The fuss made over John Maus’ comments on Pitchfork about his support/non-support of record stores and Jay-Z and Kanye’s new partnership with iTunes and Best Buy regarding exclusive pre-orders of Watch the Throne gives particular weight to an article Digital Music News ran on Tuesday dissecting what portion of album sales came from indie brick-and-mortar stores last year versus digital outlets and the Walmarts, Best Buys and Targets of the world. It’s not good news for the little guys, obviously: Indie retailers accounted for just eight percent of all music sales in 2010. That’s compared to 56 percent by Walmart and the other mega-chains and 26 percent from iTunes, Amazon and other outlets offering digital downloads (the remaining 7 percent comes from online purchases of actual CDs).
It’s not surprising news by any means, but, sheesh, eight percent. While indie stores saw more vinyl sales than any of the other retailers — a whopping 71 percent — it’s a mere ripple in the scheme of an already damaged industry. While I realize it’s a moot point nowadays, the idea being that a person spending any amount of money on music should to be commended, hopefully the numbers will make us think twice before bypassing one of the city’s last-standing brick-and-mortar shops for a cheap download or sale at Walmart. Since now I have you feeling sad, take a look at a sobering photo collection of closed record stores around the world. Add salt to the wound to drive home a point, right? Just imagine Sarah McLachlan playing in the background.