Ghosts of record-shopping past

Sacramento record store The Beat closing this month after 31 years

Last week, longtime Sacramento record store The Beat announced it would close at the end of the month. The news came as a blow to many who'd frequented the store's myriad locations for the past three decades.

A blow, but not really a shock.

I'll miss The Beat. In college, I spent endless hours flipping through bins. I bought my first Sonic Youth, Pixies and Throwing Muses records there. I befriended clerks and burned through rent money in pursuit of the perfect soundtrack to life.

But lately, its closure seemed inevitable. Say what you will about The Beat's reputation—opinions of it vary wildly, with some praising the store's vast selection and others decrying its pricing and poor customer service—the truth is we live in a town that doesn't seem to know what to do with its record stores.

Tower Records. Esoteric Records. Pug'z. R5 Records. Phono Select. All ghosts of record-shopping past.

Is it because we buy music online now? Because we download it illegally? Because we no longer care about the physical product, checking out the liner notes, loaning it to a friend with a solemn promise of “This record will change your life”?

(The same lament, of course, can be endlessly made about local book shops.)

Still, a select few stores have endured: the locally owned Dimple franchise. The famed Records. Armadillo Music in Davis. All the while, CD sales are down, but vinyl purchases are up—16.3 percent in 2012, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Record shops help define a city's character: Amoeba Records in Berkeley. Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas. Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis.

Go out, buy a record or CD or even an old, dusty cassette tape.

Listen to it on repeat. Loan it to a friend. Buy another when it wears out.