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Local record store icon on how record stores can survive

Saturday - 4/21/2012, 9:26am  ET

AP: aca425e3-cee6-4c59-811d-35f5aed2f171
The logo for Record Store Day is seen on a poster, Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Scarborough, Maine. More than 300 new and specially vinyl records will be on sale on Record Store Day, Saturday, April 21. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- Skip Groff, whose Yesterday and Today Records on Rockville Pike was a gathering place for music fans and musicians from 1977 to 2002, believes human interaction is the key if independent music stores can survive in a world of digital downloads.

On this fifth Record Store Day, musicians and record companies are releasing limited edition material, which can only be purchased at brick and mortar stores.

Groff knows from personal experience the challenges of maintaining a store, in an era where a digital download is only a computer click away.

"Once a person gets into acquiring music that way they're just not interested in hard copies anymore," says Groff.

He now sells music through mail order, on the Yesterday and Today website, eBay, and local music shows.

"Record Store Day is for the person who wants the visual aspect of owning the items, so they can enjoy them on a visual as well as a musical level," says Groff.

While the song itself may be available on iTunes, Amazon, or other digital download sites, the aural aspect doesn't meet a collector's definition of "a record," says Groff.

"Picture sleeves and colored vinyl is an important aspect to those people," Groff said.

According to its website: "A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a stand alone brick and mortar retailer whose main primary business focuses on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50 percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70 percent located in the state of operation. (In other words, we're dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores—not online retailers or corporate behemoths)."

Groff says the challenge is to maintain music buyers' interest.

"The entire concept of Record Store Day is to get people to go into the store, buying things, but they only do it once a year. Record stores in order to survive have to have people coming in year round."

A customer searching for a single song can generally find it online, and purchase it for around a buck.

Groff thinks record collectors are always looking ahead to the next purchase.

"Human interaction is very important. It gets them interested in coming by more often. They get to know you and what you're looking for, and when something comes in, they can tell you," says Groff.

You can find participating Record Store day stores here.

A list of D.C. stores can be found here, Maryland stores can be found here and Virginia stores can be found here.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)