BISMARCK, N.D. _ Today, the music industry is dominated by the digital world. One Bismarck record store is doing its part to change that.
In an age where digital music has emerged as the main source of musical entertainment, Rhythm Records, 212 E. Main Ave., is trying to turn back time and revive physical media.
Living in the time of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora, digital music has become available to people with ease. Physical media once flourished, and music listening prior to the technology boom of the 2000s consisted almost entirely of physical music.
Digital music has slowly spread across the music industry, reducing the use of physical media drastically. Although the popularity of digital music has affected the means of listening to music, Rhythm Records still believes that physical media needs to be preserved.
“(With physical media,) you can hold it in your hands. It’s physically yours, it’s never going to get lost. If your computer goes down, you lose all of your stuff. There’s a gratification of being able to hold something in your hand,” Rhythm Records store owner Robbie Montgomery said.
Vinyl record sales were up 16.3 percent in 2012, with an estimated 3.2 million units sold. CDs have gradually decreased in popularity, falling in sales by 13 percent. Despite the inconveniences that vinyl and CDs may present, its newfound popularity has teens listening to it much more frequently, and getting Rhythm Records’ teenage customers involved in the CD and vinyl scene.
“I think that it (physical media) will always have its place. I would guess that the popularity of records will increase, and the popularity of CDs will decrease,” Montgomery said. “There’s still no comparison to music on vinyl.”
There are benefits to listening to physical media as opposed to digital. Music on vinyl offers the highest sound quality and provides listeners with a more immersive, detailed experience than digital music.
“Get a record player. There’s no way to explain it — it’s fun to just sit down and put a record in,” Montgomery said. “You’re going to experience what the artist wants you to experience on a record.”
One downfall of digital music is in the profits bands receive from the music they release for download. Bands that create and distribute music to online music stores like iTunes receive only 9 cents for every song they sell. When a customer purchases a CD or vinyl, the artist makes up to 25 percent of the profit.
“It supports the bands more directly. The royalties for online music and downloads are pretty absurd. When you buy physical copies of the band’s work, they end up getting more money,” Montgomery said.
Giving Bismarck an independent music store is a tough task for Montgomery, but he enjoys it nonetheless. At Rhythm Records, Montgomery is constantly checking inventory, booking bands and ordering new music to fill the shelves.
“It’s stressful. Yeah, if anyone tells you it’s easy to own a music store, it’s not,” said Montgomery. “It’s fun, but probably the most challenging job I’ve had.”
Along with selling music, Rhythm Records is home to live shows and performances from many various local bands. Open mic nights are held on the first and third Thursday of every month from 7 to 11 p.m. for anyone to perform and attend.
“We’ve actually helped a lot of bands get started in Bismarck,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always wanted to make a comfortable place to sit down and talk about music.”
Rhythm Records still believes that the market for CDs and vinyl is growing. Though society says otherwise, Montgomery still insists on keeping his love alive and preserving music in its purest form.
“The best thing in having a music store in town is having a place where people can bounce ideas off of each other,” said Montgomery. “You get exposed to new things, new ideas. It’s hard to branch out in music taste, and some things will catch you by surprise that you’ll really enjoy.”