What Makes A Great Record Store?

Most of who have been buying circle shaped pieces of wax long enough have run the full gauntlet of record store clerks, the good the bad and the plain fucking weirdos and everything in between.

However my experience is that these days most store owner’s are pretty astute operators in terms of knowing their customers and catering to their needs accordingly. In fact I only have admiration for the humble record store owner. I’m sure they are doing it more for love than commerce as there would have to be an easier way to make a quid.

What’s the secret sauce ? We’ve come up with our top 5 ingredients that separate the Backyard boys from the Diamond geezers. How does you favourite store wash up in the mix?

  • The Owner – This usually sets the agenda for the whole shooting match. If they are doing it for the right reasons it shows. Having a passion for music has to be a prerequisite you can’t phone it in. A good operator knows how to play the long game and will look after regulars, keeping an eye out for titles that they know you have on the grail list, recommending new releases and even throwing you a beer if your lucky (Thanks Woody).
  • Know thy Product – This is a tricky one from the punters perspective, sometimes it pays to have the inside knowledge of some obscure title that might have slipped through the watchful eye of the owner operator. Case in point a recent trip to Sydney yielded some remarkably mispriced, aus-indie gems, whilst anything slightly connected to the British Blues Invasion was priced as if it had come from John Mayall’s personal vault. Having a well-rounded ear is essential and thankfully most good stores have passionate staff, that know their Throbbing Gristle from their Thrashing Doves.
  • Inventory – Particularly for stores that specialise in pre-loved vinyl, this can be a challenge. I actually don’t know where they source this stuff? It must be a dark art. I’ve bought a couple of mini-bulk collections over the years, which thankfully yielded a couple of gems that made up for the dross. I’m sure most store owners would die happy if they never came across another copy of ‘silk degrees’ or  ‘ Frampton comes Alive’. However they keep the shelves refreshed with new and exciting titles remains a mystery but there is nothing better than hitting the racks only to find some lost loves and new adventures to experience.
  • The ability to suffer customers (without blowing a gasket) – Retail is brutal, having the temperament to tolerate fuckwits is a skill that not all can master easily or at all. Your’s truly fears if placed in the position would default to the self-righteous store clerk played so aptly by Jack Black in ‘High Fidelity’. Imagine the ‘ Johnny know it alls’ the ‘experts’ the ‘tight wads’, ‘time wasters’, and general nonsense that you would have to endure. “People still buy these”, ” second album is better, ” how come they cost so much?”,  ahhr yours !
  • People Skills – You don’t necessarily have to be an ‘A’ type personality (in fact probably better your not) however, it does pay to not scowl and be mildly friendly as the great unwashed flick through the racks and stink the joint up. Most of us have probably had the ‘Comic Book Guy’ from the Simpsons scenario or the ‘Too Cool for School’ clerk, who can either acknowledge an astute purchase with perhaps a quip such as “this is ok, but you should try their early stuff” (which consists of one seven-inch pressing of 300 copies on a long defunct little known, Scandinavian no- wave label). Many inexperienced punters may have been berated by the raise of the clerks eye brow or a suffered the indignity of the eye-roll or even more painful coped a ‘thanks buddy’ for their efforts. You were asking for it though, Nickelback is neither ironic or cool under any circumstances.

Anyway hats of to you all the Record Store Owners, it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta…

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