Record Stores & Other Vanishing Day Jobs for Musicians

Once upon a time there were record stores in every city and town throughout the world.

Alas, there now exist only a handful. Which presents a problem for the musician types who used to enjoy the record store as a great day job.

Come join us for a few chapters of the novel non-Hollywood dealing with this dilemma from the viewpoint of one particular (and hyperactive) musician.

Scroll down to check out author Neal A. Yeager reading a few humorous chapters from his novel dealing with record stores and other vanishing day jobs for musicians.

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No More Record Stores

Chapter 16: No More Record Stores

“I deserve to be famous, dammit. And one day,” said Sean with his arms spread dramatically, “One day I will be a rock star and my records will line these walls.”

His co-worker Jose looked up from what he was reading and with a bored expression countered, “These walls? These walls aren’t gonna be lined with records, period, for much longer.”

“Oh man, don’t believe that stuff,” Sean replied as he, for no apparent reason, vaulted over the front counter… and crashed into the stool which was behind the cash register.

Behind the counter was his black Strat in its case. After repositioning the toppled stool Sean pulled the guitar out and began strumming away, the unamplified strings making a tinny sound beneath his fingertips. He continued, “Yeah, we’ve taken hits but there’ll always be record stores, dude. Always. ”

“Taken hits? There are like 10 record stores left in all of California. I'm sorry to break this to you but we belong to a dying profession.”

“Oh, you’re crazy. And besides, it ain't my profession. It's my job."

"Right, you're going to be a rock star."

"Damn right."

Jose shook his head and turned his attention back toward his reading.

But Sean wasn't about to let Jose get away that easily. Sean pointed a finger toward Jose and said, "There will always be record stores. And besides, aren't you the one who's always saying that vinyl's better? That it’s making a comeback?”

Jose simply shrugged him off and went back to what he had been reading.

Sean continued, “Well, mp3s are better anyway.”

"Are you kidding me?," Jose wailed, taking the bait, "Mp3s? Vinyl is better! A lot better. Fifty times better than that online digital crap that's been compressed to death. For a hundred years sound quality kept getting better and better and then the web comes along and now everything sounds like shit!"

“Why?” asked Sean, knowing the answer full-well but wanting to egg Jose on.

“Why? Because when the web came along they had to compress the audio files so that they would be small enough to stream. Your mp3s are about one tenth of the file size of CD audio so of course the sound is about one tenth as good. The mind-boggling thing is that people put up with it! Just because it’s easier, they put up with their music sounding like shit. Too much trouble to buy a CD. And then good vinyl sounds even better than a CD any day.”

"And that," said Sean with a smile, "is why this place is still here!"

“No,” said Jose, "We're still here because of that room," as he pointed to a doorway, draped in black curtains, that led to the blacklight-lit area where the record store owner ran a head shop.

Jose continued, "And him selling pot is not going to fend off the inevitable forever. Record stores are dead."

Sean shook his head. "You're wrong. Record stores are forever, man."

Jose just shook his head and turned away from Sean. Sean said, "Hey, did I tell you that I've got 150,000 followers?"

Jose rolled his eyes and said sarcastically, "Well, good for you. And add that to all of those connections you're making here in L.A. and you're nearly famous already."

"I’m working on it And I do have some connections," said Sean

"You know one 80-year-old hack screenwriter who you met in a bar."

“Yeah, we met in a bar. But he's not 80. And he ain't a hack. He's an artist. The guy stepped away from the business for, like, artistic, spiritual reasons… He’s like this mysterious guru-type guy who doesn’t write any more. He’s like that guy J.D. What’s-his-name.”

“Salinger. J.D. Salinger.”

“Yeah that dude.”

Jose took a deep breath and then said, “Uh, no. Because, you see, people wanted Salinger to keep writing. No one cares about this guy.”

Sean laughed incredulously, “His scripts were made into movies. Have you met anybody who can say that? Anybody in your acting class? Anybody in those seminars you always go to?”

