VIDEO may have killed the radio star, but the Internet is killing the record store industry.
There used to be a dozen record shops in Ipoh and now, there are only a handful of them left.
At Melody Music Centre in Yik Foong Shopping Complex in Ipoh, Edwin Suen, 59, is still selling CDs and cassettes.
“It really is a sunset industry.
In the early 1990s, music stores in the Klang Valley were packed with people buying CDs, cassettes and LPs. — filepic
“Business has dwindled since the availability of illegally digitised music on the Internet in 2000,” he said.
“Ipoh is a relatively small market compared to Kuala Lumpur and the number of customers have shrunk by about 25% to 30%,” he said.
“The 1990s was the best time for us as there were plenty of good bands and artistes,” he said, adding that he also sells band T-shirts, patches and posters.
Suen said his shop has been open for more than 30 years and he would try to maintain it for as long as he could.
“A few more years down the road, shops like mine will be more rare. I think my shop will become an oddity then,” he said in jest.
Suen says there are customers who come into his shop looking for CDs and cassettes in Yik Foong Shopping Complex, Ipoh.
“It is more of a hobby for me now. I am not doing this for the money anymore,” he said.
“I can only survive for so long thanks to my regular customers, cheap rental and low overheads,” he said.
He was commenting on the recent closure of one of the country’s major record stores, Rock Corner, in The Gardens Mall, Kuala Lumpur, early this month.
Rock Corner’s flagship store at The Gardens Mall opened in 2007 and had an inventory of 10,000 CDs, alongside racks of DVDs, Blu-rays, LPs, music-related merchandise and a concert ticketing outlet.
It also used to have nine outlets, with all closing down in the last few years.
Cheng Ah Lek has been selling vinyl records and cassettes for nearly 50 years now.
In Ipoh, shops selling CDs could still be seen at Jalan Theatre, Ipoh Parade shopping centre and Aeon Station 18 mall.
Apart from selling music CDs, most have turned to selling items such as toys, collectibles, movie DVDs and Blu-rays to sustain their operations.
Suen said the younger generation rarely visited his shop.
“There will be a few that drop in but not as many as compared to during the 1990s,” he said, adding that those who came by his shop were regulars.
Suen said CDs were a luxury item for some people back then.
The Star's report on Aug 28.
“Many are unable to afford a CD, which costs between RM40 and RM50 for international titles. It’s expensive for them.
“Comparably in the US, it only costs between US$10 (RM41) and US$15 (RM62), which is considered cheap for them,” he said, adding that local artistes’ CDs are between RM20 and RM30.
“Imported CDs are now priced at RM60 or more,” he added.
Suen said he orders certain titles for his customers.
“It will definitely be pricier because of the shipping cost,” he said.
Suen also said it was hard to get in new albums, especially from local bands, for his shop.
Customers browsing through thousands of titles at a large music store in Los Angeles in the early 2000s. CDs in the US are said to cost between US10 and US15. — AP Photo
“Some indie bands are not willing to sell their albums at my shop. They prefer to sell online,” he said, adding that there was still demand for these items.
“As for the popular albums, including material from international artistes, I will only have a few CDs in stock and replenish once these are sold out,” he added.
On the collection of cassettes at his shop, Suen said there are still people who purchase music in this format.
“I have customers, some from out of town, coming here to look for cassettes. These are mostly collectors.
“It costs more to produce cassettes than CDs and that is why its production stopped in 2010,” he said, adding that a cassette is priced at between RM15 and RM16.
“It is not profitable compared to CDs.
“The collectors who come to my shop usually look for music from the 1980s,” he added.
A graphic artist, who only wants to be known as Sam, in his late 30s, said he was glad there were still some record shops he could visit in Ipoh.
“I do pop into these shops occasionally to browse, but I rarely make a purchase now as I cannot find the albums that I like.
“I am into certain bands that are not normally found at the shops nowadays, as they are mostly selling albums by current pop artistes and whatever that is playing on the radio now,” he said.
“I am old school. I still like buying CDs of the bands I like as I prefer to have the physical product, rather than having the music in just digital form,” he said, adding that he used to own a lot of cassettes.
Sam said because of the limited selection at brick-and-mortar shops, he now buys CDs online.
“I am into a number of indie bands. Their albums are hardly found in Ipoh and I used to get these in Kuala Lumpur, especially at the now defunct Rock Corner.
“With more and more of these record shops closing down, the only option left is buying them online,” he said.
Engineer Lau Hong Seng, 37, said the majority of people have adopted the digital age.
“There are many music streaming platforms, such as Spotify, where people can still enjoy music.
“And if some obscure songs are not available there, I am sure they can still find it online and download it from the Internet,” he said, adding that most cars also no longer come with CD players.
He said with music so easily available online, there was just no point buying CDs anymore.
“For me, it is also a matter of storage. I would rather not keep CDs and use the space for something else unlike some avid collectors,” he said.
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