Local music store victim of changing buying trends
By Julissa Trevino
Tucked away around the corner from Collegetown Bagels on Seneca St., No Radio Records opened about two and a half years ago. It has served as a record store, an art gallery–displaying work by local artists and college students–and a stage for local acts. Many college students have made the trek to the store for both the music and atmosphere.
Cornell junior Sam Moghadam says he often visits No Radio Records and supports the store more by attending shows than buying CDs or records. “I think it’s a really great cultural part of Ithaca, especially in regard to music,” he says. “It’s a really intimate environment, which I think is usually the best environment for music.”
But soon, No Radio Records’ customers will have to make their last visits. While one of only four independent music stores in Ithaca, No Radio Records will be closing March 13. “The global economy has sort of tanked over the past few months and the effect of this on a business that was already on a shoestring budget has been… well, not so great,” said owner of No Radio Records Bob Proehl in an official statement about closing the store. “The store has always paid its own bills, broken even, if you will. But not a whole lot more than that,” he says.
According to The New York Times, more than 900 record stores closed in the U.S. between 2003-2006. The situation for major chain stores hasn’t gotten any better: The Times Square Virgin Megastore, home to the largest music, games, video and DVD inventory in the world and one of the biggest attractions in New York, will close this April.
With the increasing numbers in digital downloading and the Internet as a venue for music, the music store may be disappearing. Proehl acknowledges the Internet as a massively available source for music. Still, he remains optimistic about what the future holds for music stores. “There’s a sort of backlash and people come back around to vinyl for various reasons,” he says. “There is a need for innovative, forward thinking stores that are pushing the idea of what a record store can be and responding to what the community wants and needs.”
“This is no Borders,” says Stephen Burke as he sits at his computer behind two tables covered with tapestries. Burke opened Small World Music, which has a simple set-up and offers a variety of genres, in 2001. Burke said independent record stores offer an experience people can’t get at chain stores.
Ithaca’s other two record shops are Autumn Leaves, which primarily sells books, though its basement is stacked full of used vinyl for very affordable prices, and Volume Records, which has moved its vinyl into the second floor of Petrune, while its CD inventory remains in the same location on the Commons.
“The challenge to running a store this size is really trying to decide and figure out what you can offer that some place like Best Buy can’t because it’s not necessarily going to be price, and in some cases, it’s not going to be selection,” Proehl says.
SoundScan, an information system that tracks the sale of music and music video products in the U.S. and Canada, reported that in-store album sales dropped 17 percent in 2007, while digital purchases increased by 50 percent. But indie music stores offer knowledgeable staff, rare and local finds and a warm environment. And Bruce Burch, administrative director of University of Georgia’s music business program, told Athens.com last year, “Vinyl is and will continue to make a comeback.”
Burke said IC students visit Small World Music to find old and cheap vinyl. “We have a good number of college students who come down, I think, partly, to be part in the environment of a store like this,” says Burke. “They’ll buy loads of old vinyl for a dollar a piece just to hear more music.”
Colleen Goodhue, an IC senior, visits Volume Records because of the local artists the store carries. “I don’t really buy CDs anymore, but I do buy CDs if it’s something local. And this is the place to get it,” she says.
“It’s a completely different experience,” Burke says about indie music stores. “There will always be a need for a public place where people’s own individual love of music is reflected… We’re really here for people who love music and think about music everyday.”
For Bob Proehl, it’s more practical than that: “My hope is that for other stores, this is an opportunity to spotlight what they’re doing better than anyone else and remind people why these smaller stores exist to begin with,” he says. “When you buy, think local first. Amazon.com will be just fine without your business; the shop on the corner might not be.”
No Radio Records will close March 13 with an evening performance by Dufus, who also played at the store’s opening, and Jeffrey Lewis, making his first performance in Ithaca.
Julissa Treviño is a junior writing major. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.