Always on the playlist

How a few good stores in the city managed to weather the digital storm and continue to stay relevant to music aficionados. Rajiv Arora reports.

music Updated: Jul 30, 2011 01:31 IST
Rajiv Arora
Rajiv Arora
Hindustan Times

Till about three years ago, the music lovers of Delhi were a happy lot. They could walk into any of the various stores, rummage through well-categorised stands awash with audiotapes and compact discs (CDs), seek guidance from a store employee who knew bands, labels and tunes like the back of his hand and come out content with just what they wanted.

But the average music lover soon found in the internet a friend with benefits. The convenience of downloading one’s favourite numbers, legally or otherwise, took over the charm of ‘feeling’ new titles before adding them to one’s collection. As the interest in ‘physical’ music went down, so did sales. The result — and this is no breaking news — was that most of the stores started investing more into other stuff (read iPods, mobile phones etc). Some just gave up. Soon, locating a standalone music store became tougher than finding a parking spot in Greater Kailash market on a Saturday night.

But still there were some that refused to bow down. They may have expanded to include DVDs, Blue-ray Discs and video games to their stock to adapt to the changing market dynamics. But music continues to be at the core of their businesses.

Take the case of Music Festival in MGF Metropolitan Mall, Gurgaon. It was the first store on the first floor of the mall when it started some eight years ago. Though its owner Aman Bajaj is “disenchanted with the plummeting profits” and doesn’t want to sell music in his other stores, he is “attached to music and this store”, and, so, won’t shut shop.

Musicland, with its five stores spread across Delhi and NCR — Saket, Janak Puri, Noida and Vasant Vihar — is by all means the mecca for Delhi’s music junkies. “Today only those music stores can do good business which keep entire collections,” said Prateek Sethi, who has been with the Saket outlet for over ten years. He rubbishes any claim of digital music eating into the CD sales. Laden with CDs, DVDs and LPs —which are making a quick comeback — Musicland still provides as enchanting an experience of buying music as does Radio and Gramophone House (RGH) in Connaught Place, which enjoys a huge patronage.

Though Indian classical music discs dominate RGH’s shelves, there is no dearth of variety both in terms of genres and titles. Rakesh, at the store, feels, “Those who are really into music will continue to buy it [in the tangible form].”

Contrast this with Mercury Audio Video in Khan Market, whose owner Rupesh Butta feels that “middle-aged and elderly alone buy CDs in this day and age”. It maintains a decent collection of new titles and classics, so what if the focus has shifted towards selling iPod, MP3 players and DVDs, as Butta insists that spiritual and classical music CDs form the bulk of their sales.

But it’s one thing to get jittery about profits and another to follow one’s passion come what may. And if all these stores, while bravely weathering the onslaught of digital music, have proved one thing, it is that nothing will ever dissuade music buffs, on either side of a music store, to renounce their first love.

First Published: Jul 30, 2011 00:20 IST