April 20 - Independent record stores around the world are offering free gigs, exclusive merchandise and one-off releases to lure music lovers into shops for 'Record Store Day'. Joel Flynn reports.
For many it was the first place they heard Dylan, Clapton or The Clash. And, on Saturday, Record Store Day will celebrate a unique part of music culture, offering free gigs, exclusive merchandise and one-off releases around the world. But, despite the day being championed by artists such as Noel Gallagher and The Gossip, the outlook for stores like Sister Ray Records in London does not look good. Around 70% of independent stores in the UK have closed in the last decade, and, as weekly album sales hit 12 year lows, the rest face an uncertain future. Threats to physical sales have come largely in the form of digital downloads. But even as the high street suffers, some still believe independent record stores are vital to the industry. Paul Williams is Head of Business Analysis at Music Week. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MUSIC WEEK HEAD OF BUSINESS ANALYSIS, PAUL WILLIAMS, SAYING: "These independent stores, although there aren't many left, are still very, very important in terms of breaking artists, and they have a role to play that maybe other players that are bigger can't quite fulfil." According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, global music sales in 2011 were down 3%. That's the smallest drop in sales since 2004. One of the growth areas is vinyl, which is seeing something of a resurgence. According to former Sex Pistol frontman Jon Lydon, it's the only way to listen to music. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MUSICIAN, JON LYDON, SAYING: "If for no other good reason other than intrigue, listen to music from vinyl. It may sound prehistoric, the idea, the concept, but that needle, scraping through a piece of plastic will do wonderful things for your heart and soul." In the UK, though they represent less than 1% of all sales, vinyl distribution has ballooned by 44% in the last year alone. Kim Bailey is the Director General of the Entertainment Retailer's Association. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ENTERTAINMENT RETAILER'S ASSOCIATION DIRECTOR GENERAL, KIM BAILEY, SAYING: "I think there are two things driving that: first it's a bit of what I was saying about vinyl being something you can collect and touch, but secondl vinyl now quite often comes with digital download codes, so even people who don't own turntables are able to listen to that music and still hold the vinyl record in their hand." Senior figures in the music industry have also taken heart from the growth of subscription-based services like Spotify, which have grown 33% in the last year. But even as new models emerge, many will be hoping to see vinyl's niche in the market turn into something more substantial... Supporting the very stores which have helped to spur the music scene for so many years. Joel Flynn, Reuters