person over the last year will perhaps know that I recently had a book published about the Pet Shop Boys – one of many bands I discovered in the dusty racks of Kelly’s Records in Cardiff, the Music and Video Exchange in Notting Hill Gate (and, in those days, Camden and Soho), 10/15 in Bristol and the countless other stores around which I dragged my parents when I should really have been playing with the normal children outdoors.
Too many of the shops I visited in the early 2000s have closed down – victims of soaring rents, the sale and demolition of their buildings, or the fact their futures were so precarious no one wanted to take them over. In Islington alone, Haggle in Essex Road (a slightly masochistic expedition on account of the robust tone of the proprietor) is gone; so is Reckless in Upper Street, whose Soho namesake was among the first stores I went to in the capital some 15 or 16 years ago (and is thankfully still running).
The problems that face the record industry are very similar to those affecting newspapers: near-infinite competition available at the tap of a keyboard, a backlash against decades of easy sales and perhaps lazy products, and the challenges of monetising things that people can’t physically pick up for audiences that traditionally like to be able to do that (me included). But I also believe we can learn from Flashback’s enduring success: that people will back a business that is local, whose workers they know and trust, and that doesn’t rip them off. I hope those things are true of the Gazette (and I welcome feedback from people who believe they aren’t). In the meantime, I can’t wait for my next trip to Flashback.