It may sound strange in this age of digital music downloads, but I was extremely excited to get my new CD on the shelves at a couple of local Twin Cities music stores recently. Not because I’m going to make money or get much exposure from the half dozen or so copies that I dropped off at the Electric Fetus (a Minneapolis record store founded in 1968 that was voted one of the best in America) and the Homestead Pickin’ Parlor (a folk music hub in the Twin Cities since the 1970s), but because these are two of my all-time favorite places on earth and I’m grateful to be a small part of them!
Although I love browsing racks of vinyl at the Fetus and playing vintage banjos at the Homestead, don’t get me wrong, this is not about nostalgia for some by-gone era when these types of brick and mortar stores were the only way to access such merchandise. This is about the fact that when I walked into the Fetus to drop off my record, I ran into one of my band mates from the High 48s, who just happened to be there doing some shopping. This is about the employee there who I knew only through Facebook, but finally got to meet in-person and who made a point to personally make sure my record was processed and on the shelf quickly. This is about walking into the Homestead Pickin’ Parlor and being greeted by the owners and the staff by name and looking around to see local bands (and friends) CDs displayed prominently around the store.
This is about community
This is about an experience
I know these are uncertain times for retail stores like these, but the social need they fill will not be going away anytime soon. Even if music goes completely digital and there is no more physical media to sell, I am confident that there will still be places where people gather to geek out over a shared love of listening to, playing, discovering and studying music. The question is, what will these places be like? What is the future of music stores? I decided to ask the internet what it thought about this and found a couple interesting takes on it, both of which touch upon the role music stores play in fostering community and an experience:
Rough Trade and the future of the record store (Wired UK)
In an iTunes age, do we need the record store? (Salon)
Personally, I hope I am still patronizing the Fetus and the Homestead in 20 years. I doubt I would be buying music, but perhaps enjoying a pint at a listening party, jamming with friends before music trivia night, or trying out the latest Nechville Banjotron 3000 before a screening of the 30th Anniversary Edition of Oh Brother Where Art Thou… now that is a future I can imagine.