Andy Schneidkraut, who has owned Albums on the Hill for more than 20 years, said he has experienced tough times through this declining trend.
“For all intents and purposes, I should be gone,” Schneidkraut said. “It is nice to get appreciation for the store still being here, but at the end of the day, appreciation doesn’t pay the bills. I am still in business because of a false sense of optimism.”
He said that 10 years ago, there were 7,500 independent record stores across the country like his independent shop, and now there are 1,200.
He said he “sleeps with the devil” and sells music on Amazon.com to help keep his store alive. He said he thinks people are missing out by not buying albums anymore.
“Music isn’t the main course for many people, but more just a filling or dessert,” Schneidkraut said. “Now that no one has to buy music, it is easy to miss out on the distinctive personality of a used record store. This allows the consistent mediocrity of a chain store to take over.”
Album stores used to be popular because of their character. But because of the digital age, he said having character is now impossible to sell alongside digital records.
“This store is me, and like it or not, my store has a unique flavor,” Schneidkraut said. “With an online music store, people aren’t connected in the same way; the community isn’t there.”
But despite the negative outlook of the album industry, he said his love of music is what keeps him coming back to the store.
“I am a music addict,” Schneidkraut said. “Music is extremely emotional, and it expresses what people can’t say in words. The joy of music comes through discovery. Independent record stores give the opportunity for that discovery or ‘musical connective tissue,’ creating a center of community. “
He said he reached out to students who do not buy albums to come into his store.
“I am an endangered species,” Schneidkraut said. “Come and see a living dinosaur before it’s gone.”
Noah Perlmutter, a 20-year-old junior English major, said the declining industry hasn’t slowed down his music consumption.
“I listen to quite a bit of music, … ” Perlmutter said. “I have been a DJ for nearly five years, so I am constantly surrounded by music.”
He said for his personal listening, he downloads mixed tapes from sites like thepiratebay.org and djbooth.net.
“For my job, I am almost forced to buy music,” Perlmutter said. “When I do purchase albums, they are almost exclusively on vinyl.”
He said he sees the changing traditional music market as a positive transition.
“This change is a way to create a fairer platform for independent artists to be heard,” Perlmutter said.
Jessi Whitten, a 23-year-old senior English and ethnic studies double major, said she embraces this idea of an even playing field.
“Big corporate industries have been asking for this decline for a while now,” Whitten said. “Smaller, independent labels should be the model for the future because the label and the artist take the time to develop a relationship, and this is when the music is the best.”
Whitten is a music director for Radio 1190 and said the goal of the station is to celebrate Indie records. Along with the local college station Radio 1190, she listens to the Boulder station 88.5 KGNU and Cruisin’ Oldies 950 AM.
She said she listens to nearly 30 records a day as part of her job, and as a result, she finds herself taking many trips to the record store.
When she buys albums, Whitten said she supports local stores such as Albums on the Hill and Absolute Vinyl Records & Stereo in North Boulder. She supported Bart’s CD Cellar until they went out of business earlier this year. She said she often visits Denver’s Twist & Shout records because of their vast collection and support for Radio 1190.
“It was devastating when Bart’s went out of business,” Whitten said. “When the interest in local business goes away, the music doesn’t have much of a chance.”
Gabe Derby, a 20-year-old sophomore pre-journalism major, is exemplary of the decline of physical album sales, as he said he gets his music exclusively from online sources.
Derby said he usually buys random songs on iTunes or free file sharing websites such as Limewire. He said an album has to be outstanding before he considers buying it.
“Honestly, I was not aware of the declining music industry, but I think it is unfortunate,” he said. “The shift of technology in music is something that I grew up with. I think this shift is only natural, and society has to adapt to this technology in order to advance.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ben Macaluso at Ben.firstname.lastname@example.org.