Jose replied, “The guy wrote crappy, low-budget, barely watchable B-movies in the 1970s. I looked him up on IMDB. His credits are crap and now he's flashing you a script that apparently didn’t even live up to those standards because it was never even produced. And you're impressed?”

Sean shook his head and smirked, “Jose. Jose. Jose. You don't understand, dude. That script was too good for the studio guys. It was like that album that Brian Wilson was working on that was, like, the perfect album but he never finished it because he cracked up and then went on the space shuttle or something. But the album was genius. But nobody got to hear it. It's like that.”

“I think you've got the Brian Wilson story kind of screwed up there” said Jose, who then tried to walk away from the conversation.

But Sean was having none of that. He followed Jose and continued, “But you got me off-track. The script ain’t the point. The point is that one way or another I’m gonna make it, dude. You see, I know — I know for a friggin’ well-known fact that you just gotta meet that one right person and then Blam! You’re off. That’s all it takes, man. And when I make it I will buy this crappy little store because it’ll still be here because record stores will still be here."

Jose continued his reading, obviously attempting to ignore Sean.

Sean sighed and just looked at Jose. Look at him, Sean thought, Just sitting there reading those stupid…

“What are you reading?” Sean asked. “Are you reading those casting notices again?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“‘Worry?' I’m not worried. But you spend all that time looking through those things and then you never do a damned thing about it. You talk about acting. But do you ever go to these auditions? Do you ever do any friggin’ thing?”

“I’m honing my craft,” Jose replied.

“Honing your craft? What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I’m honing my craft. I’m going to classes. I’m learning. I’m perfecting….”

“Dude, if you’re only acting in acting class, you're not 'honing,' you’re just… jerking off. Stop masturbating and get out there and get laid for real!”

Jose got up, annoyed, and walked away from Sean and into the back room.

Sean called after him, “They’ve got a word for guys like you Jose. You know what that word is? You’re a Wannabe! A Wannabe, Jose!”

Sean listened for a reply. But apparently his co-worker was not taking the bait this time. All Sean heard was silence.

“I’m not a Wannabe,” Sean said confidently, “Not Wannabe. I Am! I. Am."


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sean.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 19 ]

The last gasp of record stores and what happens next

Like many musicians before him, Sean has found that one of the best day jobs for musicians is working in a record store.

Like many before him, yes, but there are not likely to be many more in the future, as the record store is, for the most part, a relic of a bygone era. But while a handful of them still exist, they will continue to hold a definite attraction for musicians.

Of course it makes perfect sense that a musician would be a music fan and that a music fan would actually enjoy working at a record store. Especially an independent record store (which, of course, is really the only kind left). So as one of his multiple jobs, Sean gets to recommend his favorite albums to customers during his working hours.

And he gets to talk about music.

And like a lot of people who work in record stores, Sean's co-worker is a bit of an audiophile and a musical purist. The discussion of audio formats is one that has taken place among many audiophiles and musicians since the advent of the mp3 format in the late 1990s.

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Jamming in F#m

Chapter 19: Jamming in F sharp minor

A guitar and an amp. That’s all you need!” shouted Sean to Paul above the blaring sound of the music as the two jammed: Paul playing lead parts over Sean’s power chords, the sounds blasting out of two small practice amps. It felt so damned good to just play the guitar. Of course he did have a microphone pointed at his amp and feeding into his 4-track recorder. If any magic should happen during this jam it would be recorded and could be used later.

But mainly, today Sean and Paul were just feeling the joy of two musicians playing. And yes, there was a reason that people called it ‘playing.’ They didn’t call it ‘working’ an instrument or ‘operating’ an instrument or ‘controlling the function of’ an instrument. It was ‘playing.’ And it was fun.

Sean leapt into the air, windmilled his right arm and hit a big, distorted F sharp minor chord. Then he let its sustain echo through the tiny apartment.

As the sound of the power chord drifted away, Sean could hear the sound of pounding on his door. “Aw hell,” he said as he looked at the clock on the wall, “it’s three in the afternoon.” He set the guitar back down on its stand and went to answer the door.

