Open Thread: Should Record Stores Sell Everything or Just Cool Shit?

Categories: Open Thread
eastsiderecords4.jpg
Benjamin Leatherman

Something the owners of the soon-to-be-defunct Eastside Records in Tempe said in this week's feature story has been bothering me all week:

"And it got to the point in Tempe... that, yeah, we could stay open, but we would have to sell a bunch of shit we don't like. None were willing to do it and I wasn't, either," said co-owner Ben Wood. "At a certain point... It's kind of like putting Old Yeller down. I've gone through the anger and the upset and the sadness, but there's also a sense of relief for me that now it's gonna be over soon."

At first blush that sounds kinda crazy. So, wait, you're a dude in your 40s who runs a struggling record shop and there's a way to keep it open, but you don't want to do it on principle? You'd rather close a Valley institution and give up the only career you've known for 20-plus years and start over than stock a few shitty Dave Matthews records next to the old punk and jazz records you're known for? Hey, I'm as much of a snob as anyone, but that just seems irrational to me.

Then I got to thinking: Actually, given the state of the music selling biz, the enforced snobbery thing is not really a bad business plan at all. No one really needs to buy records these days; they're doing it it because they think it's cool. They'd just steal the shit if they wanted to have it the easiest way possible, and if they go through the extra effort it's because they want the associated feeling of buying something from a place they dig.

So I ask these questions: Would selling uncool shit actually help Eastside stay in business and, if so, would it be worth the associated hassle of engaging in business transactions with brodogs? Is it better to go out of business than sell a Lady Gaga album?

Discuss.

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Logan R.
Logan R.

I'll definitely miss this place. As a 16 year old vinyl/nostalgia enthusiast, I would take a bus up to Mill just to come to East Side and buy a few records. It was definitely unique in this era. Though I could always go to tag sales and the internet to get records, there's nothing better then having a neighborhood record shop.

Logan R.
Logan R.

Not to mention that it contained the old stuff too. I mean, I love Zia's next store, but they're vinyl are mainly for the crowd that digs the newer bands. I prefer the oldies from the 60s, and quite a bit of 70s stuff.

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sonickf
sonickf

it's far better to sell the corporate rock records and stay in business so that you can also turn people onto other stuff. This "viciously anti-corporate so much it hurts" makes NO sense to me, never has, never will. In fact, there is plenty of musical merit in those pop records from a musicians' standpoint.

Learn to Swim
Learn to Swim

"No one really needs to buy records these days; they're doing it it because they think it's cool. They'd just steal the shit if they wanted to have it the easiest way possible, and if they go through the extra effort it's because they want the associated feeling of buying something from a place they dig."

You're making a lot of assumptions and baseless claims which is pretty disappointing and surprising given the fact that you're writing for a fairly legitimate publication and not some blog in your mother's basement.

There are plenty of reasons to buy records, and none of them involve wanting an "associated" feeling of buying something from a place they like. I'm not going to waste the time enumerating all of them, but among many others, some people who have integrity prefer to support the artists whose music enriches their lives by buying their music, especially directly from them at shows, where purchases benefit them most directly.

Aside from all that, it makes perfect sense for people to want to sell quality music about which they are most passionate. Beyond the sheer economics, there's something very rewarding about turning people on to quality artists and music. Everyone who is in that business as well as many others have to make similar decisions about quality, costs, trade-offs, their business model, and what the local customer base will support.

Martin Cizmar
Martin Cizmar

Open Thread: Should Martin Cizmar Be Burned Alive At The Next First Friday? (and pissed on to try and put out the flames)

Darkreich
Darkreich

Of course not!

Seems like it would be a waste of beer in my humble opinion.Besides...Marty's Ego is big enough already, don't you think?

(And yes, I do see the irony in me being the one to say that.)

Merry Xmas,Wayne Michael Reichhttp://www.WayneMichaelReich.c...

Fuck N. A
Fuck N. A

No one would even show up for that. The opposite of love is indifference.

Benjo Widwitz
Benjo Widwitz

i think the question is a deeply personal one for a store like Eastside. they clearly weren't in it to get rich; if their priority was to make a living while having a good time, and running the store wasn't fun anymore, any other questions about ways to make more money are kinda moot. to me, you can tell that places like Eastside/Revolver/Hoodlums are fun/social when you walk in; i've made friends there, found out about shows there, heard some of my favorite bands for the first time there.

this is definitely a bummer; i remember lugging back a pair of speakers and a turntable from eastside to my dorm on campus freshman year - not to mention dozens of LPs. and i WAS one of those dumb kids who went there and to hoodlums and got turned on to really rad music - i'd go in to buy the new bouncing souls record and leave with a re-pressed CRIME lp or a used copy of "zen arcade."

i think a lot of the anger directed at the people who shopped/worked there is a little silly - they were all just people who really, really liked music. it isn't really a character flaw, just an occasionally crippling social disability.

people who predict the end of all record stores in the near future are also a little silly, i think. used cds/lps will probably always be cheaper than buying stuff online, and the used stuff is what has the highest margin for these places (aside from the counter top knick-knacks). i have an emusic subscription, but still cruise the bins at Revolver once or twice a month.

