For years Gaslight Music on Bourke Street in Melbourne was the place to shop for music. They had a great range and very knowledgeable staff. Last week they closed as the burden of slow sales and tougher competition took their toll.
Gaslight did more than sell music. They introduces people to music. They led music lovers into a broadening of their music interests. They sold genres. They gave local bands a go. They carried a cultural baton which now falls to the ground. Virgin, HMS, Sanity and the other clone stores don’t know about the cultural baton let alone how to pass it on. Their interest is in music which sells, music on the radio, as opposed to music with deeper roots, carrying blood and full of emotion.
It was good to spend an hour browsing the Gaslight racks every so often looking for CDs you couldn’t find elsewhere. It was great to wander their aisles, taking in the diverse patrons sharing the space with you. A more diverse crowd in Melbourne you could not find.
While the death of Gaslight was covered in a story in The Age, it received little attention elsewhere. Do we care about iconic independent businesses closing? It would seem not. Does this mean the clones have won? I hope not.
We need stores like Gaslight, in all retail fields. Clone stores, chain stores, mean less choice. Less choice means a dilution of our culture and that’s good for no one except the shareholders in the clone store businesses.