23 Feb 2012

Independent Since 1971

Author: Austin J. Hunt | Filed under: BGSU, Business, Local stories, Spring 2012, Student Contributor

Compact discs use lined the shelves of many houses in the 1990s and early 2000s. Independent record stores, such as Finders Records, used to thrive on CD sales in those years. But recently much of the mainstream population is choosing to download its music online. This recent trend has impacted many independent record stores, forcing some stores to even close their doors for good.

Finders Records in Bowling Green, Ohio, has been open since 1971. Since the opening, Finders has seen a lot happen in the music industry. From the days when Led Zeppelin was the biggest band in the world, through the 1990’s when grunge took over mainstream, to present day when Adele is one of the biggest stars in the world, Finders Records has been through it all.

Erica McClure, a Finders employee, recalls when the owner, Greg Halamay, told her stories about the early days of the store.

“My boss talks occasionally about the store when it first opened. He and his dad opened it back in ’71 and the entire store used to be crowded every single day,” said McClure.

Since it’s opening in ’71, the store has still seen its ups and downs.

Finders Records (Photo Credit: Austin J. Hunt)

“Even though we are still making good business, it’s nothing like it used to be. I would estimate sales are down at least 50 percent compared to a decade ago,” said McClure.

Music fans aren’t going out to their local record store and purchasing music like they use to. It is much easier to sit behind a computer and buy digital music via iTunes or download it illegally.

“I honestly think that there will always be a market for music. But, the major record labels are taking major losses due to low record sales, and now anyone can just go online and listen to music for free,” said Matthew Donahue, a Bowling Green State University professor who has a doctorate in American culture studies with an emphasis in popular music.

Even though many people are buying music digitally, some diehard music fans are still supporting independent record stores. McClure said that Finders has many loyal customers who buy the majority of their music from Finders. A large customer base is also now buying vinyl records, which you can’t purchase digitally.

According to The Nielsen Company, vinyl sales increased 37 percent in the beginning of 2011, along with rising 14.2 percent in 2010. But, vinyl sales still only made up 1.2 percent of physical sales.

“Buying music online is obviously easier, but iTunes will never replace physically going in a record store like Finders and browsing for an hour,” said Reid Walker Emrick, an avid music fan who has shopped at Finders in the past. “There’s nothing better than having that CD in your hands the day it releases. That’s the only downfall of iTunes, in my opinion. You don’t get to actually hold your purchase.”

Even though online music is popular in today’s society, there can still be hope for the independent record stores. The uniqueness behind visiting a record store keeps driving customers back day after day.

“The store still is great and while the staff come and go, it is still one of the best stores in Northwest Ohio,” said Donahue, who also worked at an independent record store for 10 years in Toledo, Ohio. “I think and hope that there will always be a niche market for the indie record store, but it surely will be tough for them to survive as most folks get their music digitally.”

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