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Local record shops will need to up their game to weather the substanceless future of music

Photo: Photos by Adam Villela Coronado, License: N/A

Photos by Adam Villela Coronado

Last of the independents — Imagine Books’ Don Hurd is San Antonio’s latest stand for vinyl.

Photo: , License: N/A

Javier Gutiérrez, part owner of Del Bravo Record Shop on Old Highway 90.

“We’re struggling a bit, but we’re keeping our doors open,” Risher said.

Around that same time, I spoke with folks at Janie’s Record Shop at Bandera near Woodlawn. Like Del Bravo, Janie’s sells Latin music, but offers more used material. Customer traffic was steady while I was there, and owner Juanita Esparza said she was not worried about closing Janie’s, even though Janie’s moved two years ago to cut down on rent and her daughter/accountant Rebecca DeLeon’s Era Tapes downtown store closed early last decade. Her son/inventory manager Robert Esparza shared anecdotes of international customers visiting and how fast Janie’s hit the 5,000 friend limit on Facebook.

“[Esparza] is trying to survive just like we are,” Gutiérrez insists. “If we don’t have a product, we send [the customer] to her. We try to be each other’s lifeline.”

It’s unclear who is being more honest, but it’s clear that Del Bravo is in twilight. The Gutiérrez family still sells DLB’s back catalog to distributors and collects royalties on around 15,000 song copyrights through their San Antonio Music Publishers. In other words, they have other means.

I ask Gutiérrez about amping their sales (including two warehouses of used vinyl) by selling online. He’s indefinite.

Hopstetter describes a good record store as having the selection and promotion of Waterloo Records and End of an Ear in Austin. He finds as many as 20 items on his purchase radar whenever he visits. Austin stores host in-store shows/appearances and promote sales/deals through social media. According to Corbin Harwell, Waterloo’s indie buyer, the shop averages around four in-store events a week.

End of an Ear uploads record porn to YouTube: videos of lovely hands showing off new arrivals, frequently followed by “hold” requests in the Facebook comments section. Michael Kurtz, co-founder of Record Store Day and president of the Music Monitor Network (the largest indie record store coalition in the U.S. and Canada), adds that an ideal record store provides an online order department.

Hogwild and Alamo Records and Sheet Music don’t have websites. Hogwild promotes deals and events via social media, though their homemade videos make a greater attempt at (bad) comedy than the hawking of wares. Special events happen less than once a week, but they also mention new arrivals, events around town, and share excellent music trivia. Conversely, Del Bravo’s Facebook started in mid-summer and has less than a page of updates. Janie’s spams variations of the same post with video and picture links.

None of these stores offer online ordering, but I wish that was the worst of it.*

“We just opened our doors and got slammed,” Risher said about Hogwild’s Record Store Day 2011 festivities in April. He didn’t book regional/local talent (as Waterloo did) or even give discounts to customers who shotgunned beers (as Austin’s Trailer Space Record Shop has). He just came to work, not bothering to double-down on the publicity provided by the holiday.

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