WORDS : KATIE CONWAY-FLOOD
Even without a global pandemic, it’s no secret that sales of vinyl records have drastically demised over the past decade given the staggering growth in streaming services being the dominant force in music consumption in more recent times. However it seems the vinyl is gradually regaining its revival, with the physical format finding its feet as sales slowly have increased in more recent years. But still by comparison, it’s nowhere near touching the billions upon billions of streams played across services such as Apple Music, Spotify and much more of the like.
WITH LIFELESS MUSIC STORES HOUSING EMPTY RECORD CRATED BEING A SORE SIGHT ACROSS THE UK’S EERILY QUIET AND GHOSTTOWN LIFE STREETS, ONE QUESTION NOW REMAINS. ARE RECORD STORES READY TO RE-OPEN AND WILL THEY EVER RECOVER FROM THIS ECONOMIC CATASTROPHE?
Just when it looked like vinyl was making a demanded comeback, much similar to its physical counterpart found in cassette tapes, the coronavirus crisis brought all hopes crashing down. Forcing record stores to stop on site trading and move all business to online only orders, as the UK went into lockdown back in March with major and independent vinyl shops shutters remaining closed to consumers ever since.
However, there is a slight slither of hope for this section of the music industry, as the gradual easing of lowdown restrictions means non essential shops can prepare to fling open their doors once more this month after months of inactivity in store. With lifeless music stores housing empty record crates being a sore sight across the UK’s eerily quiet and ghosttown like streets, one question now remains. Are record stores ready to re-open and will they ever recover from this economic catastrophe?
For major record store chains, business is back as usual but not as we know it. This new normal we have all had to adapt to means that entertainment giant HMV recently announced that a selection of 93 stores up and down the UK will be reopening from 15th June following Government guidance on maintaining social distancing measures. Such measures will include a fixed queuing system outside of stores, essential hand sanitization stations upon entrance, limited customer capacity and of course strict signage on the two meter rule.
IT’S GOING TO BE A LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY FOR RECORD STORES AND THE WIDER MUSIC INDUSTRY. BUT IT JUST SIMPLY ISN’T THE SAME PURCHASING RECORDS ONLINE OPPOSED TO BUYING VINYL IN STORE
Similarly some independent record stores are following suit, with Rough Trade Records situated in East London, West London, Bristol and Nottingham reopening a day later on 16th June from 11am following limited store hours as part of their promise to ensure the safety of customers and staff alike, alongside the use of perspex screened tills and card only purchases.
But not all indies are adhering to the laxing of lockdown laws just yet. Kingston’s Banquet Records realises that not being able to browse, social distance effectively in such a small space of a store or reasonably manage on street queues means that their door remains shut until such activities can resume, alternatively offering a click and collect service for drive through record collectors.
So whilst the majority of record retailers are rightfully preparing for the purchases of their physicals person to person, the minority are respectively relying on the digital and mail sales to see them through the continued decision to keep closed given furloughed staff still off site and stores unable to grapple with social distancing guidelines. Yet with delayed album releases and a fallow year for a physical record store day, it seems like it’s going to be a long road to recovery for record stores and the wider music industry. But it just simply isn’t the same purchasing records online opposed to buying vinyl in store.