I spent a few years working in an independently owned record store in Santa Cruz, Calif., called Streetlight Records. The store was staffed by music fanatics who ranged from the metal guy to the folk lady to the indie rock nerd and so forth. My favorite thing to do was point out to the younger generation from which bands the newer groups had stolen.
For example, say a kid came in to buy a Green Day album or a blink-182 atrocity or some equally lame punk album. I would literally force the kid to pick up a Descendents album. Sometimes, I’d go so far as to let the kid know I wouldn’t sell him a thing unless he bought Milo Goes To College first. My demands were met with some hurt feelings but, more often than not, the kid would be back later in the week to thank me for the knowledge.
“At one time, the record store was a place of learning and not just commerce,” Red Cell, founder of arts collective The Process and former Candyman employee, tells SFR. “Spending your hard-earned cash was a byproduct of the lessons taught by the guy behind the counter.”
I’m inclined to agree. Do you really think the staff of Borders or Hastings has even the slightest interest in what people buy? We need a store staffed by people who are genuinely interested in music in addition to a paycheck.
Instead of keeping it local, it’s off to Hastings or Borders, two stores staffed largely by people whose musical knowledge seemingly ends with the computerized inventory. Sure, you can order albums at these places, but a special order comes with an indeterminable wait before arrival.
I went into Hastings a while back to look for a Cryptic Slaughter reissue. At the record store where I worked, we carried a wide array of metal, which included largely unknown metal sub-genres like grind, doom, crust, black, death, etc. Cryptic Slaughter was a very influential thrash-metal band formed by teenagers in California in the mid-’80s. Not only did the clerk have no clue what I was talking about, he had a hell of a time even looking the band up before telling me it was unavailable. I easily ordered it later that day from my former employer. I was left feeling like homeboy had lied to me because he couldn’t figure out how to spell “cryptic.”
It’s almost as if these stores are telling us that bands operating outside the mainstream aren’t worth listening to.
According to local musician Tom Trusnovic, “Anyone with decent taste in music is going to have a hard time finding what they want at a corporate music store.”
Trusnovic once owned Cheap Shot Records, an excellent local source for vinyl and CDs that was forced to close thanks to a combination of outrageous rent and the early days of digital downloads.
“Most towns are smart enough to have at least one indie music store, but not Santa Fe,” Trusnovic says.
Without a local music store, we’re destined not only to listen to stupid hits strategically forced down our throats by the music industry, but also to send our hard-earned money elsewhere. Santa Feans tout localism in everything from where they eat to where they get their cars fixed. Why should where they buy their music be any different?
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