If you walk down Bleecker Street between Avenue of the Americas and MacDougal Street you will find a small storefront filled with bins of vinyl records, CDs and DVDs. It is the Village Music World, a music store owned by Jamal AlNasr.
Inside, behind the counter, AlNasr, 44, oversees his kingdom; a long, narrow space where each wall is packed floor to ceiling with a variety of music genres. AlNasr rummages through his collection and fills the space with rhythmic guitars and drums coming out the speakers, he loves rock n’ roll. He recalls that the first thing he sold was a Rolling Stones album.
AlNasr got into the business by pure pleasure. 26 years ago this Lebanese immigrant decided to trade with what he likes the most, music records. “The key is you got to like what you do,” he says. “But you have to do a lot. I’m online, I’m a vendor on Amazon, etc.”
In an increasingly digital society, where downloading music has become the rule, music stores are a tale from the old days. But although hundreds have disappeared, the Village Music World is still in business thanks to music collectors and vinyl aficionados.
AlNasr, standing in the back of his store is casually dressed; he has salt and pepper short hair and a stocky build. Friendly and helpful to his costumers, he lets them explore aisles of records and is ready to help find what you are looking for and offers great recommendations.
Although some consider the Village Music World is an overpriced store, AlNasr has maintained it as one of the fewer places where fans can have a physical music-buying experience in New York City. “You have to be really creative to maintain yourself in this kind of business,” he says.
Almost any commercial business nowadays -whether is a shop, café, restaurant or even grocery store- use music to create an ambience, to lure costumers and generate a mood that mirrors the business culture. But music is not only a decorative artifact, it represents hours of work and hundreds of people involved in making it.
“Regardless of industry everybody should be paid for the work they do,” said jazz trumpet player and composer Nadje Noordhuis. To guarantee that artistic work is respected the U.S. Copyright Act was created. This law, which protects music, provides monetary rights to copyright owners when their music is used.
Businesses are required to have a license to play music the same way you pay to use a cd from your favorite artist; however with new technologies things have changed.
“Internet is an intangible situation where writers and publisher are losing money,” said Johnny Allen, blues and R&B guitar player.
Songwriters, composers and music publishers usually become members of a performing rights organization that license their music to the public. In America the American, Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcasts Music, Inc. (BMI) or the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers make sure to repay royalties to their owners. Nevertheless, in a world increasingly digital, keeping track of how people consume music is not easy anymore.
The U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress recently announced the beginning of a new Music Licensing Study to help Congress review the U.S. Copyright Act 17 U.S.C. 101. The aim is to “evaluate the effectiveness of existing methods of licensing music.” Every person interested in this discussion can submit written comments before May 16 to www.copyright.gov/docs/musiclicensingstudy/
“Hopefully whatever they decide is going to still allow composers to be paid for their time and effort,” said Noordhuis. “I just hope the business people can represent the composers in a way that is fair.”
At 6 a.m. on March 12, Ufuk Bekiroglu started to set up his vegetables and fruit street stand at East 116th Street and Lexington Avenue. He had just arrived from Hunts Point Market in the Bronx where he stokes for the day. Everything was normal, early costumers buying fruits for breakfast and commuters waiting for MTA buses. At 9:30 a.m. Bekiroglu, 42, was selling a 25-cent banana to a customer when they both heard an explosion.
“I was giving her change,” said Bekiroglu. “Then I heard something, I turned right and there was fire, smoke and a lot of windows and building stuff that blew up.”
Bekiroglu thought it was a train accident; the grey almost white smoke went downtown with the wind.
A block and a half from his stand, two buildings had collapsed to the ground due to an explosion caused by a gas leak. One of the buildings, 1646 Park Ave, housed Absolute Piano, a store on the first floor that sold new and refurbished pianos. The shop also rented pianos, tuned and repaired them. The five-story building, owned by Kaoru Muramatsu who also managed the shop, was completely destroyed and Absolute Piano vanished into a pile of rubble, along with all of its pianos.