Hypebot has a wan little interview with Larry Herman, sales representative for longtime California importer and distributor Smash, which recently folded after two decades. Unlike many embattled music-business types, however, Herman doesn’t blame the digital arena for the decline of his slice of the industry:
“Everyone points to the internet and downloading as the cause, but I don’t think that is the answer,” Herman noted. “The major label thing is a disaster, pricing (to independent stores) is ridiculous, and (the majors) aren’t putting out as many popular releases. From out end, product has been disappearing, and prices went way up with the Euro. There was a time when we saw vinyl peaking and thought that would pull us through, but obviously it was not enough…”
But surely the internet has something do it with, no? Vinyl sales may have been helping to keep the sector precariously afloat, but imports are a market that’s been growing smaller and smaller for some time–especially since many, if not most, foreign releases (whatever the format) are instantly available to purchase or download (legally or illegally) online once released in their home country, with sites like Amazon have long offered discounts beyond what an independent retail store can offer consumers, even with the fluctuating exchange rate. (The record store I used to work at was choked with unsellable $30 or $40 CD imports, and that was several years ago.) Still, as Hypebot notes, while the loss of Smash may not be noticeable to anyone out of the range of the mom-and-pop shops it serviced, the broader trend of importers folding is another sign of the slow evaporation of the independent brick-and-mortar music market. But while the news makes me wistful and a little nostalgic, I probably wouldn’t wait two months and spend five or six hours worth of minimum wage on an import CD if I was 16, either.