The necessity of music stores

by Nina Corcoran / Music Columnist • February 14, 2013

The Danbury Fair Mall in Connecticut is the fifth largest shopping mall in all of New England. It includes 183 stores, a carousal, a car wash, and the second biggest Forever 21 on the East Coast. Two months ago, I found myself staring at this directory, certain there was some mistake. Under “Music & Movies” was only one place: the Apple store.

One man in his mid-40s and another in his late 50s were looking for the same thing. Noting our confusion and disbelief, a mall security guard walked over and asked how he could help. The younger man explained we were all looking for a music store. The officer laughed. “Nobody buys records anymore.” Noticing that the officer was undoubtedly the oldest of us all, it was hard not to scoff. “There used to be an f.y.e across the street, but that’s gone now.” He laced his pointer fingers through his pant loops like pistols and smirked. Shouldn’t he, representing the older demographic, know the absurdity of what he had said?

It’s no newsflash that MP3 sales are leaping forward in the race of music purchases. Generations both new and old are falling in love with being able to immediately hear the albums they want. According to the BBC’s Newbeat, CD sales fell 25% in the first three months of 2012 compared to those months the year before; digital sales continue to rise “with almost a third of all albums now being bought digitally.”

On the flip side, that means two thirds of albums are not being purchased digitally. From chain stores like F.Y.E. and Newbury Comics to independent stores like Boston’s In Your Ear or Weirdo Records, music still has a home. The consumer’s home, however, is the real anchor in the issue of digital versus physical music purchases.

After living in six different states and three different countries, I’ve seen the range in cultures between regional areas. Wisconsin natives may stand on their front porch and raise a mug of hot chocolate to an incoming snowstorm, but Bostonians will lock their doors and do any toasting from inside. We’ve recently been mourning the loss of bookstores (RIP Borders and Lorem Ipsum Books), but realize Boston still has plenty to hold onto culture-wise. Maybe the people of Connecticut crave trendy fashion stores over an f.y.e. or Barnes & Noble, but when the state’s second biggest mall has neither a music nor bookstore, it’s time to panic.

The culture of each city and state is what makes America-and the world-so intriguing. But learning one area can nearly completely strip itself of an entire section of entertainment such as music is frightening. Music stores should be buffing their image, proving to the lazy that their store outshines a webpage. 

This is the sixth week I’ve been studying abroad in Paris, and it’s already evident its music stores are successfully bubbling with consumers. A recent favorite is Le Silence de la Rue. Not only are 35 new albums (with several CDs from each genre) preplaced in sound systems with headphones for listening, but two record players sit by the window for customers to literally hear records before buying them. Combine this with knowledgeable owner Christophe Ouali and special collections in the front (including CDs, vinyl, cassette tapes, box sets, and 7”s), and the store has enough lure to constantly bring new and old customers coming through its door. Boston, too,  is pairing quirky owners with on-the-spot listening in stores like Weirdo Records, but the influx of customers isn’t the same.

Various cultures pride themselves on different things, which is why exploring music stores from city to city, state to state, and country to country is as rewarding as it can be scary. Record stores sell us the albums we listen to in our car, homes, and earbuds, so it’s only logical for the Danbury Fair Mall to announce its 184th store will cater to that need. Go out and explore what your area has to offer; return to the places you love. Word of mouth opens many doors for independent (and sometimes chain) stores, but a lack of patronage closes them even faster.