The music industry has not been the same since Napster. Or iTunes. Or YouTube. Or Spotify. It seems that every couple years the distribution model for music is taken for another digital turn. Recently, the rise of streaming has allowed services like Spotify and SoundCloud to instantaneously collect vast swaths of information on listeners. Just a few weeks ago, The Atlantic published an article looking at how the music biz utilizes these listener stats to grow their businesses. Some feared that it would lead to widespread homogenization of popular music. Fortunately, artists still seem to rely more on tried-and-true creative inspiration when writing music than on aggregated stats for geo-targeted listeners.
At least one constant has remained despite the music industry’s regular pivots toward adopting new technology and somehow making less money: the record store. This cultural institution—the sacred church of music nerds—has always had good music to share and sell, always available in the highest-quality format. Yes, we’re talking about vinyl. So how are local record stores actually faring in the digital age? In short, how do they keep up? We spoke with the owners of five iconic record stores to get their take on what it means to be successful in today’s digital age.