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Fidelity for record stores still runs high

This article was published in USA Today on April 15, 2010

A new book, 'Record Store Days,' showcases a vanishing yet vital component of the American musical landscape.

If a book about record stores sounds like sentimental spin, Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo respectfully suggest: Pull out your ear buds, log off MySpace and rediscover the joys of an old-school networking site.

The authors of Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again (Sterling, $19.95), published to coincide with Saturday's third nationwide Record Store Day, ponder the past, present and future of record shops through the views of musicians, industry executives, store clerks and fans. The pair discovered that, while record stores have dwindled in the digital age, they remain a vital hub for music fiends and collectors who find the downloading experience a tad lonely.

"I love iTunes, and I'm not fighting the future, but there's an excitement, a community in record stores," says Calamar, a DJ at Santa Monica public radio station KCRW and music supervisor for TV's True Blood, House and Dexter. "Clerks are knowledgeable about new music that hasn't hit the mainstream yet. There are usually pretty girls and boys there. It's just fun."

Plotting the book, "we weren't thinking of a particular audience, because people of all walks go to record stores," he says. Regulars tend to be Boomers, but even youngsters who prefer downloads to CDs "like a nice afternoon vacation to see other music lovers, check out liner notes and find music you didn't know existed."

Days' loving testimonials confirmed Gallo's theory that "there's still an enthusiasm for shopping for music in a physical space. Everyone spoke about the sense of discovery, the impromptu conversations, walking the aisles, the thrill of hearing great music come out of loudspeakers."

The challenge may be finding a store. In the past decade, as music sales nosedived and CDs shifted to big-box retailers, record chains and many independent stores collapsed.

Shops that survived "are rolling with the punches and adapting by adding websites, in-store performances and other types of merchandise," including music and non-music books, toys, posters and DVDs, Calamar says.

The future is shaky, but two approaches are improving odds, says Gallo, a freelance journalist who oversaw music coverage during 15 years as a Variety editor.

"The quirky store has an owner who treats music as art and curates it," he says. "He has to be the supplier and information source. It may mean mail order, writing reviews (and) only hiring certain types of people.

"The second type is a music-focused store that knows the neighborhood and carries a lot of other product to make profit. It's the owner saying, 'I need to know my community and not make it about me.' "

The co-authors of 'Record Store Days' pick the nation's best in 10 categories... [About us, they've said:]


The 30-year-old Princeton Record Exchange in Princeton, N.J., opened in an alley, then operated as a proper store before moving into a trailer in a parking lot. "It's the best place between New York and Philadelphia," Gallo says.


This Article was written by locally renowned writer Edna Gundersen and Published in the USA TODAY on 04/15/10. We appreciate their attention to the local businesses of Princeton, and highly recommend USA Today if you're interested in keeping up on national news and events.


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