By Phoenix Bain
Ditch Records sits downtown as a bustling hub for avid collectors, the hang-out-and-look-but-never-buy folk, the beginner and those curious about what record collecting is all about. The expansive space is filled with rows of records and CDs, new and used, walls of reissues and 7-inches, a bookshelf full of cult novels and musicology and some scattered memorabilia. Follow the rows of records and CDs, and you will find the backroom, a cove of dusty records. Among the possible gems filling the back of a former dollar store is what JR Robinson might call his office. This makeshift attic space has housed excess of product for a little over two years and is the third residence of Ditch Records. Walking around the shop, it’s hard to believe it began almost sixteen years ago.
“I like having a record store a lot. I like working around music [and] I haven’t burnt out from working around music. I love the customers and the social interaction. [There are] people who work in offices staring at a screen in cubicles next to people they don’t know or don’t get along with or don’t hang out with and I love the bringing together that music can be,” says Robinson.
This is the key to what makes Ditch Records what it is today. Any inquisitive mind can walk through the door and expect to take home something that will match their musical needs and swell their interest to pursue more. Although Ditch does sell more CDs, vinyl has encountered resurgence in the last few years. However, the internet has completely changed the face of the music industry.
“People’s buying relationships and habits are so different with changes in the Internet. [People and their] relationships with buying and music is completely being rewritten in the last 10 years. If you’re youngish and buying, you’re a collector at this point. You’ve chosen to collect. There’s always an aspect of collector culture to be a music fan. But now it’s become a much more prominent part of music collecting particularly for the Internet generation.”
Almost akin to the car industry, the music industry is always fluctuating. On one end of history you have an art form: employees carefully piecing together a Cadillac or placing grooves in a record. Today you have a machine slapping together a new piece of technology that will be outdated by the time you drive it home and a billion-dollar industry built on machines selling an overwhelming overload of songs to a single user. As a teenager today, you may have never purchased a cassette tape or a CD. It is no question that the times will continue to change, but for some youth today, there is clearly a certain attraction to vinyl.
“I think vinyl really taps into nostalgia of their childhood, especially nostalgia of a time before their childhood. Someone under twenty might not have had records in their house unless their parents were music freaks. [It’s] nostalgia for these bands that you love. If you love Neil Young or Bob Dylan, [vinyl] was the original format it was on so it kind of brings you closer to that music [with] the idea that it came out on that format.”
As the way of the music industry changes, there is still a longing to call back to past generations to grasp what they had.
“For the first 50 or 100 years of recorded music, the kind of music you listened to was related to your class. In the 30s or 40s, if you listened to classical or delta-country blues, that said a lot about where you came from. Nowadays, choosing what genre of music you’re into, it’s like buying a hat. You could choose a fedora, or a beanie, or a 10-gallon country hat, but if you buy a country hat, it doesn’t mean you’re a rancher.”
It’s clear that Ditch has a broad sense of self. With many different tastes and looks to the staff and the customer base, with so many sections of music: used and new, classic, evocative, retro, hip, weird, eccentric, progressive; Ditch is the place for everyone.