Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Record shops in decline.

It was remiss of me not to mention the Record Store Day held last week which celebrated independent record shops and mourned the passing of so many over the last few years. Over a quarter have closed in the last year alone and there are now only 305 left.
My interest is in collectable vinyl so I'm not much bothered by the decline in indy or dance record shops, but even the collectors' scene has been hard hit by the rise and rise of eBay. Reckless closed its shops in Islington and Soho some time ago (although Revival has risen from its ashes in Berwick Street) and rumour has it that Cheapo Cheapo in Rupert Street has closed or is about to. The irony is that good quality vinyl is getting harder to find and prices for the really rare, top quality stuff are rising, as more people look on it as an investment.
One of the two main issues is, of course, price. Record shops owners that look at the Rare Record Guide and automatically stick that price on their vinyl are bound to suffer because a) these prices only apply to Mint condition records (and these are few and far between from the 60s) and b) you can usually buy them much cheaper on eBay. The other is availability. Most people with good quality records that they don't want are now savvy enough to put them on eBay instead of getting a fraction of their value from a record store, so shops are finding it harder to get good quality merchandise.
I buy quite a bit of stuff from record shops, including the Video and Music Exchange in Notting Hill Gate, Alan's in East Finchley, DOC in Holloway and the afore-mentioned Revival and Cheapo Cheapo, but I tend to steer clear of top of the range collectable stores like Intoxica and Rough Trade in Portobello Road or those in Hanway Street on the basis of price, not to mention tourist rip-off stores like those clustered round the Beatles shop in Baker Street. Mostly I look in boot sales and charity shops. It's hard finding good stuff and there's fearsome competition from other dealers and collectors but it can be fruitful, even if both car booters and charity shops are now often asking unrealistically high prices. There's nothing quite like the thrill of finding a batch of desirable sixties singles or LPs in excellent condition at a knockdown price.
Here's a recent Guardian article on the topic: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/apr/13/rough-trade-independent-record-shops
* Talking of online record sales there is a copy of Frank J Wilson's ultra rare Do I Love You being auctioned on the John Manship site at the moment. Current bid is over £24,000 and there's still seven days to go. Fancy a punt?


At 4:51 pm , Blogger Private Beach said...

Is the Notting Hill Gate store still going? I used to shop there more than 30 years ago when I still lived in England.

My Mum works in an Oxfam Shop and tells me they have a record valuer who spots the really good stuff, so you won't get too many bargains there these days. I guess other charity shops are doing the same.

At 7:55 pm , Blogger Nick said...

There are quite a few record shops in the Notting Hill/Portobello Road area. Honest Jon's is another one, but they sell mostly vinyl reissues. It's true that many charity shops have a record valuer - and I can't help thinking that he helps himself to the best stuff at, shall we say, competitive prices. But maybe I'm just naturally cynical.

At 9:44 am , Anonymous Tony (aka Pismotality) said...

Sadly, Cheapo closed late 2009. The remaining stock is up for sale - about 13,000 items. Here's a link to a song about it and various blog entries including contact details to find out more about the vinyl.


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