Independent record shops say they are open for business

Tom Butchart outside Sound It Out in Stockton
Image caption Sound It Out owner Tom Butchart says customers appreciate the "personal touch"

On a cold Wednesday morning, Sound It Out Records owner Tom Butchart is playing what he describes as some "biker psychedelic rock".

Independent shops have found themselves in the spotlight in the wake of HMV entering administration.

Pundits have worried aloud where music fans would browse the shelves and find their new favourite bands as hundreds of stores were put at risk.

Tucked away in a back street in Stockton-on-Tees, Sound It Out was named Best Independent Retailer last year by Music Week, the music industry's specialist publication.

Mr Butchart prides himself on his relationship with a loyal customer base, with the ages of his regulars ranging "from 10 to 65".

And he knows exactly who he can tempt with a little "biker psychedelic rock".

'Personal touch'

He says: "The album is from 1998 and I thought, 'who could buy this?'

"I know a lot of the customers and as soon this man he walked in, I played it, he asked what it was and then bought it. I know what people like."

Image caption Mr Butchart says the internet has had many positives for his business

HMV was the last remaining high street chain but Mr Butchart believes independents are well poised to satisfy demand.

"We're passionate, we're into music and we can speak to customers," he says. "It's that personal touch that they didn't have towards the end at HMV.

"You don't get a personal touch on the internet and there's only so much that Amazon can recommend."

He added: "I spent my youth in HMV. I would spend my pocket money in there and even when I was an apprentice, I would get my money for the week and go there on a Monday morning and buy the new releases."

Vinyl resurgence

Mr Butchart says the chain lost its way. "HMV used to be a record shop and then they turned it into a hi-fi shop," he says.

"I went into one recently and it had turned into another supermarket. I was struggling to find anything."

At Beatdown Records in Newcastle, staff will do all they can to order in records or CDs customers are having difficulty putting their hands on.

Phil Donley helped take over the business six years ago and says trade has been steady ever since.

"The CD market was already in decline but we do a lot of second hand as well as new stuff and vinyl is definitely doing a lot better.

"People are less inclined to buy CDs now and kids starting to buy their own music are going for vinyl. What we've lost in CD sales, we've made up in vinyl."

Image caption The shelves of Sound It Out are often surrounded by gig-goers when live acts come to play

Back down the A19 in Stockton, Sound It Out hosts regular gigs by local bands and was proud to welcome Maximo Park and The Futureheads last year.

The store also found itself on television when a shortened version of local filmmaker Jeanie Finlay's documentary went out on BBC Four.

"I love going into Sound It Out records and coming out with something I didn't know I wanted in the first place," she says.

"You don't get that experience pressing 'click' on a website. Record shops are important and that's why I made the film."

Mr Butchart believes independent stores have a future and does not necessarily agree that the internet is all bad news for music shops.

He says: "People come in here who haven't got much money and they say I'm going to download it and 90% of the time they come back and buy the physical product.

"They are trying before they buy. In a lot of ways the internet is good for business. It gives us a chance to listen to new music before we buy it.

"I use Spotify and YouTube and I don't have to hear the record label hype."

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