Last Saturday was Record Store Day, an admirable effort by stores, labels, and distributors to get people to go inside a record store and purchase music–typically vinyl–rather than copping for free from the Internet. The Village has two remaining record stores that sell only vinyl. Both are owned by guys named Bob.
Neither participated in the festivities.
“I’m not known as a store that carries indie stuff,” said Bob Noguera, owner of Strider Records on Jones Street. He’s been in business for 31 years. The records are crammed into shelves and stacked high so that even walking through the store is a Herculean task. He had a mane of long gray hair and two-day stubble on his chin. “I’ve always considered my business to be about matching people up with the music they’re looking for–people searching for a long lost song. But times are tough. We’re doing everything we can to just survive.”
This, of course, is part of the point of Record Store Day: to remind people that music is meant to be bought, and that there are real live people that make a living selling it to you. Michael Kurtz, who co-founded the event along with a guy named Chris Brown, explained via the phone that it was up to the record stores to participate by contacting labels and distributors to obtain the limited edition merchandise.
“I couldn’t find where to get ’em!” said the other Bob–Abramson–who owns the House of Oldies on Carmine Street and has been in business since 1968. The sign in his storefront window reads: NO CDS, NO TAPES, JUST RECORDS.
“I don’t do business with the labels,” Mr. Abramson added.
“That was the first big lie that the record industry said to people: They claimed that all you had to do was buy a CD one time and it would last you your whole life,” Mr. Noguera said. “They also claimed that CDs were better-sounding than vinyl. That was the second lie.”
Also: “MP3s are the worst sounding example of musical transfer. Ever.”
“Vinyl is much better,” agreed Mr. Abramson. “That’s why I’m still in business. Why else would you buy a Dylan record for $30 if you could get it for $6.99?”
Mr. Abramson is a little less apprehensive about digital than Mr. Nogeura. Does he own an MP3 player?
“Look at this!” he said, reaching behind a stack of records and pulling out an iPhone. Almost on cue, six people walked through the door. Saturday was a good day for the House of Oldies’ Mr. Abramson, who ended up becoming an unofficial participant in Record Store Day, cutting people deals and finding a steady stream of new, curious customers.
But, as Mr. Noguera noted, the day is geared towards the indie set. Business was slow at Strider when a customer came in with an old mix tape that had no label. He asked Mr. Noguera to identify the songs, and find them for him on 45 rpm vinyl. Mr. Noguera identified four. He had three of them in the store. The other two are out there somewhere.
“When you consider that almost everyone bought records back in the day, and how many millions of people live in this city, you get an idea of how many millions of records are sitting in people’s apartments that nobody knows about,” Mr. Noguera said. “The only way these records become known is if a person dies, or they want to move out of the city. That’s when I usually get a call.”