Not entirely surprising, but college-area record stores are closing left and right. So, what’s supposed to be our reaction to this sort of news these days?
A few years ago on just one block of Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street, the main drag in what’s been called America’s ideal college town, four or five such places catered both to locals and University of North Carolina students.
But with the demise of Schoolkids Records, the last one is gone. Schoolkids had planned to gut it out through March, but couldn’t even make through its final week and shut down Saturday. It’s just the latest victim in an industry hit by rising college-town rents, big-box retailers, high CD prices, and — most importantly — a new generation of college students for whom music has become an entirely online, intangible hobby they often don’t have to pay for.
Chapel Hill is hardly alone. In recent years, perhaps hundreds of independent and small-chain record stores in college towns have shut down or consolidated as music downloading all but eliminated the demand for them.
In State College, Pa., Arboria and Vibes have closed. Iowa City, Iowa, used to have BJ’s, Sal’s Music Emporium and Real Records.
Boulder, Colo., has lost at least a half dozen — Cheapo Discs, All the Rage, Rocky Mountain Records and Tapes, and others. Albums on the Hill, a holdout across from the University of Colorado’s campus, is down from 18 full-time employees to three part-timers.
In Tempe, the most recent incarnations of Arizona State University’s area record stores are still around, although the on-campus store closed due to a fire in their building last year. Salt Lake City’s Greywhale thrives next to the University of Utah, and continues to expand. Somehow, those stores manage to hang in there, while Chapel Hill’s choices evaporate. Why? While in theory I’m pro-record-store-survival, we’ve probably all had the High Fidelity experience where the tastemaker turns into the snobbish gatekeeper of cool. Isn’t it just easier to get your recommendations from the Web these days, and then make an instant purchase (or “purchase”, as it were) from the keyboard? Is it OK for the market to shuffle out some of these stores? Will the kids be fine without a store within walking distance?