Rafael Viera & the Approaching End of Music Stores


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It’s no secret music stores are disappearing, and the passing of Don Rafael Viera seems to add another nail to the coffin.

Don Rafael Viera started Viera Discos, one of the iconic music stores in Santurce, Puerto Rico. During the 70’s the “calle Cerra” (Cerra Street) in Santurce could’ve been called the vinyl district. There were several music stores in the street, and musicians were a common sight there.

Rafael Viera & Music Stores

Music stores, like Viera Discos, were vital parts of Latin music. The obvious thing is that they sold music, be that in LP’s, 8-tracks, cassettes or CDs.

Rafael Viera's Discos Viera in Puerto Rico
Viera Discos in Santurce Puerto Rico was a great place to find, music, books on music, and a great conversation.

The not so obvious contribution was their breeding ground for Latin music enthusiasts. With the great knowledge of their storeowners, people like Rafael Viera (in Puerto Rico), Mike Amadeo (in New York) and others get customers engaged with their music knowledge transforming them from simple customers into avid fans.

Don Rafael Viera was a very humble man, who treated every customer like family. He listened and observed what you liked, and respectfully made recommendations of other recordings that could be of your liking.

Streaming Services AI Won’t Match Music Store Owners

Music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc., can provide music recommendations based on what you have listened. They have AI algorithms that can make recommendations based on what you’ve played.

These AI algorithms are getting better, but I believe they can approach but will never replace the interaction you used to have with music store owners.

More on Music Stores

Viera Discos had to close its doors in 2016. I enjoyed going to their last locale in Santurce, where I could talk to Don Rafael, his son Richie, or join in a conversation with the musicians that frequently visited there.

As music stores continue to disappear, we are losing an integral social component of the music experience. I wish, although I doubt, that online forums and groups in Facebook, Yahoo, or any other social platform could make up for these lost physical music “cathedrals”.

But as we adapt to current times, we’ll need to find a way to keep the music conversation alive.

Here are two related links to this blog topic.

Rafael Viera news clip in El Vocero (Puerto Rico newspaper)

Casa Amadeo: Latino Music Café blog based on article (linked)

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  1. […] Here’s Latino Music Café’s tribute to don Rafael Viera. […]

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