(as a bookseller that also stocks vinyl, I was asked by Booksellers.org to share my thoughts on music & books for Record Store Day)
Music was my earliest passion and until the start of this month it was also my job. Since 2011 I have delivered the annual award winning metropolitan festival Long Division in Wakefield and pioneered some youth music education work off the back of it, which I am really proud of.
Over that decade, and more, I’ve seen music as a product (the tracks, the albums) reduced to near worthless due to the rise of streaming services. I always found it interesting how books seemed to ride the wave of technological advancement, with eBooks finding a natural harmony alongside the physical.
Record Store Day was created as a means to celebrate both the physical record shop and the physical product of music; the artwork, the sleevenotes and the tactile object that requires care and effort to enjoy. It’s an important message. During a regular day, I will listen to hours of music whilst working, walking or travelling in the car thanks to its availability on my phone. It’s a battle that books don’t really have; when you read you are generally immersed, though the modern way of consuming culture as a secondary experience does explain the rise in popularity of audiobooks.
All this rattled around my mind as I planned to open my first bookshop (Heron & Willow in Jedburgh). Part of the appeal was to spend my day surrounded by real and beautiful objects and a desire to return to a more analogue state. But I would also be the first to admit my knowledge of books as a whole was limited and I was worried if my shop would be an honest representation of myself, whilst also being a viable financial entity.
An answer was to turn back to music and I took great pleasure in creating a bespoke music section featuring both books and vinyl side by side.
As a longtime lover of many Scottish artists, I took The Daily Record’s 2022 reader poll of the 100 Greatest Scottish Artists Of All Time as a starting point. This meant personal favourites such as Mogwai and Arab Strap could sit alongside artists as varied as Donovan, Rod Stewart and The Soup Dragons. I then added a final section (Rest Of The World) with personal picks across many genres.
For the books, I simply went for ones I would be interested in myself. From brilliant, recent biographies such as Tenement Kid and Spaceships Over Glasgow to in-depth looks at 90s UK Rave Culture and The Scottish Independent Pop Underground Movement of the early 80s.
Part of me felt that the music section would remain an untouched vanity project but I’ve been delighted to have sold books I felt were probably too niche for our small town (Massive Attack, J Dilla) whilst also seeing vinyl fly out to happy customers.
I think the two work well together. Vinyl can seem expensive, especially in the context of streaming services. But placed alongside books, and in a bookshop environment where the whole idea is that physical items are sacred, special and have value, well, it just works.