Stevie G: Why we need to support independent record shops

The recent fire at Douglas Village Shopping Centre which left Music Zone without a home has promoted Stevie G to reflect on the importance of independent record shops
Stevie G: Why we need to support independent record shops
Bobby and Ray of Music Zone in Douglas Village Shopping Centre, which remains closed after a serious fire there.

THE independent record shop has been under threat for many years now. Before the so-called vinyl revival of the last 10 years, nearly every one of them had closed in Cork and at one stage even Plug’d records had to shut for a significant amount of time.

Plug’d originally occupied the Washington St premises that Comet had in the 90s, (during the heyday for record shops here) but there are multiple reasons why independent shops have not been able to continue doing business since. Remarkably, in Cork, we still have a few, but sadly one of the main ones took a massive hit recently with the fire in Douglas Village shopping centre. Music Zone was just one of the many independent shops affected by the fire, which looks set to keep the centre closed for a significant amount of time. But Ray from the shop is doing his best to carry on regardless.

Sadly he has had to let his trusty sidemen go for now. Bobby and Shane are two of the nicest guys on the music scene here, so it’s bad news really. Hopefully Music Zone and all of their staff will get back on its feet, but for now Ray is continuing to operate both online and physically by selling music wherever he can, even from his car. Ray and all of the team are always amazingly helpful whenever I was looking for records in Douglas, and I’ve been lucky enough to do a couple of events in the shop too. Typically of an independent shop, they offer more than just records and CDs, but provide a huge contribution to the wider music scene here.

Music Zone, like Plug’d and other shops, regularly put on in-store gigs and special events all year round. In Plug’d I’ve dj’d at countless fundraisers for great causes over the years, and both shops have been an important touchstone for the music community here.

Bunker Records, located by the Christy Ring Bridge near the Opera House, right next to the former Camden Palace artistic space, is another amazing shop in which a passionate music fan sells records. John in Bunker, like Ray and the lads in Music Zone and Jim and Co in Plugd, is incredibly helpful for young bands and DJs and music fans in general, and he is a huge help to everyone from gig promoters to tourists just passing through.

Records and Relics and indeed Mother Jones Flea Market are two more shops in Cork that add to that community feel too, while Repall skateshop is another. We are very lucky in Cork to have so many great people running these shops, and they do far more than just selling records. I worked in Comet myself during the bustling 90s, where every second person was a DJ, and saw at first hand how a shop can contribute to the music scene. From bands and djs to promoters and tourists, the record shop became the cornerstone on which things were built and as a touring DJ myself I spent more time in shops in Dublin, Manchester, Galway and other cities than anywhere else.

Most of those shops are gone 20 plus years later, but in Cork we have plenty still. It’s remarkable that we have so many when you consider how things have changed in the digital era, but despite streaming there is a still a thirst for physical music too. I built up a vast record collection as a teenager, in an era where the major record companies tried to brainwash the masses into thinking that vinyl was dead as a format and that CDs were taking over. They did for awhile, but now CDs are pretty much defunct in comparison, and vinyl records are worth a lot.

Sadly they cost a fortune to manufacture still, and it’s harder to pick up second hand bargains with nearly every retailer using Discogs as a barometer for sales in 2019. Back in the day I bought huge collections for practically nothing and you’d always get some great bargains if you spent a few hours on the dusty floor of a second hand shop. Many of these shops now sell more than records and CDs and it’s becoming tougher and tougher to survive. More will close but while they are here, it’s important that we recognise their value and if we can afford it, maybe offer to buy something every now and then.

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