As most of America’s consumer base has migrated online, local retailers have been strained even before the outbreak of COVID-19 forced temporary closures. Companies like Amazon and Walmart became juggernauts while mom and pop establishments felt the economic squeeze as these big box stores offered low prices that local retailers couldn’t compete with. Though it’s not the loss of the retailers that’s the issue, it’s the loss of connection and community that local stores provided. From independent records stores to boutiques, hardware stores, and even cafes and restaurants, all of the local businesses were part of what gave a community vibrancy and character.
Now, as the economic impact of the pandemic forces shuttering across the nation, many of the smaller, local shops weren’t prepared to go months without generating revenue and are being forced to close permanently. This loss will be felt for years to come as local communities lose these valuable meeting places.
One of the most iconic stores of many musicians’ youth was the local music shop. Maybe that’s where they got their first lessons or instrument and made friends with like-minded peers, forming first bands or lasting relationships. But with more gear being sold through online retailers like Guitar Center, Sweetwater, American Musical Supply, and Amazon those connections, and that sense of community is being lost.
Local music shops were a focal point for many underground music scenes, and they’ve already been fading away as online retailers sucked up market share, but the acceleration caused by the coronavirus pandemic could be the final nail in the coffin for what was such a treasured space and essential part of many musicians legacy. Brick and mortar music shops can’t compete with the race to the bottom with the overhead costs associated with running a store, and sadly we may be in the last days of having any locally owned and operated music shops.