Music store is beating the odds just by staying alWith all the music megastores cropping up these days, it's not easy to keep a small underground music shop open.
One of the oldest and best of these offbeat but personal shops is Hyang Music in Sinchon, founded by Kim Gun-hil in 1992.
Although just a hole in the wall among a plethora of DVD-bangs, noraebangs and cell phone shops, Hyang Music is impossible to miss. The front window is bedecked with dozens of CDs and posters of underground artists. Inside, the walls are covered with electronica, rock and hip-hop disks.
And it's all underground. You can tell by the clientele: Deejays from the nightlife areas around Hongik University and Sinchon hang out at Hyang Music; many use the shop as a base to promote themselves.
The store has had some stiff challenges. One is the rise in MP3 file-sharing programs; another is the proliferation of big book and music stores, such as the Synnara Record outlet in Sinchon, which used to be Tower Records.
Before the financial crisis of 1997-8, a few other underground music shops were also operating in Sinchon. Now Hyang Music is the only one.
Mr. Kim kept the shop alive by consistently marketing underground labels from the United States, Europe and Korea; other underground music shops tried futilely to compete with the former Tower Records by switching to popular music.
Here's the update on Hyang Music: It's still stocking the latest imports in underground hip-hop, rock, electronica and sound tracks. After a purchase of an album that isn't on sale, you get a membership card good for discounts on later purchases.
The shop also has an online store at hyangmusic.com where you can find a wide range of disks and also read comprehensive music reviews.
by Phil Chang