By Greg Colgan
Despite the appeal of digital downloads, independent record stores are alive and well in London.
The Village Idiot serves as Wortley Village’s music store and a place where locals can support musicians, says employee Alex Krakus.
“They tend to be a lifeblood for local music,” Krakus said. “They support local musicians and it’s often a meeting place for like-minded people. It’s a hub for local culture.”
Krakus has been working there for five years and is a local musician herself. She sees record stores as places where members of the public can hear music they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.“They tend to be aspace where local culture is highlighted and presented to the public,” Krakus said.
“I live nearby so I can stop by when I’m out for a walk,” said Jason Mclean, a London artist and resident of Wortley Village. “I’m here once a week. I try not to spend too much money, but it doesn’t always work out that way.”
For Michael Todd, owner of Speed City Records, another record store in southwest London, the relationships he has built and his knowledge keep his customers coming back.
“It’s like any other business, it’s all about building relationships and keeping them going,” Todd said. “And in my business, where the product is so niche, it’s even more important.”
Todd has owned Speed City Records since 1997 and has become a leader in selling vinyl records in London and southwestern Ontario.
“A lot of record dealers don’t have stores and rely on shows to sell records, or many people might not know other record stores exist,” Todd said. “My store has become a place people know about.”
The Village Idiot, like Speed City Records, mainly caters to a niche market, but also provides an avenue that other larger stores like HMV or Future Shop can’t, said Robert Charlesdunne, owner of the Village Idiot.
“It’s a reserve for underground culture. Where else are you going to learn about this music?” Charlesdunne said. “A lot of what we sell won’t get played at major retailers that might just play top 40 songs. How else are you going to have access to different music?”
Krakus compared record stores to a library of information where people can learn about and experience new musicians.
“If customers see something they’ve never heard I’ll put it on and it’s a new experience for them,” Krakus said. “The relationships are a lot more personal between the owners and employees and the clientele.”
There’s also an emotional attachment to records that people can’t get with a CD or iTunes download, said Krakus.
“It helps expand your own mind and horizon. They can look at the disc liner notes, the artwork, its size. It is personal. It’s an emotion connection that’s different than downloading. It’s almost like music when a song grabs you, it grabs you.”