He swung the door open and, as he had expected, there stood the apartment manager. She was a woman in her late 20s, and though she seemed generally cool — she was trying to make it as an actress and the apartment manager gig was her ‘day job’ — they’d had more than one discussion about neighbors and noise. She didn’t look too happy as she said, “You’re getting complaints again.”

Sean replied, “Dude, it’s three in the afternoon.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Doesn’t matter? So three in the afternoon is the same as three in the morning? There’s no time when I can be louder than, like, a whisper?”

She replied, “This is a hell of a lot louder than a whisper. And don’t make me the bad guy.”

“You are the bad guy.”

“I’m the building manager is what I am. Now I like you Sean, but I’ve got bosses. And guess what? One of the tenants who is home at three in the afternoon and loves to complain to me also isn’t afraid to get hold of my boss and get me in trouble. I like you, but I don’t like you enough to get fired.”

“Well, you want to talk about noise,” said Sean as he pushed past her and stood on the landing. As he leaned over the railing he saw Icon, the thin girl who helped him digitize his tapes, but he pointed past her to apartment 108 and asked, “what about that damned dog in 108?”

“The damned dog in 108 is the other pain in my ass. And guess what?“

“I don’t know. What?”

“I told the owner of that dog the same thing that I’m telling you: if I keep getting complaints then things are going to get serious. As in ‘kick you out’ serious,” said the apartment manager.

“All right,” Sean said, “All right.”

“Now I like you…”

“Yeah, you said that.”

“… but this is it Sean. Don’t make me come here again.”

“I didn’t make you come here this time.”

“I mean it.”


The apartment manager turned and left. Sean came back into the apartment, closed the door, walked across the room and flipped the power on both amps to ‘off.’ He looked around the room: four musicians living in a studio apartment. There was absolutely no way that they would never get another noise complaint.

Maybe it was time to start looking for a new place.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sean.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 22 ]

The music jam in the small apartment

It's more than just a rehearsal.

More than just practicing.

More than just a tradition.

It is the music jam. And it is something much more than what it may look like to the outsider. More than just a band rehearsal, jamming is more about making a connection. It is a way for musicians to connect on an emotional level. If you don't connect, you can't really jam. That's just the way that it goes.

The problem, of course, is that you have to find the right location for your music jam. And a single apartment in a busy complex may not actually be the best location for this particular activity (maybe the record store would be a better locale? Who knows?)

But as Sean finds out, mixing your place of living with your place of jamming often doesn't work.

But that won't stop him from trying.

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Networking: Part 2

Chapter 22: Networking, Part 2

Again early and alone in the kickboxing studio, Sean began to again recite the phrase which was quickly becoming the musician’s mantra, “I deserve to be famous, dammit,” he said to the room. “I deserve to be famous, dammit. I deserve to be famous, dammit!”

The Malibu folk had yet to start trickling in, leaving him once again as the only voice, the only sound in the room full of punching bags. Headphones on, he listened to his most recent recordings of his most recent songs. Listening to his own music gave him energy. And that energy built and built.

Sean whirled around, attempting a spinning back kick. He missed the bag entirely — the bag: six foot tall and twenty inches wide, and he had missed it — and the momentum of his miss sent him whirling across the floor.

“Lucky nobody saw that,” he said to the empty room as he sat up and clumsily removed his headphones using his boxing-glove-wrapped hands. “Nobody saw that, right?” And there was no reply.

Sean stood and walked out of the studio and into the little gift shop which housed the water fountain. As he bent to drink he noticed a light on in one of the other rooms. These other rooms were small private studios adjacent to the main studio. A light on could only mean that someone was doing some sort of private training.

Sean adopted as casual a stride as he could manage and strolled up to the door, casting what was meant to be a casual glance in the window. He stopped dead in his tracks and muttered, “Holy shhhh! Holy! Holy! Holy!”

Inside the room was one of the trainers, one of the rock-hard guys who looked like maybe he could punch a hole through your torso. But that wasn’t what had caused Sean to react like this. Next to the trainer, on the floor mat and going through a pre-workout stretch was one of the hottest young stars in Hollywood.


