Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Independent record stores have experienced a resurgence since Tower Records' demise in 2006.
Independent record stores have experienced a resurgence since Tower Records' demise in 2006. Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Record Store Day, an annual worldwide celebration of independent record stores, took place Saturday. The event was conceived in 2007, and has since been celebrated on the third Saturday of every April. Many musicians have commemorated the day with limited-edition releases and in-store performances, but record-store enthusiasts Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo are celebrating differently: They've co-authored a book called Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again.
The book by Calamar — president of Go Music, and music supervisor for TV shows like True Blood and Dexter — and Gallo, a longtime journalist, is part nostalgia and part history of an industry's dramatic changes.
When Tower Records closed in 2006, many saw it as a sign that record stores were dying out altogether. Tower was long seen as a friend of the little guy, Calamar says, and if it couldn't compete with downloads, who could?
"There were an awful lot of independent record stores that saw that demise meaning the digital world was winning," he says.
A Change In Focus
Instead, Tower's closing signaled a change for smaller retailers. They needed to change their focus, Calamar says. Many record stores began turning their attention to serving a neighborhood or specific niche. By doing so, they redefined what it meant to be an independent music retailer and set the standard for record stores today. Music stores that take on multiple roles stay open, Gallo says.
"They take on the role of being an information source, of being a provider of entertainment with those in-stores, as well as selling you a product," he says.
Calamar says it's not just the hipsters and record collectors keeping these stores in business, though they represent a large part of the equation.
"I think the everyday Joe is still going to record stores," he says. "I love iTunes as much as [anybody] ... but there's nothing like the vibe you get when you walk into a record store. I think a lot of people are still thrilled to spend a half hour there and go through the bins."
Some bands might not have made it without record stores to support them, the authors say. Calamar and Gallo cite R.E.M. and Patti Smith's close ties to their local stores — in Athens, Ga., and New York, respectively — as a key to their success.
"It's a great meeting place, community center, art gallery, singles bar, music venue," Calamar says. "The record store really covers a lot of ground."