Differentiation has always been the secret weapon of niche marketing and Indy music retailers are increasingly becoming niche players as the big box stores sell more and more music using the same methods that they use to sell toilet paper.
The Lowell, MA Sun recently published ta good series on the struggles of independent record stores. One of the last bastions of real music marketing and discovery, many independent music stores are struggling:
"Record stores, long romanticized as places where audiophiles gather to mine bins of music for hidden gems and flaunt their encyclopedic knowledge of a band or genre, are finding it difficult to survive in a world increasingly dominated by iTunes, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com -- not to mention CD burners and satellite radio."
A somewhat more optimistic view came from Coalition Of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) head Don VanCleave who wrote in last week's newsletter, "...our customers continue to buy good music and it feels like the distance between indie retail and the rest of the business is growing wider by the minute."
For several years now smart music store owners like many of the CIMS stores and Mike Dreese of New England's Newbury Comics chain have been adding more and more lifestyle products, imports, and other hard to find and exclusive items.
It may be hard for those who still dream about gold records on the wall to admit, but a great deal of music is now a niche product and learning to market it as such may be the industry's only hope.