I Need That Record! – The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store DVD
Some of the best days of my life involved going record shopping. If it wasn’t for independent record stores, there would be no Punk Vault, I wouldn’t have an entire room dedicated to housing records, and I have no idea what I would have done with that time or that money. It was going on record store tours of the Chicago area that turned me into a human road map of the city and surrounding suburbs. One of the most fun days of my life involved Jawbreaker playing inside of Reckless Records and hanging out with them all day afterwords. While the internet makes finding things a whole lot easier (especially if you have lots of cash), nothing can replace the thrill of going to some used record store and finding some rare gem for a great price. I’ve done it thousands of times in my life, or the immediacy of finding a record and walking home with it that day instead of waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
Unfortunately with the explosion of the internet, the shifting of business practices of major labels and how technology has changed the way the average consumer listens to and purchases music, independent record stores are going the way of the video arcade, ie: they are becoming very scarce. While I still mourn the loss of every video arcade I spent my childhood in, losing a good record store is like losing a loved one, it’s devastating and I find myself missing places like The Turntable, Record Swap, Rock’n Records, Wax Trax, and countless others still even more than a decade since they passed. It’s not just happening here in Chicago, it is happening everywhere.
I Need That Record! is a documentary on this exact dilemma, the threat of independent records stores becoming extinct. It is something many hardcore music fans and record collectors are certainly aware of. The film explores the beauty, charm, and importance of independent record stores by interviewing folks who work at and own them, including a couple in their final days of existence before being forced to close down for one reason or another. It also spent time interviewing customers of these shops to get their stories of how and why they like coming to these types of music stores.
The film goes into great detail about how the music industry would stick it to these stores time and time again by raising prices, trying to force product on the stores, and making big deals with big box stores which gave them the ability to undercut the independent stores by charging less for their CDs than the indie stores were able to buy them for wholesale from the majors. This led people to start shopping at places like Best Buy for their new CDs which hurt the indie stores in a big way. But that’s not all that hurt them, the advent of the internet, eBay, and of course the mp3 all played a part in the shifting of people’s music purchasing (or stealing) habits and all these things have forced tons of independent stores to fold.
Aside from record store owners and customers, a number of musicians and independent record label owners were interviewed for their take on the situation as well as how it all has affected their respective businesses. Their views vary about what the future holds for the independent store, but they all agree that they are in trouble.
The film also delves briefly into how vinyl has started making a comeback (something that has really grown since they filmed this) and how it may help bring some customers back. What they didn’t go into due to the era which it was shot is the impact that Record Store Day has had on the indie store. Every store owner I’ve talked to said that the day is easily the best day of business they do each year and how some of them make enough to keep the store afloat for a couple of months just from that day’s sales. Hopefully it is something that continues and expands to be more than once a year so it will get people off their computers and into the shops to they can stay alive.
The film is a fairly quick watch at 75 minutes and is presented in widescreen. There’s also almost two hours of bonus interview footage with people who were featured in the film such as Ian MacKaye, Mike Watt, Thurston Moore, Glenn Branca, Legs McNeil, and more which is as interesting as the film itself and was cool to hear more about these people’s thoughts on the music business.
As a record collector, hardcore music fan, and a lover of record stores, I was totally fascinated by this film, but music fans of any size should check out this movie so they can see how their purchasing decisions impact people and communities all around them. The independent record store is an important place, and one that hopefully will live on. Add this to your must-watch list immediately.