The world economic downturn is indeed a very scary thing and has without doubt caused a lot of harm to many people, business and the arts. However, a slowing down of the economy can also be somewhat of a leveller. Many people who were once riding high are now merely scratching a living. This is across the board and is affecting many people in the music profession from the artists themselves, the record labels, retailers right down to the end user. It was following my recent encounter with the rather dark yet entertaining Insurgentes DVD by Steven Wilson that really made me think. Steven described how in order to curb the download culture bands and artist must give the end user something worth owning. I had to thoroughly agree in every way. the man is a genious.
But wait a minute, hang on, isn’t that what bands have been doing for years anyway. Just off the top of my head i can think of two artists who released elaborate boxed sets of vinyl albums complete with special artwork in the seventies, the first being Genesis with their collection volume one and two and the second being Mike Oldfield with his first three albums and a special edition singles album imaginatively entitled “Boxed”. Mr Wilson’s philosophy is a sound one in my opinion though i suspect that it is now the minority of those with a reasonable disposable income who can afford such luxury items. Sadly the recession will more than likely propagate the download culture.
In the middle ground there are entrepreneurs buying up as much music on vinyl as they can and selling it for a healthy profit. This is in my opinion a very healthy state of affairs as it has raised the game for many people not least the fore mentioned Mr Wilson. Take for example the latest Asia album XXX. I receive a copy on CD for review purpose, though there are three options for prospective customers. there is the CD, the obligatory special edition with bonus tracks and of course the vinyl album. An interesting note is that all my usual vinyl record haunts have sold out rapidly of the vinyl album failing to keep up with demand. This really does signal the fact that many music consumers are returning in healthy numbers to enjoying the kudos of owning something tangible that may one day increase in value or simply become a coveted item and not merely dwelling on a hard drive or CD-R.
For people of a certain age (like myself) the whole social experience of buying a record, music DVD, CD, is in the chase. visiting shops and perusing the racks and shelves, going for a beer and a bite to eat, being unable to wait until you can extract your purchase from it’s packaging and fully examine it or better still play it. Only when all your best efforts have failed do we resort to the internet. Just like everything else caused by the recession, music and it’s consumption has is divided into a two tier society though as Mr Waters said many years ago “The Tide Is Turning”. On my many visits to the outlets i have listed below in the North East, i have noticed an increase in people enjoying the pleasures of buying their music in the flesh rather than being sat at home with their i-pad/laptop. I wrote a similar blog about two years ago wxtolling the virtues of such philosophies, i am now for the first time sensing that there is a move away from the throw away culture and i for one am very grateful. Quality will always sell itself and the want and desire to own something special will always prevail.
Though this is a global message and there are many fantastic shops et al in the North East, my firm favourites are listed below. I return to them time and time again because they offer me great service, honesty and above all else value for money. I am sure that where ever you live there will be a great record/CD shop near by, why not make a day of it, get yourself out and about and enjoy the experience, it’s not as old fashioned as you may think.
A hidden treasure with regard to Prog on vinyl is The Vinyl Shop with no name hidden away in the shambles at Whitby. An absolute Prog haven which i adore visiting. If you want to know more phone Paul on 07712805775 or better still have a day out in whitby and go home with an arm full of records. My other favourite shops are …………….
Sound It Out Records, 15a Yarm Street, Stockton On Tees, TS18 3DR. Tel 01642 860068. www.sounditoutrecords.co.uk
Reflex CD Vinyl. 23 Nun Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 5AG. Tel 0191 2603246. www.reflexcd.co.uk
Beatdown Records. Basement unit 1. clarendon House, Bewick street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 5EE. Tel 0191 2618894.
R.P.M. Music. 4 Old George Yard, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 1EZ. 0191 2330991.