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Thursday, April 15, 2010 01:37 pm

The record of independents

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Without whining too much about the state of the music business and how it’s controlled by an industry-wide conspiracy that only allows a select few company artists access to the billions of dollars accumulated by the entertainment conglomerates or complaining that when stores, media outlets, record companies and other instruments of supplying the masses with music are owned by one and the same then art becomes nonexistent next to profit, let us move on to a more fruitful discussion and celebration of those who fight the good fight and use what they can of the controlled system to make a fair flow of diverse and vibrant music available to those who care to have it.

That being said, this Saturday, April 17, marks the international celebration of Independent Record Store Day (IRSD) and the long-winded sentence above only briefly, but perhaps succinctly, explains the importance of the occasion. As in most businesses, the goodness comes with a variety that allows for a choice to be made by the consumer. When groups conspire to create monopolies or to cramp the opportunity of the buyer to make a proper and just decision by knowing all the variances available, things begin to suck. Within the music business it really sucks. It’s the reason you hear the same songs from the same groups over and over on commercial radio stations and see the same bands and performers at box store retail outlets and why the music stays safe and sound in a darn fine, profit-making stance securely held by businesses bigger than anything we could or would ever dream exists.

What keeps this morass from overcoming all attempts at individuality and variety are independent record shops and community radio stations where marketplace decisions are valid but not controlling. This small yet vital web of music supporters, combined with independent musicians, create the mainstay of support for our artistic being and prolong our musical heritage.

We have such people and places hard at work here in central Illinois. In downtown Springfield, Recycled Records (625 E. Adams, 522-5122) is about as independent as a store can get, selling used vinyl, CDs, posters, TVs, music instruments and movies, but mostly is all about providing you the recorded music you want, not what they’ve been pushed or told to market. WQNA FM 88.3 is about as independent of a radio station as there can be, with several community members as volunteer DJs spinning (figuratively of course) whatever music they desire during each individually created show. And as far as the musicians and bands go, any readers of this column should be familiar with the great variety and talent of independent artists working in this town.

Recycled Records owners Mark and Gary Kessler celebrate Independent Record Store Day in style from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday with giveaways of 45s, vinyl and CD samplers, IRSD bags and other goodies. WQNA 88.3 FM plans to broadcast live from the store all day long. Plus as a special bonus Bedrock 66 Live! concert performers Jon Langford and Rosie Flores promise to make an afternoon appearance at the store to hang around and join in the fun.

If you don’t believe me read all about it at www.recordstoreday.com. The celebration originated in 2007 and now encompasses an international event held the third Saturday of April. Retailers must prove they are independently owned to be part of the official promotions, including some very cool and interesting mostly vinyl and some CD special releases from record companies with artists including The Rolling Stones, Lightning Hopkins, Flaming Lips, Wilco, Panera, Muse and many other groups out to make an independent statement on record.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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