Across China: Lonely record store plays solo
BEIJING, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Vinyl records, CDs, tapes... In this digital era, these words are seldom heard, but not for An Peng, who has lived his dream of running a record store in Beijing for the past 20 years.
In An's store, some customers are occupied browsing shelves full of CDs and records while some are sitting on a sofa, playing their disk with the phonograph in the store, enjoying the music with their eyes closed.
With the needle of the phonograph slightly slipping on the vinyl record, a melodious classic lingers in the 20-square-meter store, immersing the customers in its notes.
In recent years, streaming music online has exploded in popularity, and it has become rather difficult to find a record store like An's.
An's store, called Cool Music, is located in Dongsi Street, an old street in Beijing's downtown area.
"People seldom come to buy CDs now. They prefer to open music apps on their phones and listen to music that way," An said.
In An's childhood, music was his favorite pastime, and it has always been his dream to open a record store.
In 1999, 23-year-old An started his first record store. "It was the hottest time for the record market," An explained. An's first store, around 500 square meters, opened in Beijing's bustling Dongdan district.
Over the years, An's store has been relocated five times, and ultimately settled down to his current 20-square-meter location in Dongsi Street.
"To a degree, the size of my store reflects the ups and downs of vinyl records," An said.
"There used to be thousands of record stores in Beijing, but now it's only down to a few which still hold on," An recalled.
With an increasing monthly rent, An said frankly that he was unable to make much money from the business. "It's all about passion," he replied when asked about the reason for his perseverance, "I feel a sense of gain when sharing beautiful music with others."
Some say album sales are dying as fast as streaming services are rising. Indeed Best Buy abandoned the sale of humble CDs in its stores in 2018, according to Billboard.
But there is still a loyal group of people that prefer to enjoy music the old-fashioned way.
"The true fans never left," An said, noting some customers have been following his store for 20 years, even coming from outside the area. "Some foreign clients come to me for classic records."
Mr. Ma, a frequent visitor of An's store, has been friends with him for more than 10 years. He comes to the store to enjoy the music every month.
"I was just a high school student when I first set foot in Cool Music. Now I come here sometimes with my teenage son," said Ma, adding that his son is also a music fan.
"It feels different finding a lovable record in the shop from shopping online," said Ma, "Here I can talk and exchange views with An and other music fans. Music binds us together."
"Some say vinyl records will eventually die out and be replaced by digital music, but I don't think so," An said, adding that records offer the purest and most classic form of music for people to enjoy.
According to An, the number of vinyl record consumers has been on the rise in his store, with more and more teenagers discovering the appeal of vinyl.
As for the phenomenon of disappearing record stores, An declared, "It's video stores that have gone, while record stores are still standing." An added that he would continue to run his store, to fuel his passion for music and in pursuit of his dreams.