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“Life is sweet” Natalie Merchant assures me, as I sit here. Her warm voice comes out of my speakers, like a friendly pat on the back or a soothing shoulder rub (from someone you actually know).

Natalie doesn’t know I got some sad news tonight. A text message. From my ex. Rather than being some deep reflection on our oft-dysfunctional relationship, it was simply: “So Music is closing down?!?!?!”. It hit me like a strange jolt to the chest. Surely this was some kind of pre-mediated revenge text, a jostling little jibe that couldn’t actually be true. I probed further. He answered back. And seemingly, before I knew it, I was tossing my gym gear aside to get out the front door.

It’s was 8 years ago I moved to Sydney. Wide-eyed. Bushy, highly unfashionable hair – Jimi Hendrix gone wrong. I came from a town called Mullumbimby, via a stint in the “cosmopolitan” outer suburbs of Byron. I was perhaps luckier than some – Byron actually had a number of record stores at the time, which occasionally produced some little gems over the years that would come bedazzle my soul. On the whole though, they were filled with pop, and rock and that strange beast that hadn’t developed fully yet – “indie”. None of which I was averse to. But none of which were “me”.

I walked into So Music the morning after I moved to Newtown. It was my first impulse. Where others would go looking for pubs or cafes or useful things like supermarkets, I went look for the record store. And I found it. Narrow; cluttered; it looked like any record store I had come to know. But what was that playing on the speakers? Lucinda Williams? Surely not. As I walked in, and my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw them. They were all standing there, shy but proud, on the shelves. Patty Griffin. Kathleen Edwards. Mary Gauthier. Dar flamin’ Williams. Natalie Merchant. The ladies that I had hounded my local stores to order in, whom I waited 8-weeks backorder for, had all found a place they belonged. And so had I.

What I’d always loved most about the owners of So Music was they weren’t just retailers. They put music on the shelves that they loved, music that they thought people shouldn’t just buy but needed to hear. They were curators. I trusted their recommendations implicitly. If something was going to change my life, I could count on it being on a shelf, or not too far away. I could never walk past the store without going in. Even if just for 5 minutes, to see what was on the shelves. I’d at times spend near hours in there, just browsing and flicking, making mental notes. On pay days I’d get off a train station early, just for an excuse to walk past and saunter in, apologising to my bank balance in advance. If a partner ever had to go looking for me on King St, they’d know where to find me.

Tonight, I walked into the store for what was undoubtedly the last time. I spotted a copy of Natalie Merchant’s ‘Ophelia’ left remaining amongst the sparse selection of reduced price items that were left. I took it to the counter. We discussed the album as I paid for it, flicking through the booklet, discussing mutual desires for a tour. As my credit card transaction wound up with it’s alien printing sound, I muttered a few clumsy lines, that tried to express why the store was so important to me. How it had helped shape me. I did a terrible job with those lines, thinking there was so much more that could have been said, but hoping they understood anyway. And then I walked out, like those many times before, brown paper bag in hand.

The music industry had changed a lot in the last 8 years. Smaller retailers struggle to survive, consumer consumption and demand has changed, technology has brought with it a new breadth of scope and possibility. We all move with the times. We have to. We change, we adapt. We love the diversity new technology affords us – the exposure to new sounds, new genres, new ways of thinking and constructing ideas around music and the role it plays in our lives. But importantly, we all have a responsibility now. We have a responsibility to blog. We have a responsibility to share. We have a responsibility to annoy the crap out of our friends by posting Youtube clips on Facebook. We have the responsibility to Tweet, and Tumbl, and make playlists.

We have a responsibility to be curators, and share with others the music that will change their lives.

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