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Another local record store may be closing…

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Rocking Horse logo

By Lloyd Barrett

Apparently Rocking Horse Records might be about to close. [We have several other blog entries on this subject. Not all of them agree with this statement – Ed]

I put the URL there out of courtesy but it’s actually kinda contentious because:

  1. Their website has never been that useful to me – the database is usually out of date – you need to actually talk to someone – funny that;
  2. Their business is dying because of the availability of music online –  both legal and not.

My friend Matthew O’Neill recently posed a question to his Facebook friends:

“Just a quick question – when was the last time each of my friends bought something at Rockinghorse (and what was it)?”

Among the comments he broaches the argument that ” … if there isn’t a market for what they’re providing … is their disappearance truly something to be prevented? When does nostalgia and respect become dogmatic?”

This note was originally a comment to that and then I rambled on for so long I thought it was worth graduating to a note.  Now Everett True is threatening to post it on Collapse Board. [You’re right there! – Ed] Far from just being a shit-stirrer, what Matt says is worth considering and has been for the last decade or so.  For me I think the difference has been eloquently identified by Ben Green on Collapse Board:

“[It] is the difference between a music industry and a music community.”

I have been a Rocking Horse shopper since 1990 when I bought my first cassette from them. It was Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste by Ministry – one of those secondhand promo copies that used to have the side of its inlay hole-punched to identify it. It cost me $12. Over time I have spent a ton of my disposable income at Rockinghorse and Kent Records and Skinny’s. But mostly RH because they outlasted the other, slightly more niche, places and because … they know me and I know them. I know Tom and Tam and Scott and Phil and Rolly and Richard and Karl and … hell … heaps more whose names are forgotten. I’ve been to their gigs and their parties and as a 4ZZZ DJ running Audiopollen and Outer Limits, frequently borrowed music from them for my niche shows as well.

I met one of my musical partners and long term friend Joe Musgrove there – I picked up a copy of The Residents’ Commercial Album and he started raving to me about a jew’s harp solo. To this day I have no idea what he was talking about but … it was the red-eyed glint of mania that got me. Not just that he was baked … that he was not cool about it … that he was hysterically into describing this amazing audio thing that was so subjective.

There … that is it … it’s the subjectivity. The fact that Tam can, and does, roundly chastise me for the shite that I sometimes buy … like I’m giving him money and he’s like “Why are you buying this shit?” – and I can feel smug in the knowledge that even he “doesn’t get it” – yet we can both agree about how amazing The League Of Gentlemen folk are, how people who only like early Einsturzende Neubauten are poseurs, how much better early 90s Ambient music was and how this dubstep thing is really just like old Scorn records isn’t it? We gripe like old men about the youth of today being no good and all that … I don’t get this from amazon.com. I haven’t spoken to the CEO nor do I share amusing anecdotes with one of their service clerks. They are unknowable. I’m sure some people watch (or god forbid … read) High Fidelity and shake their foolish heads saying, “That’s why I always buy online”.

[I inserted the following trailer. It’s a great documentary. Showing at the Revelation Film Festival in Perth in a few weeks’ time – Ed]

But I buy online also. And I don’t. The first thing I did when I got internet access back in 1997 was to start downloading bootleg and rare music. As I mentioned before … a large chunk of my disposable cash was blown on albums … things I read about in NME or Melody Maker or Wire or Record Collector etc … Much of that stuff was as disposable as my cash. Yeah of course I could listen to it in store but you feel like a prick getting them to order it in and then listening to it and saying “yeuch – no way”. Also the stinky punks used to fuck up the headphones more often than not so they were usually mono only. Hardly conducive to perceptual clarity. I reckon I sold about 60% of my actual total music collection at Record Market for credit to buy newer stuff. Some of which I would also sell. The availability of stuff online made this risk buying non-existent. The last thing I bought at Rockinghorse was Tryptych by Demdike Stare … last week. I’ve had the mp3s for about a year. I ordered it in February because I realised I actually liked it and wanted to support it. It doesn’t matter too much that i’m just trading MP3s someone else made for AAC files I made. I’ve saved $1,000s of wasted dollars buying stuff that some Wire reviewer wanked lyrically about which ended up sounding like a photocopy of a postcard of a painting of some kind of sonic hell that I would never want to visit. But there is for me an inherent difference between listening to something I own … and something I just downloaded to see what the fuss was all about. That ownership is more than a physical artifact as I will elaborate later.

(continues overleaf)

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9 Responses to Another local record store may be closing…

  1. Lloyd B June 29, 2011 at 11:52 am

    yikes!

    This is probably a more relevant “Diaspora” video insert ET:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhmrD397jAI

    or this one (more current)

  2. Everett True June 29, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Tough. I’m boss. Oh … OK. Really nice article, by the way.

  3. Lloyd B June 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Ta! It’s amusing how a Facebook comment turned into “My life with music retail”

  4. Matt June 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I demand a finder’s fee.

    Or attention. Attention will probably do.

  5. Alex June 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks Lloyd.

    I think you articulated very clearly a similiar mess of thoughts I had when I was in there a few hours ago. I wasn’t sure if I felt weird because I was dropping five hundred bucks on music at once or because it was probably the last time I’d be in there to do so.

    My first purchase was Ritual De Lo Habitual 19 years ago and I still have that cassette!

    I have discovered hundreds of new albums and bands, all through Tom’s little label descriptions.!

  6. Lloyd B June 29, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Yeah good point Alex about Tom’s label descriptions. It’s why I like shopping at Pulp Fiction too… even though it is way more cost-effective and convenient to just download books to my phone.

    I think part of what I was trying to get out is that while I have a somewhat more financially sustainable relationship with my music purchasing these days… due to the ability to listen to pretty much anything online at anytime… it is far from the kind of expansive exploratory journey it used to be. There is no risk, no chance, no change and no community.

  7. Lloyd B June 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    And so many bloody people in there just before… was irritating 😉

  8. Cam June 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    people have obviously been in there buying up, the pickings were pretty slim in the vinyl section. still managed to spend about $100 in there.

  9. Lloyd B September 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Rockinghorse seems to be experience the equivalent of a last minute death-row pardon. I hear they are in the process of looking for new premises and may just survive in name and spirit also.

    The same appears to not be so true for “Missing Link”. Any Melbournians care to comment on this: http://tinyurl.com/3kom66q

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