Finally, this damned class was going to pay off. Finally, he would meet that one person who could get his career going. Finally, Sean could — oh wait. It suddenly occurred to him that his plan was missing a step. Step 1: Join expensive gym where Hot Young Stars are reputed to work out. Step 2: Befriend said Hot Young Stars. Step 3: Be rich and famous.

But Sean now, for the first time, realized that his plan was maybe missing a few steps. For instance, how to get from Step 1 to Step 2? It was now obvious that there needed to be at least a Step 1a. Maybe up to 1e or 1f. Yet here was an opportunity, the opportunity that he had joined the stupid gym for in the first place. “Grab the bull by the teeth,” he whispered to himself.

He confidently strode forward, grabbed the door handle and swung the door open. Right into his own face.

The two men in the room looked up as Sean stood in the doorway cursing and holding his nose. Sean looked up, recovered himself and then walked, a little less confidently, into the room.

Sean said, “Well, hey there guys. I got here a little early and was looking to maybe spar with… say, I know you.”

Immediately the trainer was on his feet, puffing out his sizable chest to within an inch and a quarter from Sean’s. The trainer said, “This is a private session.”

“Well, yeah,” fumbled Sean, “I mean, of course. Well, why would you do the public thing? Someone like this guy, you want privacy. You want fewer people. And… ya know… privacy.”

The trainer repeated, “Private session,” and pointed toward the doorway.

“Right, right. Private. I was just looking for a little sparring before class. And I saw this dude — didn’t realize who he was at first. I just saw that he was about my size. And well, you’re kind of out of his weight class and, hey, that’s a cool tattoo you’ve got on your neck. Is that a dragon?”

The trainer put his hand on Sean’s chest and started to push him out of the room.

Sean rambled on, “Dragons. Dragons are really cool. Great creatures. Magical and all that.”

“Wait,” said the Hot Young Star. “Wait a second there Ron.”

The trainer stopped pushing Sean, who continued, “I saw this thing on TV that said that there really were these big-assed lizards in China a long time ago and that’s where the whole dragon thing came from. And your name’s Ron? My name’s Sean. Dude, we rhyme!”

The trainer glanced back at the Hot Young Star, who said, “You know, Ron, I actually could use a sparring partner.”

“Whoa. Hold on. Hold on,” said the trainer, “We take sparring pretty seriously here.”

“Me too,” said Sean, “I always… you know… yeah.”

The trainer continued, “That’s why we make everybody sign those releases when they join. We take it seriously. You spar at your own risk.”

Sean pointed his finger at the trainer and said, “Spar with me Ron and it’s at your own risk. Ha ha!”

The Hot Young Star nodded along, “Fantastic. I need a good sparring partner. I really do. I’m tired of just kicking bags and stuntmen. And I’ve signed the release. How much do you charge, Sean?”

Charge? Sean coolly looked back at the Hot Young Star as if the notion of charging for sparring was something he’d seen many times over. Sean looked at the Hot Young Star and said, “For you? Oh, a hundred bucks.”

“Fantastic. Let me get my gloves.”

The Hot Young Star went over to the corner of the room and opened a large designer gym bag. He began pulling out fighting equipment and his wallet, out of which he pulled a one-hundred-dollar bill which he placed atop the bag.

The trainer said to Sean, “You need to get your headgear and mouthpiece.”

“Pshaw!” said Sean, “Those things are for wimps. I’m a natural fighter. All natural, baby!”

“Nobody spars here without headgear and mouthpiece. That’s in the release you signed too.”

“Damn. I guess I should have read that thing. It was just… All that lawyer-speak just for people to be punching each other.”

“Ron,” said the Hot Young Star, “I know you guys sell all the gear. Can you grab whatever he needs and I’ll pay for it?”

Sean said, “You don’t have to do that. I’m cool without.”

“I’ll be right back,” said the trainer, “You two should stretch.”

“Stretched and ready, my man,” said Sean as the trainer exited the room, “I’ve been here a while. I stretched in the other room. And since there wasn’t anyone else there I really stretched out while stretching out. Stretch-o-rama!”

