Last night, while the tradition of Halloween was raging outside, I decided to watch a movie. Nothing serious like Dawn Of The Dead or even the extremely serious A Nightmare On Elm Street. No, last night I settled on a forgotten VHS tape of Empire Records (1995). Yes, that one. Why? I have no idea. I’m sure there are fans of this movie (or maybe just legions of fans of Liv Tyler), but while watching this grunger Gen-X flick wrapped in a Rom Com morality tale, I got to thinking. Here’s a brief plot synopsis from IMDB.com:
A day in the life of the employees of Empire Records. Except this is a day where everything comes to a head for a number of them facing personal crises – can they pull through together? And more importantly, can they keep their record store independent and not swallowed up by corporate greed?
When Empire Records came out, I was 14. When you’re 14, music is pretty fucking important to you (well at least it was for me and my friends). Growing up in a rural area of Florida, the nearest record store was an hour drive and with not being driving age, I was at the mercy of parents and friends to get my fix. But in the movie, the characters on the screen, man, they worked in a record store! They got to listen to music all day, host in-stores (well, from Rex Manning), and turn people onto records. That was the dream, at least.
I’m sure people older than me will lament other bygone business models and modes of commerce, but hey, I am who I am so here this out. The closing of independant record stores SUCKS! No fancy language here, no more articulating and waxing philosophical. These are the places where minds were first blown, records were first dug, and the seeds for countless artists, musicians, and fans were first sown. The ficitional store in Empire Records is in danger of being bought out by a major chain (or rather, it’s in danger of selling out to a chain). But in the current climate, it would be a dream for an independant to be approached by a chain. Hey, at least they’d make some money and not lose everything to the bank. No, not anymore. Never again will a big corporate store buy out a little indie store. Of course, we’re talking about physical stores here–brick and mortar–not those digital 1′s and 0′s that smash everyone with their “convenience”.
“Give Me Convience Or Give Me Death” – The Dead Kennedys.
And while all this was swirling around in my brain, we lost a great store: ear X-tacy in Louisville, KY. Most of you probably never went to ear X-tacy, but that’s not the point. Local stores like ear X-tacy serve communities, local communities. And sure, maybe another store will pop up or one of the other last existing stores will absorb the customers, but that’s not the point either. Each store is unique, tells a story, and those that frequented it, spent time there, they have stories too.
Our story about ear X-tacy is a simple one. Nearly 10 years ago we were a unknown record label, just trying to get our foot in the door of record stores the world over. We got a lot of doors slammed in our faces starting out, but one that fully embraced us from the begining was ear X-tacy. They always supported us and we supported them. This mutual support, it’s called community. Everyday we hear that another store is in danger of closing or worse, has closed suddenly.
I wonder what kids think today when they see Empire Records. Do they see funny, outdated fashion and styles of music (all of which will surely be fashionable again), invalidated business models, or just a bad movie?? My biggest fear is that they see something they’ve never seen before: an independent record store.
Support your local independent record store!