Still spinning

By Jack Aldane Source:Global Times Published: 2013-4-9 20:53:01


Giving vinyl its due praise at Music Station in Gulou Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Yin
Giving vinyl its due praise at Music Station in Gulou Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Yin
 Giving vinyl its due praise at Music Station in Gulou Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Yin
Giving vinyl its due praise at Music Station in Gulou. Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Yin


With the stereo at the back of the store muted, Indie Music in Gulou feels ready to cave at any moment. Its shoebox interior contains shelves bent with the weight of seven years of accumulated CDs and vinyl. But Indie Music is going stronger than ever as one of Beijing's most reputable record stores, offering everything from Miles Davis to Beijing's latest solo artist Xie Tianxiao.

Ever since black market music in China began to fade, stores like Indie Music and Blue Line Records on Xinjiekou Beidajie, Xicheng district, have acted as a lifeline for music fans. The common conception may be that these shops suffer in a culture that sources much of its music online, but record stores in Beijing remain a sanctuary for those who want to see and touch the music they enjoy.

An annual acknowledgement of those fans falls on International Record Store Day, celebrated April 20 this year, as record store owners, patrons and bands come together to celebrate record store culture. In Beijing, acts supported by independent stores and labels will perform at XP on Di'anmen Xidajie, Xicheng district.

Zhou Yin, 27, owner of Indie Music, says he makes no use of the Internet to dig up fresh earworms for his collection. 

"I don't really listen to MP3s. I have my store and I have my collection at home," he says.

Zhou opened Indie Music while still a student at Beijing University of Technology. The store began as a collection of his own CDs, and kept expanding.

Indie Music now sells limited-edition CDs and vinyl of bands such as the Velvet Underground for around 300 yuan ($48). Handling such items is what makes record store culture valuable to Zhou.

"When I go home and see my CD collection stacked against my wall, it gives me such a rush. I like the art too, the idea behind each cover," he says.

Zhou's earliest memories of buying music in Beijing date back to Indie Music's neighboring store Music Station.

"I used to go there a lot when I was in middle school. They had a great selection back then," he says.

Indie Music will see Beijing instrumentalist duo The Dyne soon added to its racks on April 26, as the band prepares to celebrate its release on Beijing's only vinyl record label, Genjing Records.

Representing Genjing at XP on Record Store Day will be label head Nevin Domer, 32, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, in the US. Genjing Records is relatively new to shelves in Beijing, but Domer believes it will keep the role of physical music relevant to listeners.

"When bands play live shows, vinyl is something people seem to want. It's a collectable item. That's partly why I chose to start the label," he says.

Genjing Records began in 2010, though Domer says he stumbled on Beijing's record store culture in 2005.

"I remember first visiting Rockland in Houhai. The owner there is a hardcore collector. He still sells mixed CDs of local Beijing stuff that keeps changing all the time," he says.

Domer says interaction adds to the significance of purchasing music in physical form.

"I like to see a wall of music in front of me. People debate the quality of different formats, but the main thing is to be able to be in the same place as people who really care about collecting music," he says.

A homegrown music collector, Xiao Rong, frontman of Beijing's Brain Failure, made his first music purchase at Fusheng Records in Gulou.

"Record stores leave people with sacred memories for life. They've kept me and my band going for a long time in Beijing. I owe them all a lot," he says.

Posted in: Music, Metro Beijing

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