According to recent figures, just 269 independent record shops remain in the UK. That’s a third of the number there were five years ago. Oxfam is adding to the competitive landscape as more than 600 Oxfam shops across the UK sell second-hand music, that’s double the total number of independent record shops in the UK, selling 1.8 million CDs, and it operates 6 dedicated music stores.
In a bid to inject some of the gone but not forgotten excitement and romance of buying records at the local independent store, the likes of Blur, LCD Soundsystem, Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp were among the artists releasing limited editions in a bid to celebrate and revive the fast fading niche stores.
The high-profile celebrity fronted campaign did the trick and queues snaked from independent stores as music fans tried to get hold of 1 of 1,000 issues of Blur’s first new material since 2003 among other limited edition items. The retailers will be hoping they can cling on to the momentum for more than just one day.
As music is sourced digitally more and more, and HMV and online retailers such as Play.com and Amazon.com continue to be able to offer music cheaper than bricks and mortar counterparts, independent record stores will need to do more marketing than a once a year awareness raising push.
I’m might be a bit on the young side to remember the glory days of every high street playing home to a local indie music store, but something I am familiar with is digging out forgotten hidden gems in second-hand stores.
In a move that coincided with Independent Record Store Day, Oxfam partnered with IPC Media, which publishes weekly music magazine NME to swap “old music for new music”, drive footfall to its stores and remind people that it can be a cornucopia of hidden treasures.
Music fans could exchange donations of CDs and records for a free copy of the newly launched magazine.
Oxfam also partnered with Domino Records, which manages the Arctic Monkey’s in August and has since then released the band’s three latest singles on limited edition 7” vinyls in a bid to draw in music fans and raise money from music sales.
It’s the first time new release singles have been available in Oxfam shops since Band Aid in 1984.
It also aligns itself with live music through its Oxjam festival that invites supporters to organise and host music events around the UK to raise money. As part of Oxjam, the charity hosts live gigs, which have included Jarvis Cocker, Fatboy Slim, and Hot Chip, in its charity stores.
Oxfam, which sees itself very much as part of musical culture with past generations trawling its unkempt shelves to unearth hidden gems, is interacting with the music industry in new ways to push itself as a charity shop and as a music retailer.
This is where I think Oxfam is forging ahead and indies should take note.