1. Get the stock right – I understand that it’s a problem for a small shop to have a large amount of new stock, but to maintain regular interest in a shop that small, it needs to happen. I buy most of my CDs in Tower, not because of price or any other reason, but because they have more CDs I want. No amount of goodwill can get around that. The standard here is Rough Trade. That shop in Portobello in London is smallish, but their stock is unreal. I wouldn’t trust myself to go in there and come out without something, ever.
2. Ditch the dusty stuff – Secondhand vinyl takes up quite a lot of space in the shop and – desperate as I was to find SOMETHING worth hearing – I couldn’t find one record I wanted when I was in right at the start of the closing-down period. From my experience as in the bookshop near my house, I have some idea of what you buy in and what you sell in terms of secondhand stuff, and the stuff there has been stripped out already to the point where most of it will be there in twenty years.
3. Use the space for something else – like… more new vinyl? I don’t know. Tower has got a new vinyl section that is very much the standard to aim at, and I’m not sure how Road will compete with this.
4. Ditch the dusty Irish stuff – I have nothing but praise for the fact that Road will stock almost anything independent and Irish, but there comes a time when a CD-R in a clear plastic sleeve that hasn’t sold in five years has to be binned to stop it cramping the style of the Jape album or even the Ambience Affair EP. It brings the tone down.
5. Brighter lights – Is this reasonable? Dark and dusty shops are uninviting.
6. Let more people know it’s there – One of Road’s main complaints was that their old customers weren’t being replaced by new, young customers. While point 1 (the stock thing) impacts on this, the fact that people don’t know it exists has got to impact on it. I knew it was around somewhere, but it took going out of my way to find a Mumblin’ Deaf Ro instore, I think, to actually figure out where it was. People have got to know. At LEAST put the logo on the bag. Even if people don’t know where to find it, let people know that it’s there to be found.
7. More reasons to go – Instores, compilations, something. To get people to make the leap between knowing it exists and actually finding it. To get people to go more often, once they do know it’s there. Tower is in the kind of place where I can barely avoid going in once a day to at least browse. Road is not. So get me there somehow.
8. Modernise – That isn’t a great title for this one, but what I mean is that Road is associated with a generation of Irish musicians that isn’t exactly on the cutting edge. The benefit was played by Jape, The Jimmy Cake, Si Schroeder, Adrian Crowley and some members of the Dudley Corporation and Large Mound. Not that a lot of those bands aren’t great. But that line-up could have been Jape, Fight Like Apes, Grand Pocket Orchestra, Katie Kim and Children Under Hoof. No need to cut associations with older musicians, but forge associations with younger musicians too.
9. Redesign the website – Just make it look a bit nicer. Surely in the current atmosphere of goodwill, someone will do this for free or at least cheap.
10. Have gigs – why not? Everybody seemed to have fun at the One For The Road thing, from reports. This is another way of keeping Road in people’s consciousness after they’re satisfied that they’ve done their civic duty and saved it.
I write this as somebody who shopped in Road reasonably often – say, second most of any record store in Dublin. I don’t have any of the sentimental connections that a lot of people seem to have of halcyon days past or of a first break by stocking a homemade record. I’m just a consumer. Your average 20 year old who for one reason or another likes to buy a CD or a 7″ every now and then. I’m just thinking out loud here, so don’t wade in and tell me to shut up. I fail to see how any of the suggestions could hurt, anyway, and if Road is planning on continuing, it’s clear that it’s going to have to do SOMETHING, because it can’t rely on the goodwill boom continuing indefinitely.
Photo by Naomi McArdle, sorry if it’s not cool to nick it.