There's no denying the convenience of iTunes or even Amazon's online store. Or, for that matter, torrents and music blogs (at least when it comes to the pirates among us).
The iTunes Store launched in April 2003—seems longer, no?—and lest there be any deluded observers out there doubting the long-term viability of these online sources, let's get it over with: The future, as bleak as it may appear, is here, folks.
"It's just so convenient," says Chris Penn, manager of Good Records. "You can't be disgruntled about that."
He gets it: It's tough to argue with the simplicity of these Internet outlets. Buying a song for a dollar instead of paying upward of 12 bucks for a whole album you don't really want? It's what makes the most sense for a large percentage of the population, Penn says. And though he still argues there is plenty to be worked out with the way labels handle their hard-copy pricing ("The industry needs to get more in tune with the pricing of iTunes," he says), he's almost resigned to the fact the brick-and-mortar vs. HTML war is no longer a contest.
(In case you haven't been paying attention, it's a battle the brick-and-mortar stores have been losing badly, and their soldiers continue paying the price of defeat. In October, one of Dallas' longer-running outlets, CD World, shuttered the doors of both its Greenville Avenue and Addison locations.)
But here's where the story gets a little strange: Somehow, Good Records—often regaled as the city's best record store, and for good reason—posted its most successful year yet in 2008.
"When we moved locations [from the old Good-Latimer Expressway home in Deep Ellum]," Penn says, "we kind of decided, 'Let's go down with a fight.'"
By recently creating a fairly expansive vinyl-only section in its upstairs room (following on the nationally reported trend on the re-emergence of vinyl as a viable sales product) and hosting a mix of in-store performances from both nationally touring acts and locals trying to drum up support for their own newly released discs, the store has managed to put up quite the defense. It helps, of course, that the store has, for some time now, been acknowledged as the region's finest, and that, in the face of the record store plight, customers consistently return to Tim and Julie DeLaughter's Good Records to make purchases.
"We still have our Tuesday crowd—the people that come in the day the records are released—and our Wednesday crowd and even our weekend crowd," Penn says. "A lot of our customers are pretty well-versed in music, and God bless them for coming into our store."
On Saturday, though, rather than relying on divine intervention, Good Records will be saying thanks in a more tangible way: For the second year in a row, the store will combine both its birthday festivities (the store launched in February 2000) and National Record Store Day into one big, thank you blowout.
Last year's event worked out quite well as local favorites The Theater Fire, Doug Burr, Sarah Jaffe and Record Hop performed alongside psyched-out Austin shoegazers The Black Angels during a 12-hour-long event that also doubled, in effect, as the coming-out parties for would-be 2008 local sensations Matthew and the Arrogant Sea, Mount Righteous and Fight Bite.
It also resulted in the best sales day the store had ever seen.
"It was a killer day for us," Penn acknowledges, "and a great party too."
The store has considerably upped the ante for its Ninth Birthday Bash/National Record Store Day celebration. For 16 hours, and on two stages (one at the store's already-in-place inside stage, which might be the best stage on Lower Greenville, and the other on a temporary parking lot set-up), the store will play host to sets from, among others, Erykah Badu and the Cannabinoids, touring blogosphere favorites White Denim and Starlight Mints, local mainstays Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, The Crash That Took Me, Dove Hunter and Stumptone, and promising newer area acts like True Widow and Dem Southernfolkz.
"We didn't want to do any of the bands who did it last year," Penn explains. "We just tried to pick a lineup that represented our store well."
In this case, that means a whole lot of everything: "That's the thing about Dallas," Penn says. "Our customers' tastes are all over the map." But Penn doesn't mind. Rather, he takes pride in the fact that, despite his customers' wide range of tastes, his store is still able to accommodate their demands.
In the coming years, though, things are only going to get more difficult, Penn says. He knows his store is pretty fortunate to be where it's at, and he knows that the store will have to continue to increase its profile to survive.
For instance, he vows that this year will mark the return of the store's chicken-costumed mascot, which, Penn says, music fans can soon expect to see out and about at concert venues, handing out fliers. But he also hopes that, this year, local stores will do what they can to work together in the face of their combined struggle. That's why, to introduce Badu at Saturday's event, Penn has invited Bill's Records owner Bill Wisener over to Good to do the honors.
Either way, Penn says, at the very least, customers can rest easy in knowing that Good Records isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
"We've found our niche," he says. "And we're still getting people in here who've never heard of us. We're gonna keep going till we're at least 15, baby!"