'Other Music' Is a Bittersweet Obituary for a Record Store and Its Community

Directed by Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller

Starring Tunde Adebimpe, Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Matt Berninger, Benicio Del Toro, Janeane Garofalo, Ezra Koenig, Stephin Merritt, Jason Schwartzman, Regina Spektor

BY Laura Di GirolamoPublished Apr 16, 2020

These days, it's great to see reminders of how important collective physical spaces are, even if the story of that space is a bittersweet one. Other Music, the legendary New York City record shop catering to indie, world, underground, and anything non-mainstream, shut down in 2016 after 20 years in business due to the ongoing pressures of music digitization. The documentary of the same name follows the Other Music co-founders, staff, and loyal patrons in the weeks before the store's final day, as they ruminate on the store's legacy as an influential hub for independent music.

Although it's not the film's main focus, Other Music touches on the implications of rapidly-growing digital streaming services like Spotify and what they mean, not only for the music industry at large, but for the real music geeks that populate the shop.

The patrons interviewed in Other Music aren't your average enthusiasts — these are people who live and breathe the new music scene, for whom physical media and the tactile nature of records are important. Services like Spotify are less important because these music lovers treasure that sense of collectivity amongst real people who know the landscape as well as they do. Automated, algorithmic suggestions for new music to listen to are meaningless compared to what a clerk at Other Music might suggest.

There's a sense of trust and intimacy amongst store patrons and staff, and Other Music spends a fair amount of time establishing the sense of community the shop built for music nerds and outcasts whose specific hobbies and interests were eschewed by the mainstream, but who felt welcomed and accepted at Other Music.

Other Music isn't looking to make any grand statements about the direction the music industry is heading in. Instead, it's more focused on how niche interests and a hyper-specific set of references and knowledge borne out of passion can bring together a group of people. Nobody loves music as much as the staff and patrons of Other Music, and you can tell by how infectious their enthusiasm is whenever they talk about artists they particularly love, or when they describe the role the store had in promoting the early careers of celebrated indie and experimental artists like Animal Collective and Neutral Milk Hotel. Other Music makes an obvious case for the continued preservation of cherished public spaces that cultivate a sense of belonging amongst likeminded people — and will definitely make you look up a new band or two.
(Factory 25)

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