Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Road Records to close

Of course, we have been here before, but this time, it’s for keeps. Road Records will close its doors on Fade Street in Dublin on July 24. It is the end of the Road for good. Shop owners Dave Kennedy …

Wed, Jul 14, 2010, 17:19

   

Of course, we have been here before, but this time, it’s for keeps. Road Records will close its doors on Fade Street in Dublin on July 24. It is the end of the Road for good.

Shop owners Dave Kennedy and Julie Collins have posted an explanation about why the shop is closing on their website. Despite their own best efforts, and a lot of goodwill from many in the local music community once the shop’s difficulties became known in January 2009, it now transpires that keeping a small indie record store open in the capital city in 2010 is one hell of a job and not something they can keep doing.

Per the statement, “it’s sad to have to admit that but this time, I think its true, we can’t blame digital sales, illegal downloading etc – the world is a changing place and I can’t see any room in it for kooky little indie stores like ourselves.”

Road is not the only record store to close its doors in recent years. As we saw on Record Store Day back in April, there are less and less indie record stores on our streets. We may argue the toss here every day about music. We may go to cheer on new bands when they play in a venue near us. We may travel to festivals all over the continent. But the nuts and bolts of acquiring music has changed to the detriment of the physical stores. The move to downloading and streaming, as well as a myriad of other socio-economic reasons from the price of music to a time-poor culture, means we spend less and less time browsing the racks in a small store in search of a CD or vinyl record to bring home.

Of course, some stores still continue in business here and especially elsewhere. Many OTR readers will have an anecdote about a holiday visit to a well-stocked, busy indie store in London, Amsterdam or Barcelona. As we saw the first time around when this debate was aired in January 2009, other countries can still support an indie retail sector, albeit on a much reduced scale than used to be the case. The fact that people have time to visit these stores in other cities is another example of how a time-poor culture has changed our relationship with the record shop.

It is a sad day for many reasons. The shop owners and their staff are losing their livelihoods. There is one less sympathetic space for local indie releases. There will be one less Irish-owned independent shop on Dublin streets. There will be one less place to send visitors to town looking for a record store.

But it does remind us, as the website statement puts it, that the world is a changing place and a record store like Road will struggle to maintain its status in the middle of such changes. Music will continue to be made. Audiences will continue to want to hear music. It’s the exchange between the artist and the audience, and how that exchange is brokered, which is changing.

And let’s reiterate as we said above that there are still record shops open for business in Ireland (see list here) and there may well be some new music retail enterprises coming on stream in the coming months. One shop closing is a blow, but that shop is closing because people are no longer buying music in the same way that they once did. Other means of buying and selling music will come to pass. Trade and commerce will go on.

I’ll leave the last word on this to Will Oldham. I interviewed him last week and when I was transcribing the tape earlier, this quote stuck with me and seems apt in the circumstances. “I don’t feel an exceeding amount of loyalty to the future of physical records”, he said. “I would never deny the past of physical records – the musical experience which are held in physical objects like CDs, cassettes and vinyl are not always repeatable. But the importance of music is how valid it is to the audience and if the audience find all the validity in music through downloads and abstract things then that’s the future of music. And I love music more than I love the music business or physical records.”

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