Record Store Day Is Holy in the Suburbs

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- With Record Store Day upon us, where would a music lover rather be: A city with dozens of shops within blocks of each other or in suburbia where good record stores are scattered miles apart?

The logistical genius writing this column just left one for the other.

I live in Portland now and have grown just a little too comfortable with having my choice of vinyl-rich record shops within walking distance of each other. On an ideal a Record Store Day, I'd avoid the early morning lines, head up to the Pearl District and pick off the leftovers at Everyday Music, Jackpot Records and 2nd Avenue Records all within minor walking distance of each other (OK, 2nd Avenue may be a bit of a hike from the others, but worth it).

This year, however, I'm back in my old home state of New Jersey attending my friends' wedding. The 22-year-old me says to hop the PATH train to New York and see what remains of the old Manhattan circuit that started with Generation Records in the central Village and ended with Other Music just East of Washington Square. Maybe hop a train into Brooklyn and hit Academy Records before spending a day trolling the unsorted shelves of The Thing.

The 17-year-old me humbly suggests I remember how this all started and make the best of what's around. While a student at a Catholic high school in Montclair, N.J., nearby Bloomfield Avenue was marked with record stores every other block or so. In a CD-and-cassette world, the old hippies who ran Crazy Rhythms and the vintage shops, the gear geeks who stocked the bins at Rocktec and the black-clad music scholars who stocked Butthole Surfers bootlegs and grindcore albums at Cafe Soundz/Romp and Stomp kept vinyl alive and drew customers from all over the state. I may have left Crazy Rhythms with cassette copies of Nas' Illmatic and Wu-Tang Clan's Enter The 36 Chambers, but the records they sampled were stacked in bins further back in the store. I may have cherrypicked the Smashing Pumpkins and Seaweed tapes from Cafe Soundz's racks, but vinyl copies of Nirvana's Bleach and KMFDM albums sat in racks I seldom flipped through.

Cafe Soundz/Romp and Stomp and some of the vintage/antique shops are all that remain, but that isn't terribly surprising. Overall, music sales have slid 50% since 1993. Since 2000, record stores have seen their revenue tumble by 76% to $2 billion, according to market research firm IBISWorld. That group estimates that record stores will lose another 40% of sales by 2016. Physical album sales have dropped from 379 million in 2009 to little more than 170 million last year -- with CDs accounting for 165.4 million sales.

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