Monday, November 19, 2007

"End of Music World marks end of music-store era"

from - by LISA BLACKBURN The Daily News


Record retailer's demise sad - but also inevitable

It's the day the music died - again. Music World, the last Canadian music retailer, has gone into bankruptcy, and is expected to close all 72 stores across the country - including three in HRM. It was one of the last chains to arrive on the music-retail scene, and its closing reminds us today's music fans aren't buying the way they used to.

Last shop standing

When the dust settles, Britain's HMV will be the last shop standing in a music retail landscape that is less than hospitable.

The industry has been battered by music downloading, digital radio and mega-retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco that can afford to sell CDs at a loss.

Record stores were once the place to hang out and meet people with similar musical interests. Back in the 1980s, there were many choices. Barrington Street had the huge A&A Records and Tapes. The chain was 100 stores strong at its peak, and owned by recording giants Columbia/CBS Records. It was a strong presence for the record--buying public, even with pressure from mail-order clubs offering "10 Records or Tapes for $1."

The Barrington Street store occupied the former Dooly's location, and had direct competition from across the street from Phinney's. I remember them having a huge display window. During my first visit, it featured a cardboard cutout of Elvis Costello.

Phinney's was one of those rare stores where you could buy a piano, a man's suit and a hunting rifle all under one roof. It became my go-to destination for sheet music of my favourite bands, despite the fact I can't play a single note. Sheet music was the way to get the lyrics of a song, and really cool photos.

In those days, the music monster was Sam The Record Man. Before Sam's set up shop on Barrington Street, its flagship store was in the old Bayers Road Shopping Centre. It was the coolest place in town for a 16-year-old girl who lived for the next record release.

The people who worked there were gods. The clerks knew everything about music and when to expect the next releases from your favourite bands. If you didn't see what you wanted, they could do special orders, and even foreign imports.

Level after level

One of the biggest experiences of my teenage life was travelling to the huge Sam's store on Yonge Street in Toronto. Not only did it have level after level of records, posters, books and collectibles, but one could spend hours just wandering around looking for autographs from music industry heavies scrawled at random on the walls.

Every store was stocked with a multi-volume reference book that had the name, release date and catalogue number of every record in existence. In the '80s, that was our Internet.

Visiting the record stores in Halifax was a Saturday ritual. I was dropped off at the Downsview Mall bus terminal to get on the 80. From there, the first stop was the Bayers Road Shopping Centre to see what Sam's had to offer. After an hour, it was back on the 80 to go downtown for a double hit on A&A and Phinney's.

At each of those stops, music fans would chat, compare opinions on the music charts and make arrangements to jam later on. God only knows how many bands I saw formed in those record stores. I made some lifelong friendships there.

According to Music World officials, operations will wind down over the next few weeks. All 648 employees will be laid off by Jan. 31.

It's the sad end of an era.

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