Sound it out, directed and presented by Jeanie Finlay is a documentary about the last independent record shop in Tee-side. The last ten years have seen a massive decline in vinyl sales due to the low cost and high quality of digital file formats. This has caused most Indie shops to close. Sound it Out, however is a thriving musical hub within the community, catering for everything from popular genres through to little known Makina and DB Kore. The film introduces us to Tom, the owner of the shop and also some of his regular and not so regular customers in an attempt to discover why Sound it Out is so successful when so many other Indie shops have fallen victim to the changing face of the record industry.
Okay, so nine years ago I worked in an Indie record shop, at the time it was the best job ever. One of my earliest memories is an old 7′ single of Buffalo Soldier wobbling about on this really old turntable warped so badly I could only listen to half of it. I still own that record, in fact I own about 2000 vinyl and have only ever bought 2 CD’s in my life, yet when I saw this film in the brochure I felt a bit sad.
I was sad because the record shop where I used to work isn’t a record shop anymore, because the three of the four independent record shops in the city centre at the time aren’t there anymore, because I haven’t bought any vinyl in at least three years, because after so long treating Itunes as if it were a rabid dog, I made my first purchase a few weeks ago, because my Ortofon stylus has now collected more dust from lack of use than dodgy vinyl. Really, I was sad because I felt like I’d lost something.
I don’t really want to talk about the future, but the truth is that things change. We live in an age where communities are becoming more and more digital. Not many people will pay £7 for a vinyl when they can buy a virtual copy for 70p on the web. It is becoming cheaper and more convenient to shop online instead of going into town or talk to your friends online instead of going to the pub. The truth is our shop like so many others was just a victim of that future.
I don’t really want to talk about society, what I wanted was to understand how this record shop in an area of Tee-side with social and economical issues is continuing to thrive when ours and so many others around us went under. It’s an uncanny feeling to look at a business you have never seen before in an area you have never been to, run by people you have never met, and yet feel so familiar. From the fanatical collectors that will examine the same vinyl racks every other day and tell you when your filing is off, to the people who are sure that you’ll know what they’re looking for if they just whistle it at you for a few more minutes. What I realised was that I had lost something, and I wasn’t just being nostalgic. What I had lost was a sense of community.
I don’t really want to talk about social struggles but it’s fair to say that there are places all over the country that have suffered heavily with unemployment, underinvestment and underdevelopment. You can see how lack of opportunity, especially for the younger people in this film is causing struggle in this area, but they do still have a sense of community. We are introduced to several of the shops regulars throughout the film who invite us into their homes to talk about music, but this film is also a fascinating snapshot of their lives, their obsessions, their beliefs about their selves and their community and also the smaller community that revolves around the shop. Whether this is brought about by their situation, by their love of music and records, by the owner Tom who has taken the time to listen to all 70’000 vinyl it is hard to say, but there is a real sense of community that comes from each of the characters.
Maybe sometimes it’s not such a big deal to message your friend on Facebook instead of going round, maybe it is more convenient to order your shopping online rather than to go to the local shop and I’m honestly not knocking the value of online communities. There is however, something innately human about this film that is grounded in relationships and social interaction that could never have been captured with a script or a studio.
To summarise, in a unique way Sound it Out is not brash, not loud, not arrogant but this film is more Rock’n’Roll than pushing Stonehenge down a hill. I didn’t really want to talk about society, or social struggle or the future, or the economy, or community, or people but to be honest…this film is not really about records.
Sean Carroll is a Technician, Projectionist and Screen Lounge operative at Phoenix square. His interests, when not watching films include and are almost exclusively limited to the realms of improvisational music composition, software design and loud noises.