Piles of empty CD cases lie scattered across the floor in what once was the Horsefair branch of Fopp. Meanwhile, across town, custom
ers drink coffee in Whiteladies Road, where another Fopp used to be and browse through the latest trendy jeans in Park Street where they once browsed through the latest album releases.
Only a few years ago, there were more than five independent record shops in Park Street for music fans to choose from, now none remain since Fopp went into administration in June. Chris Farrell used to work at Replay in Park Street. He now works at Big Bob's Discount Discs in East Street, Bedminster, and these days hardly ever ventures over to where he once worked alongside other gone-but-not-forgotten record shops such as Imperial and Rayners.
He blames the high rents and change in people's music-buying habits as the reason for so many music shops in Bristol shutting down. "There used to be a real community spirit in all the record shops in Park Street," said Chris, 26, in between serving custom
ers. "Now, you can have a hundred cafes, but if there is nothing on the road for people to go to, they are not going to stop at a cafe and drink coffee. There's nothing up there now, nothing up there for people like me.
"I think it's very sad. On Park Street, people used to ask us what's going on. People would meet up in the shop. There were fans of music beyond the bits of plastic they were selling. That was and is still very important." Chris, who is also a DJ and estimates he owns more than 3,000 records, remembers a time when people would drop into the music stores in Park Street just for a chat.
The independent stores across the city still have this community feel, but now mostly sell secondhand vinyl records to music fans who still love the feel, smell and sound of music on that format, as opposed to MP3 downloads played on your iPod. Oppo set itself up as a cafe-cum- record shop when it opened in Park Street in 2005, but earlier this year its new owners ripped out the small music section to create more stage space for live acts.
"The music section was a nice idea, but it did not really work," said Oppo general manager Luke Houghton, 21. "I never used to see anyone buy any music here. Now we have got a bigger stage and it's all going really well. It's a great place for live bands to play." While Park Street is now bereft of music stores, the Cheltenham and Gloucester Road areas have quite a selection. Only a few doors down from Plastic Wax is Rooted Records, and further up the Gloucester Road is Prime Cuts.
Chris Gumbleton, 22, of Rooted Records, thinks that his is the only independent store in Bristol selling new releases. Today, chart albums are stocked everywhere from Asda to Woolworths, and places like Rooted specialise in niche genres like drum and bass and the emerging dubstep scene.
"Gloucester Road is a great place to be," said Chris. "A lot of people around here like to shop locally. Most of the shops in Gloucester Road are still independent ones. "The closure of all the record stores on Park Street is a big shame. I think in part it's to do with downloads. But we're still doing all right here. We are into our music here, we have got quite a lot of regulars who we can recommend stuff too and that's what you lose with downloads.
"Dubstep is one of the reasons why we are still here. We have got a very healthy scene in Bristol. People making music can inspire and influence other people. And there are lots of nights that people can go to that we sell tickets for." The Bristol music scene is still healthy. Just a look at the Evening Post's listings pages shows how many bands play here every night of the week.
Virgin Megastore may soon be consigned to a distant memory and Fopp is no more, but independent record stores still serve a vital purpose in introducing people to fresh, new music, often on vinyl and free of corporate constraints.
That needs to continue, unless we want only to see music for sale next to the fruit and veg in supermarkets.