SXSW 2011 Review: SOUND IT OUT
Director: Jeanie Finlay
Thanks to iTunes and the Internet, buying music has never been easier. These days, you can identify and purchase a song while walking down the street and be listening to it moments later. Due to this advance in technology, the world has seen record stores closing their doors in droves over the past few years. Save for one little shop in Northeast England, Sound It Out Records, which continues to survive and provide not only music, but also a safe haven to the residents of Teesside.
SOUND IT OUT tells the story of Tom Butchart, the owner of the shop and a man who clearly loves not just music, but his customers as well. He knows the regulars by name and will go so far as to call certain patrons to let them know when new music he thinks they may like has come in. It is this personal experience that iTunes’ Genius bar or Amazon’s “New For You” lists can never give you – especially when delivered along with “a good crack” from shop owners like Butchart.
Butchart knows where everything in his store is and can impressively locate it even the most obscure title with barely a blink of his eye. Butchart simply wants to get people the music they enjoy. He allows people to set aside records to be purchased later, keeping them off the shelves so no one else can buy them in the meantime. In this volatile landscape for small businesses, particularly those selling music, this would seem suicidal, but Butchart wants to please his customers and that is exactly why they keep coming back.
The reality of what is going on in the world outside the shop is never lost. You can see it pains Butchart to turn away record collections that contain “well loved” and “well played” records because he knows he cannot resell them. Butchart notes that more and more people are coming in to sell their collections and he has to keep turning them away since he is starting to get overstocked and cannot afford to take the collections off people’s hands.
Director Jeanie Finlay captures not only the heart of the shop, but the customers that frequent it. As Finlay profiles a handful of the shop’s regulars, we learn that music and record collections are more than just a hobby; they are what keep these people going. Music is an escape and regardless of your taste or style, this simple love of music is what links all these people together and gives them an invaluable sense of community a computer never could. Just bringing up the idea of losing Sound It Out Records puts fear on these men’s faces in a devastating way that makes you pray that day never comes.
A classic David and Goliath story, SOUND IT OUT shows how this little shop continues to thrive despite all the odds working against it and Butchart never compromises his ideals in order to do so. It is inspiring and comforting to know that there are still people out there who love music and care about those that share in their passion. During a Q&A after a screening of the film, Butchart reassured the audience that Sound It Out Records is still in business and thanks to the film, it does not look like that will be changing anytime soon.