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Signage on Display for Record Store Day

Environmental graphics play a key role in April 19 celebration of independent record stores

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For music lovers, record stores possess an almost mythical quality. The audiophiles who work in such stores (well, the non-chain entities, anyway), the keepers of the jams you long to hear, eagerly help you find lesser-known works of your favorite artists, or turn you on to cool artists you’d never before heard. The 1994 movie Empire Records, which centers around an independent Philadelphia record store and stars Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler, Anthony LaPaglia and others, underscored the vital role music plays in our lives, and how record stores serve as connecting hubs for our melodic passions.

I look back fondly at the countless hours I spent at Big Shot Records and Wuxtry during my years at the University of Georgia, browsing the bins for interesting finds (come on, Mom, you didn’t expect me to study 24/7, did you?) and occasionally rubbing elbows with Dave Matthews, REM’s Michael Stipe, the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson and other musicians prowling these treasure troves of CDs and vinyl.

Fast forward to today, and the music-store industry is in bad shape. For many, the convenience of online downloads trumps a trip to the record store, and Pandora and other streaming-music services provide further competition. Many large chains, such as Sam Goody and Tower Records, have bit the dust, and many more small shops have had to shut their doors.

How do those still standing survive? In a word, adaptation: some emphasize live music, others specialize in vinyl LPs – which are experiencing a renaissance among audiophiles – or a specific genre, and some operate a bistro or bar to supplement musical sales.

With this mind, independent-music vendors worldwide joined forces to create Record Store Day, which will be observed this year on April 19. Stores will feature live music and other promotional events that amplify their essence within a community’s fabric. Whatever their business model or inventory, they fulfill the role as connecting hubs for music fans of every stripe. And signs, which always provide a point of connection for the businesses they identify, play an especially important part of conveying a record store’s atmosphere. No streaming service or app can match that experience.
 

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