Lucky Thirteen!

It’s hard to believe, but my website Rarebird’s Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews is now 13 years old. May 31st of 1999 was the day the site “went live”, with just six album reviews on four pages. I didn’t think the site would grow much bigger than that, but once I started building it, I didn’t want to stop. I am proud of the site I’ve created, and I intend to keep it alive as long as possible.

I remember receiving an e-mail back in 2006 saying this:

Thanks…for keeping the spirit of the (record) search alive. There is nothing like going from record store to record store in search of the unique. Now (because of) eBay and the internet, the “rock and roll Lewises and Clarks” are extinct…Keep your head above water because you are one of the last.

I knew exactly what this person meant. Back in the ‘90’s, I loved shopping around in indie and used record stores in search of hard-to-find items, a hobby that led to the creation of my site and blog. In the late ‘90’s and early ‘00’s, the indie music stores that I loved to visit rapidly disappeared. Of course, eBay and the internet made it easier to find out-of-print recordings. When I first started using eBay and GEMM, I quickly obtained albums that I had previously thought I would never see in my lifetime. The downside of this modern convenience is that independent music stores have become a dying breed. (Not to mention the big-name music retail chain stores, which are also vanishing at an alarming speed).

In the mid-‘00’s, it indeed seemed that the art of searching for rare recordings had become a thing of the past. And, of course, I was convinced that vinyl records had finally been forgotten. But a lot has changed in the last six years or so. Besides the much-discussed vinyl resurgence, a new appreciation has apparently arisen for independent record stores. There is now an annual tradition called Record Store Day, which began in 2007. Still, that won’t bring back the stores that are gone. I can remember a time in the ‘90’s when there were no less than five indie record stores within ten miles of my home. Now, I have to drive at least ten miles just to find one. (Again, I won’t even mention the number of major music retailers that have disappeared in my area).

Also, thanks to the vinyl resurgence, it has become easier to find record players and parts, and record plants now have much more work to do in the midst of a sluggish economy. Still, there are fewer record plants than there were 25 years ago, and it is said that the number of people who are able and experienced in the craft of cutting and pressing records has greatly declined. Indeed, considering that vinyl records were almost obsolete for two decades, it’s a wonder that this particular line of work has survived at all. Only time will tell if the new interest in vinyl will encourage more investment in such businesses, or if it will cause more people to learn the skills involved.

I hope these trends will continue, because they seem to defy the current wisdom that digital music is putting an end to all physical formats. I hope that vinyl records, CD’s, and even cassettes will survive and that it will be common for people to own devices to play them on. And, in the words of that person who sent me that memorable e-mail years ago, I hope that the "rock and roll Lewises and Clarks" will live on in some way. Support your local record stores! They need you.

Having said all of that, I want to celebrate my site’s 13th birthday with this song by Big Star.