The Chronicle’s View: Damn the man, save the record store

“You say you want a revolution/ Well, you know we all want to change the world.”

Unsurprisingly, it was The Beatles who perhaps most appropriately identified the link between the universal appeal of revolution and music’s unrivaled potential for cultural change.

Revolution and rock, rock and revolution-it’s hard to imagine one without the other.

But what happens when a revolution looks to threaten the music? Do the two still make for good bedfellows when the success of one may mean the downfall- or essential mutation-of the fundamental nature of the other?

Such questions are especially compelling in the post-millennium music world, where the digital revolution and the rise of the Internet have not only made access to all kinds of music only a mouse-click away, but also blurred the moral line between convenience and implied consent.

Is the Internet only an innocent means of musical distribution, or is it also a subversive agent of its essential demise?

For listeners who support artists, but loath their corporate backers, illicit Internet downloading is a moral no-brainer-since the majority of money spent on music never makes its way to the artists, why spend it?

However, while seemingly noble, such logic fails to recognize the collateral damage of Internet music downloading (both legal and otherwise): The small-time independent record stores and the music lovers who own them.

It’s counterintuitive to the inherently personal nature of music-in its true, unpolluted form, music is undeniably a means of individual expression-to fail to support local, grass-roots music purveyors. They are, after all, the last of a dying breed in a world so increasingly rife with stiff, impersonal and corporate music conglomerates.

Be it rock and roll, hip hop, dance-pop, electronica, indie or any other permutation, the roots of all musical genres can be traced back to garages, basements, hole-in-the-wall clubs and independent record stores-those places where musicians concerned with making an authentic, unspoiled sound can always be found.

This is now, and always has been, the essence of music-made by people, for people, out of dissatisfaction with the oppressive mechanisms of the dominant status-quo. Music is an art form most acutely understood on the most personal of levels. Music has stirred rebellion, has caused upheaval and has always been the go-to medium for vocalizing social unrest.

It follows that doing something harmful to the last visible symbol of music’s inherent independence-the local record store-is to do something categorically anti-music.

Whether it’s intentional or not, any action that threatens the theoretical sanctity of music is one contrary to the categorical nature of true music. While the Internet is an undeniably convenient, often legitimate, source for acquiring music, the fact remains that there are people out there who need your business more than iTunes, Napster or Limewire does. You may not be able to put your money right in the pocket of the artists you love, but at least you can still support the people who represent the essence of music.

When faced with the moral dilemma of where to get your music-fix, why not think twice about what your actions symbolize, and ask yourself simply, “What would John, Paul, George and Ringo do?”