Plea to back Norwich record stores

A couple of decades ago most towns had a thriving independent record store and cities like Norwich boasted several.

A couple of decades ago most towns had a thriving independent record store and cities like Norwich boasted several.

Now this dying breed of shop will be given a welcome boost on Saturday as part of the international Record Store Day. Kim Briscoe reports.

Record Store Day started in the UK in 2008 on the back of the US day of the same name and encourages music fans to shop and support their local independent record shop.

This year's event, taking place on Saturday, April 17, will feature the largest number of exclusive releases for the day yet.

More and more artists are putting out records simply to mark the day and help support the stores which have fostered people's love of music and given an outlet to all releases that fall outside the mainstream charts.

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In Norwich there used to be several shops, including Alley Cats and Lizard Records, but these have now dwindled, leaving just a few.

Paul Mills used to work in the well-known Backs Records in Swan Lane, Norwich, before it was closed by its owners so they could concentrate on the distribution side of the industry.

He then decided to branch out on his own and opened Soundclash in St Benedicts in 1991. The shop is a useful city centre outlet for people to buy tickets to gigs, as well as being one of the only places to stock many releases by local bands.

He said: 'Independent record stores are important because people can have the chance to hear music properly and they can feel it and touch it. People meet other people in this shop and it's a great way of networking.

'We need to keep doing what we are doing to survive.

'There are only a few of us left. They are dying out.'

With more people buying their records online, and a younger generation only downloading music, he said times were tough for independent stores.

On Saturday, Soundclash will be taking part in Record Store Day.

Mr Mills, who spoke about the event on Steve Lamacq's live BBC 6 Music show on Wednesday, said: 'It's a great opportunity to remind everyone that independent retailers can survive by providing a top quality specialist service.'

NR One Records owner Kingsley Harris, who has an extensive record collection in the form of the East Anglian Music Archive, said Soundclash was an important hub for the music community in Norwich.

He said with space at a premium in many high street chain stores, increasingly companies were having to pay to get their products on the shelves, which was squeezing out some of the smaller labels and distributors and making shops even more focused on mainstream charts.

Mr Harris said: 'Soundclash is a most integral part of the music scene. It's a hub and they will push all the local stuff and all the local indy releases.'

Andrew Cane opened Prelude Records, in St Giles Street, Norwich, in 1985, just after the launch of CDs and he started out with about 100 CDs in his stock of classical recordings.

Mr Cane said: 'The demand just took off immediately and grew and grew. Downloads are now popular but for classical music fans it is not so significant as for other genres, as a lot of them still want to read the background and have booklets and something in their hand rather than on the computer.'

Mr Cane believes his customers value the personal touch and the wide-ranging knowledge of his sales people.

He said: 'We have got the specialist knowledge that you don't get at chain stores or on the internet and you can talk to real people.

'I have always been very keen that the people who work for me have an interest in classical music.

'They are all practising musicians who really know what they are talking about and can guide people through the maze of classical music as it's a big field and can be a bit overwhelming.

'A lot of regular customers like to get recommendations and know we can pick things to fit their particular tastes and interests.'