Last Year's Model

It might be the last dance for St. Louis' independent record stores.

But there's little incentive to visit an indie store for downloads — other than to maybe root for the home team. "I don't know why a record store would need to do that when you can download them from iTunes," says a skeptical Darren Snow of Euclid Records. "What would the advantage be? I don't know why somebody would bother going to euclidrecords.com if they could go to iTunes.com."

This sense of futility loomed over the weekend's proceedings — at least for some merchants. Explains Tom Ray: "I felt like I was standing on an iceberg with my fellow polar bears, and they're all telling each other, 'No, you're not doing anything wrong.'"

"It's global warming," adds Lew Prince.

Steve Pick, former general manager of Vintage Vinyl, now mans the register at Euclid Records.
Jennifer Silverberg
Steve Pick, former general manager of Vintage Vinyl, now mans the register at Euclid Records.
Vintage Vinyl's Lew Prince has learned something about major labels: "You have to just assume that everything out of their mouths is either self-serving or a lie."
Jennifer Silverberg
Vintage Vinyl's Lew Prince has learned something about major labels: "You have to just assume that everything out of their mouths is either self-serving or a lie."

Location Info

Map

Vintage Vinyl

6610 Delmar Blvd.
University City, MO 63130

Category: Retail

Region: Delmar/ The Loop


Easy Street Records in Seattle is a music fetishist's wet dream. Customers walking into the shop, which is about the size of Euclid Records, are bombarded with a wondrous display of new tunes. The store is bursting at the seams with the freshest sounds.

There is a row of breakbeat records that sample the best one-liners from Napoleon Dynamite. A display of reissues from the great U.K. label Soul Jazz lines a wall. Recent reviews from Pitchfork.com have been copied and taped to shelves. Old phone booths have been reimagined as listening stations.

The key to success, says Scott Perry, president of Sperry Media, a Los Angeles-based retail consultant, is to create a destination. It's not enough to have a good store with a lot of records. People demand an experience. With so many options, says Perry, record stores need to refine their mission.

"Whether you're purchasing it, streaming it, or downloading it legally or illegally — so many convenient means that the Internet provides — you have to create an environment that draws people in," says Perry.

Shake It Records, explains owner Darren Blase, concentrates much of its energy on music-related ephemera. "Whether it's Japanese toy vinyl designed by American graffiti artists, or Andy Warhol doing the cover of a Velvet Underground record, the lasting effects of the music are sometimes more important," says Blase. "There are more ways to quote-unquote sell music than just selling music."

Blase's store has bucked nearly every market trend in the book. Going against a central tenet of retail theory, Shake It opened in a Cincinnati neighborhood with little foot traffic, figuring it would cater to the most devoted customers rather than uninterested browsers.

"Part of it was getting rid of all those people who have no interest in what we're doing, but just happen to stumble in," says Blase. "By getting rid of them, we can focus on the people that want to be there. They are our fellow travelers in commerce."

Feeding these fellow travelers is, of course, the mission of the record store. But Tom Ray fears that the marketplace is headed toward an inevitable split. "There will be a point at which there will be a customer base for ringtones and downloadable music, and there will be people who, for several reasons, will want and insist on the artifact, the hard copy. And that number will probably dwindle over time."

Ray says he'll stick to LPs and CDs. "We are all object-acquisitive," he explains. "I've got a house full of damn records."

"We are all fetishists," adds Prince, who's gone as far as dispatching fellow store owners to Euclid Records to check out the competition's wares.

"Their reaction to Joe's store was interesting," Prince muses. "They said, 'It's so expensive. I loved it, but I couldn't buy anything.' I said, 'That's because you're not a 50-year-old white guy. But if you had a gold card, and had already got your big car and big house, and your kids are out of college, you could afford that $45 for a '60s reprint.'"

With a tinge of jealousy, Ray joins in: "I wish we could get $45 for a reprint."

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