When the HMV record store closed its numerous locations in Canada in 2017, after having done so in the United States years before, one would not have been out of line to assume that this represented waving the white flag to streaming outfits like Spotify.
After all, those who own Android or Apple smartphones can access millions of songs at any time of day by paying a monthly subscription fee, and even for free if they can tolerate ads in between songs. You can even listen offline if you download a song, album or playlist while online.
The other alternative to traditional record stores has been to order a CD from the behemoth Amazon.
Many of the brick and mortar record stores of old, not only here but around the world, have closed shop. But some are defiant in upholding the tradition of being able to physically buy an album in a store and get the instant gratification of not only hearing said album (a CD) in the car, but studying the album cover and reading the notes, whether historical ones for reissues, and/or the production credits and song lyrics.
The most prominent of these record stores is Sunrise Records, the Ontario-based chain, which most resembles HMV in terms of the look of the place. They have locations at Carrefour Angrignon in La Salle, Carrefour Laval in Laval, Fairview in Pointe Claire, Place Versailles and others in the Greater Montreal area. They serve localities. I have heard rumours of a future downtown Montreal location.
Their CD and DVD/Blu-ray collections are similar to what HMV used to have — major releases with a few retro surprises added. But where they distinguish themselves in providing an alternative to streaming is with their massive (for a record store with a somewhat limited space) collection of vinyl.
There are many around the world who still swear by the sound of vinyl, and for those with enough bucks (the price is fairly high), listeners can hear the audio nuances one could never hope to hear via streaming or an mp3 file.
The other alternatives are brick and mortar stores with more eclectic collections, of which many are scattered throughout the Montreal area. The most prominent of these is Beatnick on St. Denis, corner Pine Avenue.
The CD selection is basically the mirror image of the HMVs of the past — otherwise hard to find ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s pop, rock, soul, funk, blues, and alternative rock. The vinyl selection is dizzying, newly pressed vinyl alongside historical vintage pressings of classic albums. One could spend hours there, and many of the selections — even on CD— are not available for streaming.
I visit Beatnick on a weekly basis during the summer when the weather is nice, and it’s very rare that I leave the store empty handed. I’m hardly alone — on a recent visit I overheard some Americans being told that Beatnick attracts customers from around the world — as far as New Zealand.
It’s tempting to stick to streaming for one’s listening enjoyment, but some music enthusiasts appreciate the greater fidelity of a CD, and the warm vintage sound — and historic aspect— of an LP.