Some purchase records for their vintage value
Tucked away in Public Utility Building on M.G Road is Rams Musique, packed to the roof with vintage vinyl records, cassettes, CDs and DVDs of almost every music genre. But most of these cassettes and vinyls remain untouched.
With the increasing popularity of streaming services like Spotify, Netflix and YouTube, the business of CDs, DVDs and cassette tapes is almost dead.
Ramachandran, the owner of Rams Musique, informed told The Observer: “I started this store almost 42 years ago. At that time I started by selling cassettes. Then CDs became a trend, then DVDs came and mp3s came. I have entertained almost three generations of people with music in different forms, but now all that… is over.”
In the past decade, the audio-video industry was hit severely as people moved on to smartphones and online streaming services that allow one to access unlimited music, films and TV shows for free or for a minimal subscription.
“All CD/DVD stores started closing down one by one somewhere around 2010, including Planet M stores. I did not leave the business because of my passion for music. By that time, I had made enough money, so it did not matter whether the industry was dying,” Ramachandran added.
Ram’s Musique is one of the few surviving stores of their kind in Bengaluru today.
Shreya Gosain, 21, a college student in Bengaluru, said: “I still remember the last time I saw a DVD store was when I was in the eighth standard, somewhere around 2012. I haven’t seen any stores since then. Earlier, my mom used to have a whole collection of cassettes and CDs at home, but now she has started listening to music on her phone. I think it is much easier and affordable.”
Most CD/DVD store owners have either closed down their businesses or shifted to other businesses.
S. Ramu, the owner of Sai Ram Music World in Domlur, said: “For the past seven or eight years, business has been completely dead. We get no customers, there are no sales. I have stopped renewing the collection for my store. The only stock we have is that we purchased eight years ago. Now I have shifted to the mobile phones and recharge business.”
Ramu had started his business back in 2001 when there used to be many such stores in Bengaluru. “There are not many audio stores now; all of them have closed down due to low sales in the past decade,” he added.
The way people listen to music and watch movies has changed altogether.
Tarun Singh, another college student, shared: “When I was a kid, we used to get DVDs of almost all the new films and watch them at home. Sometimes we even got pirated films as the new ones hadn’t been released yet. But then the Internet came… and we started downloading films from torrents. Now there is no need to buy or rent DVDs as there are so many online streaming services where movies become available only a few weeks after their release.”
It isn’t only the entertainment forms that have changed over the years. There used to be a huge demand for DVDs and CDs for educational purposes, too, but now that has died too.
Shefali Yadav, a professor of Indian classical music, said: “Until a few years ago, we used to get cassette tapes and CDs of various Indian artists for demonstrations and presentations in colleges. But now everything is available on YouTube, and students are more comfortable watching videos online as they can access them any time later.”
However, with online streaming services becoming popular, cassettes and vinyl records have gained a vintage value.
Ramachandran said: “I have a collection of vinyls and cassettes worth almost Rs 1 crore. In recent years, people have started buying vinyls as they have a vintage value. People give each other vinyl records and cassettes as gifts nowadays. So I think the business has started to take off again in past years.…”
There are not many people who own gramophones or record players. Most of those who have these use them for decorative purposes.
Sourav Chunder, a vinyl enthusiast, said: “One thing that I have been blessed with is my gramophone. It has been in my family for very long, and we still use it. I still buy vinyl records, though they are hard to find. You usually find them in very small stores or street vendors. However, I was surprised to discover that there are vinyls for modern Bollywood music as well. I once saw a record of songs from the movie 3 Idiots. They still manufacture them in Mumbai.”
“Most people collect vinyls for decorative purposes only these days. They come in different sound qualities for the same purpose,” he added
Spotify, a popular music streaming service launched in India three years ago, has gained a huge audience. According to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2020 report, India has 57.6 million monthly Spotify listeners.