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The Disappearance of the Record Shop in the UK

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The Disappearance of the Record Shop in the UK

5 April 2013

Simon Bray

I live in Accrington, a small former mill town in east Lancashire in the UK. My day job takes me to Blackburn which is a larger but no less troubled town. The other main places around are Burnley, Nelson, Colne and slightly further afield Preston and Manchester. Many of these places are now in a pretty bad state especially the town centres. Over the years the cotton mills have closed and are now mostly empty blots on the landscape. Even during the supposed boom period of the Blair administration the malls and shopping centres were never fully occupied. Now in 2013 there are arguably as many empty stores in Accrington as ones which are open for business. I appreciate that there are bigger issues at stake than what I'm about to say but where are all the record shops? What about those of us who like to own physical copies of records/CDs? How does one walk into a non-existent shop on the day of release and read the liner notes and all the other things one does when one buys a brand spanking new album?

Some of my most cherished memories are of buying certain albums. I remember my late granddad giving me money to buy my first actual LP from Woolworths in Accrington I won't tell you what I bought as it remains desperately uncool! Eat to the Beat by Blondie was the first album i ever bought with my own money which I saved up all by myself. I still own it and vividly remember the day I bought it. I loved looking for singles in Mary's Music, swapping a pile of unwanted discs for the Stranglers MeninBlack album in Disc'n'Tape which is now a bridal shop. Mary's Music has been empty for many years. Our Price which was in the Arndale Centre shut down, the place in the market has gone; the one with the excellent metal section is now a Pound Bakery. Currently in my hometown there is only one record shop and that only sells used stuff.

The same now applies in Blackburn which is the major town near where I live and work since the branch of HMV closed last month this town also doesn't have anywhere to buy new music. Blackburn also used to have a plethora of record shops but now merely has two places where old material can be bought. As I said, there are clearly bigger issues at play here such as enormous social depravation in the North west and the current horrific victimisation of poor people here in the UK but I want to be able to physically buy a physical CD on the day of release? It's not too much to ask is it? I'm not a technical Luddite (actually I am in many ways,) I don't mind downloading from Amazon or iTunes occasionally, I have Spotify on my desktop and mobile phone but I just feel like something is missing in my enjoyment of my favourite art form or am I just getting old?

Simon Bray


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