Dafydd Iwan, musician and owner of Recordiau Sain, offers his opinion on buying locally…
“Local” is a word that is used rather loosely, because if you think about it, everything can be local wherever you happen to be at the time. The corner-shop (if there is one at all) is local, and the supermarket on the outskirts of town is local to that town. If we look at the stuff being sold in the small shop and in the supermarket, it may well be that there is more locally produced stuff in the large store than in the small shop. And possibly the girl at the checkout in the supermarket lives on the next street, and the owner of the small shop has just moved here from a far-away country! But both live locally, and the customers of both shops live locally.
So what are we talking about when we talk about “buying locally”? We are talking really about the local economy in every sense; when we go shopping, and when we spend our money, are we helping the local economy? Or do we, when we spend whatever money we have to spend, buy goods and services that are made or provided from a distance, perhaps online, or travel some distance to have a day of “real shopping”. Of course, as online commerce grows, we all find ourselves being enticed to buy things at a cheaper price that are delivered to our door the next day, but it is worth considering what this is doing to the local economy.
The idea is simple enough in essence, namely ensuring that our money circulates as much as possible in our area, so that we can help create and keep employment, and create and help local producers. When a friend and I started our record company in 1969, we were living in Cardiff. The first decision we made was to move to live in a more Welsh speaking area, and so we moved to Llandwrog. We both wanted to work and bring up our families in an area where people would listen to the recordings that we would be selling. As the company grew, we were able to employ people who would then bring up their own children in a rural Welsh speaking area rather than having to move away to work. We built a recording studio, second to none in Wales, and we saw local Welsh men and women learning new skills as the digital world continued to advance, and we saw young talents developing their music and taking advantage of the new technology.
Of course, in a high-tech world, it is impossible to buy locally all the time, and at one time we had to get our vinyl records pressed at Inverness in Scotland, had to source our CDs in Germany and our ephemera from China. But the goal all the time was to get as much of our material as possible from our local market, or from Wales if it was not possible to buy locally nearby. And the most important thing of all was to employ local people, and diversify products and activities as the opportunity arose, and avoid putting all the eggs in one basket.
With the digital revolution and the internet expanding, there are new challenges to overcome. The CD market is declining rapidly, and shops are struggling to compete. Our hopes now largely depend on the success of Apton, the “streaming” service that will serve every music label in Wales. Any track recorded in Wales can be streamed on Apton, from the website, on IOS and Android, by paying a monthly subscription, and we hope to develop this into a service for smaller cultures all over the world, on a “fair trade” basis, where the artist will receive deserving payment for his work.
Therefore, the great irony is that “buying locally” in the digital world depends on the worldwide web! As one of the great mottos of the late 20th century says: “Think globally, act locally”.