Record store keeping cool in tough times

Less Mason of Cool Discs
Less Mason of Cool Discs

Local music shop ‘Cool Discs’ is holding its own in the face of stiff digital competition.

Catering to a wide range of musical tastes and bolstered by its loyal clientele, ‘Cool Discs’, the city’s last independent music retailer has been a staple of many a Derry audiophile’s life since it opened its doors sixteen years ago.

However, in recent times, the Foyle Street shop has begun to feel the pressure from the rapidly growing world of digital music.

Owner Lee Mason said: “We cater for everyone, all genres but just looking at figures recently, there’s been a 30% drop, in general, around the country in regards to the digital versus the physical.

“A lot of kids these days, 10 or 11-year olds, they’ll come in, look at the vinyls and they won’t know what they are.

“They do everything through their phones; a generation of lost music buyers.”

One of the hardest realities independent music stores must face is the sense that there is nothing to be done.

It wasn’t very long ago that there was an estimated 3,500 music retailers throughout the UK and Ireland, a figure that has now dwindled to around a mere 350.

Compounding the frustration caused by the encroaching digital arena, the shop also faces competition from other sources.

“If the record companies hadn’t started getting in bed with the big chains, there’d be a lot more ‘Cool Discs’ around,” said Lee.

“They opened with agendas to close down local stores and started to undercut. It’s pure greed.”

But what does the simple act of physically buying music have, over the seemingly much more convenient alternative?

“We talk to our customers. Any good, loyal customer of ours will get something free. There’s no chatting with human beings when you digitally download music unless you post on a message board or Facebook.”

Perhaps, it is because of this that ‘Cool Discs’ remains the last independent music store in Derry and one of the few remaining in the country.

“It’s fantastic we’re still here. Every major town and city should have a local music shop.

“This is probably the toughest sort of business you could be running at the minute but I’m still doing what I like to do.

“We offer a service and provide a platform for local musicians and in the future, we’d like to still be here.

“We really are very grateful for those good customers and they know who they are.”