Record shops allow a space for music lovers to find community

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Rodrigo Hernandez, Staff Writer

Rodrigo Hernandez

Rodrigo Hernandez

When I place a record on a turntable and the soft static begins to play through my speakers, I let my mind drift and begin reflecting on the role music has played in my life.

My family instilled a love of music in me at a very young age. 

My father played classical music and began taking me to concerts when I was three. He would pull out his old acoustic guitar and play trios and mariachi, while my mother would play cumbia and reggaeton.

For as long as I can remember music was a form of expression. It was my love language.

My love affair with vinyl records, however, did not begin until October of 2017, when I purchased “Joy Division – Roots (Live at the Roots Club)” at Just Play Music. 

At 16, I became interested in collecting vinyl after having a conversation about high-quality sound and audiophile equipment with my cousin Emilio.

I began collecting a few records here and there before my father bought me a turntable as an early birthday gift months later. 

As my vinyl collection grew, so did the equipment I used, and I would frequently spend my time at Just Play Music. 

Music stores allow audiophiles and casual listeners alike to have a space where they can appreciate music and find new artists. A space like that is something a community should value and appreciate.

Growing up in Santa Barbara, Just Play Music was one of the stores that always caught my eye when I would go out to State Street with friends or family. 

The store’s bright and colorful storefront, displaying a disco ball, lights, t-shirts and turntables acted as a beacon for music lovers.

The first time I walked in at around 11 years old, I gazed around at the different band posters and art prints that hung on the black walls, no space wasted. The cashier’s station stood next to a tall and brightly lit glass display of pins, buttons, picks and pieces of music memorabilia.

Later in 2018, after Just Play Music had permanently closed its doors, I discovered Warbler, the only remaining record store in Santa Barbara.

The store uses every open area to display its records, CDs and tapes, and even has a listening station, one of the things Just Play Music lacked. There is also a custom-made shelf for cassettes that hangs off of the bathroom door.

Collecting records expanded my taste and appreciation for international music, like Italian classics from the 40s, and jazz standards, as well as underground hip-hop releases from the late 80s and early 90s. In today’s digital age, music is so easily and readily accessible that it makes more sense to stream than to collect. 

However, there is something special about the experience of physically going to the store, browsing the racks of records and tapes and talking to fellow music-lovers that should be appreciated and supported. 

Playing vinyl on a high-quality turntable allows for the music to have a warmth and experience that digital takes away.

It is a comforting experience and passionate hobby to many, and though digital streaming reigns supreme, there is still a passionate base of vinyl devotees that keep record collecting alive.

As record stores close their doors left and right, music lovers lose out on an opportunity to expand their horizons and find a community.