Misc. — April 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Johnny Marr: Blame landlords — not just the Internet — for the demise of record stores

Johnny Marr

On this holiest of holy days — Record Store Day, of course — former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr took to Facebook to lament the ongoing loss of record stores, calling them “a very important kind of shop,” and blaming greedy landlords for pricing music more and more retailers “out of their premises and livelihoods, and our culture.”

Calling records “a great piece of cultural art,” Marr warns that the shift to digital “isn’t exactly the whole story” when it comes to the loss of record stores: “It wasn’t all the fault of The Megabyte and Pixel.”

Read Marr’s full note:


Landlords Stole My Records Off The Street

To me a record shop isn’t a “specialist” shop, or a thrift store either, it’s just a kind of shop, a very important kind of shop.

Record shops were meeting places where you learnt about music, clothes, style and clubs. Everyone in my town who was interesting was in the record shop at some point.
There’s so much talk about the death of vinyl versus the download boom as if we all fled away from records because we love our iPods too much, but that isn’t exactly the whole story.

One of the main reasons why vinyl sales have declined is because when we walk down our streets we don’t see any. The greed of local councils and lease owning landlords has meant that our towns and cities have replaced the record shops (and clothes shops) we all liked with over priced sandwich shops and Bistro Bars.

All through the nineties stores that were rented and run by enthusiasts of say, photography and cameras, as well as music, got totally priced out of their premises and livelihoods, and our culture, by councils and landlords with The Next Quid and Starbucks Dollar in their eyes, it wasn’t all the fault of The Megabyte and Pixel, and now what’s left ?, high streets that are so expensive to rent that only the richest, and therefore blandest of commercial giants can afford to ride out the recession there; bad news for us, especially if you want a great piece of cultural art, which is what a record actually is.

Record stores aren’t selling quirky old artifacts. We’re starting to think of them as quirky and specialist because our greedy high street culture has told us that’s the case.

If they were able to function as commercial premises on our streets then the stuff they sell would flourish, and that doesn’t mean ditching our beloved iPods, It just means owning a great piece of work by our favourite band with a piece of real art on the cover, and something that actually sounds good too. Not bad for the price of two Lattes.

Johnny Marr






  1. Paul Moses

    He’s absolutely right.

    However the greed was also at the record companies who vastly overcharged for compact discs long after the cost of pressing dropped to a minimal level. And also the death of the specialty labels which “nurtured” new bands while they found their voices – greedy corporations bought up all the labels they could and starved out the others. A “Greatest Hits” cd might outsell a new album by a factor of two or even ten, but if there are no new albums, where do the Greatest Hits come from?

  2. william nothing

    He hates starbucks and loves records stores. What a radical!

  3. I wonder if he majored in economics.

    Nah. I don’t wonder that at all. Life is a fantasy for him and he would not know Supply and Demand if he could get high off of it.

    Now that I think about it, I truly envy the guy.

  4. william nothing

    Morrissey released a beautifully written statement today about the horrors of Canada’s perennial baby seal slaughter, meanwhile Johnny Numbnuts informs us uneducated that starbucks is evil. With groundbreaking statements like that i see why you’ve self proclaimed yourself as ” the messenger”. I’ve unfortunately heard your album and will gladly settle on two lattes instead.

    • And condemning seal slaughter is… groundbreaking? I’m glad he wrote about it but, c’mon–most of us here have known all about that for decades. 60 Minutes did a report on it years ago–it don’t get more mainstream than that.

  5. Bullslop! People stopped buying CDs because they could more easily (and often more cheaply) buy the music they wanted online. If the product isn’t selling, why shouldn’t shop owners change their product? Why expect them to peddle unwanted wares because a few diehards miss ther hangouts?

  6. He’s absolutely right, at least for record stores in urban locations. A lot of record stores even into the early 00s were slightly profitable or breaking even in the face of internet downloading and the big box retail spaces, but then landlords saw they could make more money by letting a Nike store, high-end boutique, or Starbucks move in, so they would jack up rents or cancel leases. It’s difficult for a small business to afford a high-traffic location in the commercial district of a city nowadays; I wonder how many of the good record stores that have lasted own their buildings.

  7. I agree with what he is saying! On Record Store Day I went out of town to get my goods, when I got to my location the three record shops I would often go to. Once I arrived there were only two stores remaining.

    The third was pushed out, by new landlords that bought the building. With no other available store fronts, they closed up and left town.

  8. Landlords are greedy. Is that the takeaway we’re supposed to get from this guy. How about this:
    Time moves on. Things change. Isn’t it heartening what a bit of creative marketing coupled with the power of capitalism can do for a supposedly dead format?

  9. He is spot on, in the UK high streets are dying. Partly this is due to the internet but a large part is down to excessive rents and council business rates. Lots of towns which used to have a mix of shops now have umpteen betting shops or charity shops. In the US it might be different, I’m not sure whether the concept of the high street exists in many areas but I am pretty sure Marr has spoken to local record shop owners and has been told first hand of the pressures on their businesses. Oh and by the way, Starbucks might not be evil but it sure as hell is Shite.

  10. I totally agree with Paige. In the days of vinyl & CD’s it was always the dream to have a way to have it all at your fingertips all the times. That day is here so physical media is irrelevant save for a few hipsters who think vinyl is “cool”.

  11. I agree with what Marr is saying: If there were stores selling the versions of LPs,EPs, and CDs that I wanted in NYC, I would almost never purchase albums off of internet sellers. But, there really aren’t any/many record stores that sell International/Special Edition/Import/Deluxe records and CDs due to expense, and the I-Pod crowd’s disinterest. I would have LOVED to purchase an original work yesterday, but, unfortunately, all of the upcoming albums I wish to purchase won’t be released till May through till the mid-Summer, and many of the stores in NYC are so small and limited only to what seems to be “selling”, and certainly not interested in mini-LP CDs or cassettes, or special vinyls by unpopular or word-of-mouth artists. And, now I hear that J&R Music World may be “going the way of the dinosaur”, as well. If that’s true, WHERE WILL YOU EVER HAVE A RECORD SIGNING IN NYC?! SAM GOODY’S IS A DISTANT, LATE-1990S MEMORY; TOWER RECORDS HAS BEEN DEAD 9 YEARS, HMV DIED FIRST AFTER SHOWING UP LAST, AND VIRGIN MEGASTORE WAS THE LAST TO GO…SO SAD. I’m actually counting on Target for a good portion of my music purchases. Who would have thought that 10 years ago? Yet, they seem to have the best editions of many artists’ work, for the most reasonable price. Best Buy has basically made its feelings about selling new and old/classic music by how it has hidden its records in the back of the store up against the wall w/ as little promotion as possible.

    I’m happy to say that the host/handfuls of new albums I will be purchasing this Spring/Summer will all be in the forms of Special/Limited Editon/Deluxe/HD/vinyl EP/45/Cardboard mini-LP CDs; and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  12. Let’s hope the day never comes that digital with only be the way of purchasing music. I think artists should have never stopped making lyric books for cds and those so called digipacks, that when you pull the cd out it scratches the heck out of it. When I get a new album/cd, I can’t wait to open the lyric book and read the lyrics as I’m listening to it.

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