Jersey - Still Strumming and Rocking After All These Years
It’s a powerful dream that has lured many, but eluded most: to earn your keep in life with nothing but your guitar. It’s what brought Mr. Hector south from his hometown of Orange in 1977, when he joined the Shots, the house band at the Stone Pony; what drove him through the string of other bands in the 1980s and ’90s that almost, but never quite, broke out of the local club scene; and what sustains him still, 14 albums and more than 7,000 gigs later.
“I need to play music — it’s that simple,” said Mr. Hector, whose last regular paycheck was as an equipment tester at a guitar factory in Neptune Township in the early ’80s. “It’s like a calling. My life really hasn’t changed since I was 24. It’s the same goal.”
What has changed, though, is the music business. Record companies, their sales declining, have been paring their rosters, not adding to them, leading more musicians to the conclusion that Mr. Hector reached long ago: that sometimes it’s better to put out your own recordings, and sell them yourself to loyal fans, 3,000 of whom are on his mailing list.
Related: Singing The Blues At Record Stores (pdf)
According to Almighty Music Marketing, approximately 1,400 independent record stores have closed since 2003, leaving 2,300 open nationwide and 25 open in the Washington region. In 2003, 16 independent record stores were open for business in the District; only nine remain.
Thirty-year-old Orpheus Music in Arlington is next on the chopping block. When the store’s lease expired last March, the building broke with Richard Carlisle, Orpheus’s owner, so that a higher-bidding bar could move in. “My business was doing all right until this whole lease thing happened,” Carlisle said. But, he added, “You’ve got to be a niche store to survive anymore. It’s got to be totally indie, or vinyl, or have some clothes.”
Carlisle didn’t leverage the Internet to bolster sales. Conversely, Bill Daly, owner of Crooked Beat in Adams Morgan, realized early on that he needed an Internet operation to maintain a lucrative business. Daly has been doing mail-order sales online since 1998. “Everything in the store is in the process of being listed,” he said. “I have people hired who just come in and do stuff on eBay.”
While the store has already eliminated two CD racks and plans to lose a third, Daly says he sometimes earns three times the market value for items he posts online. The Internet has also expanded his customer base. He has sold vinyl records through eBay to customers in Sweden, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, California and Nevada.