Sean looked back at his soon-to-be sparring partner who was air-punching a right jab, right hook, left hook combination.

Sean said, “So, before we start this, I just wanna say: Dude, ‘big fan.’ Your work is great. I think you’re gonna have a great career. Not that it’s not great already. I mean, it is. That vampire thing you did was top notch. You really, what is it they say? ‘Captured the essence’ there, or at least what I think a vampire’s essence would be. I mean, I’ve never actually met a vampire… Wait… have you?”

“Met a vampire? Actually, I have met a few crazy people who claim that they’re vampires. But I assume they’re lying.”

“Whoa! But if they’re not? Then you’ve actually met a vampire. Met someone who’s, like, dead and sucks blood and all that. That’s something else.”

“Like I said, I don’t actually believe them.”

“But if they are telling the truth… Gives me the shivers. Brrrr.”

The trainer re-entered the room and handed Sean the headgear and mouthpiece. Sean put the equipment on and the sparring began.

The two young men started circling one another. The trainer shadowed behind the Hot Young Star, giving him pointers. “Toes,” he said, “remember to stay on your toes. You’re flat-footed again.”

“Yeah,” said Sean, “Listen to Ron. Keep on your toes or you’ll get kicked. I mean, was Neo ever flat-footed? Listen to Morpheus over there.”

As the two continued circling, the trainer said, “Defense. Remember, defense is your number one…”

And the Hot Young Star swung his right leg out in a remarkably pathetic attempt at a roundhouse kick. Pathetic as it was, it was still enough to make contact with the side of Sean’s thigh.

Sean stumbled sideways awkwardly, nearly falling over.

“Good kick Vampire Boy,” said Sean as he recovered, “I gave you that one. But you won’t get another one in on The Kid.”

The trainer said, “You’ve gotta keep tight. A kick like that one opens you up and leaves you off-balance.”

Sean chimed in, “No, it wasn’t that bad, Ron. Room for improvement definitely, but not bad.”

And the Hot Young Star then came at Sean with two jabs which resembled the jabs of a girl fight on the playground. All that was missing was the hair pulling.

But it was enough. The second jab caught Sean on the chin and he stumbled backward.

“Nice shot,” said Sean.

“Yeah, nice shot,” said the trainer, with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

Sean looked up to see a flurry of flailing punches coming at him. He tried to back away but the punches wouldn’t stop. Several of the punches made contact with Sean’s face and he fell back against the padded floor.

The trainer yelled, “Okay. Okay. Let’s stop right here.”

“What?” said the Hot Young Star.

“We’re stopping,” said the trainer.

“Why?” asked Sean.

“Because you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re going to get hurt.”

Sean objected, “I signed the release. I signed the friggin’ release!”

“Yeah, he signed the release!”

The trainer looked at the two ‘fighters’ and sighed. “All right. But if you, Mr. Release, don’t start protecting your face, I will call this off. You got that?” he yelled at Sean.

“Got it. So sensitive you are,” Sean said. He turned in time to see a glove coming at his face… and the trainer jumping into Sean’s blurred vision, waving his arms and shouting, “We’re done. We’re done.”


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sean.

[ of just skip ahead to Chapter 29 ]

Networking beyond the record store

Career networking is definitely a part of pursuing any career. But for a career in the entertainment industry, your connections are vital. Networking is required.

But how do you go about this task? What is the best approach for, say, a musician who wants to network for their career? After all, the movers and the shakers in the business are not likely to drop by the local record store where the musician works (and if they did, they would likely not be too interested in being pitched to by the musicians involved. So where and how does the aspiring musician get therir networking in.

It can be a tricky question, and sometimes requires a creative approach.

For our musician character Sean, the answer seems to him to be to try to befriend important people in a more personal environment. And environment like, say, the local gym.

At the gym, the executive is not the executive and the star is not the star, each one is just another individual there to get their heart-rate going and their bodies into shape.

But a kickboxing workout? That may be a bit more hazardous than an afternoon in the record store.

Though if you want to be famous, you need to take a few chances.

Record stores and day jobs for musicians