In addition to buying books, one of the joys of visiting Kuala Lumpur — at least for me — is browsing the CD bins in the various music shops around town. Unlike in Bangkok, where CD shops with a decent selection of titles are becoming very scarce, KL boasts dozens of well-stocked shops, most of them located in shopping malls in Central KL or nearby Petaling Jaya.
The best chain in operation, by far, is Rock Corner. They have branches at KLCC (next to the famous Petronas Twin Towers), Mid Valley Mega Mall, Bangsar Village, The Curve, 1 Utama Shopping Center, The Gardens, and Subang Parade. I’ve visited six of these branches over the past three years and they all are very well stocked, but my favorite is the one in Bangsar Village. It’s only a short walk from the Bangsar LRT station, the woman who manages the shop is very pleasant (and she plays good music, unlike the heavy metal dudes in some branches), and most importantly it has the best selection. They seem to be particularly on top of most important new releases, plus the back catalog they stock runs very deep, putting the woeful selection in Bangkok shops to shame.
Thus, you can safely assume that I get a bit carried away when shopping at the Rock Corner stores, sometimes buying a dozen or more discs at a time. When I visited earlier this month, I found lots of new releases that were on my want list at the Bangsar branch, along with some cool unexpected oldies, titles I assumed that I’d have to order online if I wanted them. Because of the haphazard filing system, artists aren’t always where you would expect them to be, so I’ve discovered, it pays to thumb through the entire stock. It can be a tiring process, especially when they shelve the CDs with the spine out, like you see some bookshops do with paperbacks, but I’ve found some real jewels by being persistent.
Another smaller chain, Victoria Music, has branches worth visiting in the Amcorp Mall and BB Plaza. There is also a single Tower Records outlet still in business, recently relocated to the Times Square shopping center. But sadly, it looks like this Tower branch is running on fumes and may not be around too much longer. Their stock keeps shrinking and so has the number of employees. When I dropped by on a Saturday evening, only one guy was working. Nevertheless, I managed to find a half-dozen CDs amidst their dregs. But both Rock Corner and Victoria Music appear to be doing thriving business, judging from the number of customers that I see in their stores each time I visit. It puzzles me that KL has so many good CD shops, while in Bangkok it’s become very difficult to find a store with any depth in selection.
I realize that more people are downloading music nowadays, but for me nothing beats the experience of perusing the selections in a well-stocked shop and talking music with a knowledgeable clerk. More power to retail, I say. I hope these stores can survive the digital onslaught and continue to profitably run their operations. If you enjoy buying CDs, even half as much as I do, it’s worth your while to visit Kuala Lumpur, especially the Rock Corner branches.