The first Fopp I went into was in Glasgow about six years ago. It was small but they knew how to organise their material in clusters and if they got their price points right you ended up filling a basket, either with the kind of middling back catalogue like Pink Floyd's "Meddle" you had never bought on CD or something faintly camp like a Jimmy Smith record from the late 60s. What I always liked about Fopp was that they didn't have everything. I find masses of catalogue over-facing these days. I know I can always get those things on line in my own time. I used to buy things at Fopp as presents. But then the shops got bigger and suddenly they were everywhere, the prices of the other stores came down to meet theirs and the experience was no longer so special.
The reaction of the City pages to all this news is pretty glib. It's the internet, apparently. I don't think it's as straightforward as that. I don't have any definitive handle on this but I've spent enough time in record shops - on both sides of the counter - to offer this ten point guide to what may be going on with CD sales:
- The supermarkets now discount the top sellers from which the specialist shops traditionally made their money.
- Even megastores find it hard to match the breadth and depth of an Amazon, iTunes or eMusic. The harder they try the less congenial they become.
- Too much mainstream music has had the magic surgically removed from it, the better to suit the marketing machine.
- The time and money that used to be invested in recorded music is now just as likely to go into other forms of entertainment.
- The CD is an essentially unlovable medium. It does not quicken the pulse.
- An increasing number of men now avoid going into shops, because they can.
- File sharing.
- Because we know everything will be available forever, we no longer feel the same urgency to buy.
- Most records are overrated as a matter of course. The public has been hyped too often.
- On the internet you can spend hours just mooching around music. (You're doing it now.) This is an experience you previously could only get in a record shop.