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

Very good points... Obviously these guys were in it for love of the game and maybe the fact that they're in their 40s had more to do with it than they let on. It seems like the owners are maybe in different places on this and it's complex anyway... But while I'm sure they still LOVE records you can't blame anyone for wanting to expand into other spheres at some point in their life. The fact that the economy sucks, and that record stores aren't 'dying' but aren't likely to thrive anytime soon either complicated things further. It seems to be, like I said, a deeply complex and personal decision that we all get to comment on since the place is a Valley institution. Hope they are not *too* uncomfortable with that.

joe.distort
joe.distort

for a variety of reasons, it makes no sense. people go to eastside for the selection of rare/obscure stuff, the constantly turning stock og used records that are nearly all way the fuck OOP, picking up local fliers, zines, etc etc.

AND they already sell a lot of stuff they dont like but is semi underground, or remotely related (seethe remix records of shitty but somehow acceptable bigger artists and their ilk). i go there because they are the only store in town that gets the music i want, period. i dont go there to 'try to be cool'. most of their clientele does not do that. in fact, have you been there during the day? its usually a lot of older music nerds who arent even remotely 'cool' (no offense meant guys, and hopefully none taken)

the fact is that music is a razor thin profit area anymore since people feel entitled to not pay for it anymore. selling a few DMB or DIRTYHEADS 12"s werent going to save them, so there is no point to doing so.

on a sidenote, i dug through the racks there yesterday for what is probably the last time ever. it was very sad. after paying for my purchase (the RELICS 12" that i was only sort of into anyway) i saw michael open what may be one of the last shipments they get. it contained the ARRIVALS 12" that i was actually looking for. he let me just swap out what i bought for what i wanted with a simple 'see? if you woulda left 30 seconds before, you wouldve never known this was here'.

that story, in its own odd way, sums up why i love that store and why ive been going there for 15+ years.

Dave Brookhouser
Dave Brookhouser

I can't believe there are only 12 comments ... great topic with no correct answer ...

Months back I went to Revolver just to check it out, and it gave me such a warm feeling (putting me back in the frame of mind when I was younger and record stores were my everything).

In my youth you had college radio and the record store clerk as your musical guides (outside of some friends and maybe a favorite music critic), and that's it. But today, Last.fm, Pandora and iTunes Genius Mixes are FAR better guides than back in "the olden days".

It's called progress/evolution and it seems the entire media industry refuses to adapt to the new market(s). They ALL need to stop whining about piracy, adopt to the new landscape and give the people what they want or close their doors. It's that simple.

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

I think you're the sort of music fan I am, Dave, which means you came of age when the record companies were REALLY fucking everyone with $14 CDs and we spent every cent we had on them... then Napster made it so we can get anything we want for free and bwahahahaha we started stealing music and never really stopped. We get sooooo muuuuuch new stuff but we don't really value it the way we used to. We have fond feelings for record stores but we also resent all the money we spent on shit and aren't looking to get back into spending big bucks on vinyl.

It's sort of funny because I think our outlook isn't shared by people older and younger who are less bitter about the whole thing.

Fuck N. A
Fuck N. A

"I think your the same kind of music fan I am, Dave"

Yeah..lame...

psykosteve
psykosteve

I read that as selling stuff other than music.

And it makes sense to me. A lot of people who start their own businesses, as opposed to working for some one else, do it for reasons other than money. They do it so they can do a job they love or not have to answer to everyone else or because they believe in what they are doing.

At the point when you are not able to do that it is not worth the stress. If you are going to have all the stress and all the finial risk of running a business and NOT be doing what you love then why do it?

They don't owe it to use to turn their life's work into something they don't like to appease people who didn't shop there anyway.

On the other hand I wouldn't hold it against them if they had done anything else that they thought would have made it more viable.

Jack Maverik
Jack Maverik

I must have been under a different opinion. I thought he was talking about selling different stuff. Not just different records but like movies and Alice Cooper action figures and stuff like that like Zia sells. Its like book stores - they sell all this semi-related-but-not-really stuff because it has a higher profit margin than the books themselves.

So I thought he was talking about having to diversify into other products, not just stocking uncool records.

But that said - I think the trick is finding your customer base and supporting them. Listening to them and providing a service/product/experience that they dig without pandering.

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Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

Jack,

I'm pretty sure he just meant records they didn't like. I doubt they'd be opposed to selling incense or vintage lunch pails that were in line with their aesthetic (such as it is).

Chase
Chase

It truly pains me to admit this, but Martin "Do House Shows Matter" Cizmar is absolutely right about the business model: Eastside sold punk, jazz and avant shit. That's what their customers were looking for. Some might think throwing a couple big titles in the stock might have been a harmless help, but people can buy radio rock/Top 40/hip-hop literally anywhere. Instead of competing against eBay, they'd be up against Best Buy. Shelling pop crap isn't a guaranteed success, and because they established themselves as a purveyor of the weird, I think it was in their best business interest to heed the loyalty of record fetishists.

Also, for anyone looking to drop "hipster" bombs: I never saw any cool kid mavens or H&M mannequins down there. Eastside was frequented solely by poorly-aging punks, hopeless virgins, ne'er-do-wells and local wizards. It was perfect. RIP.

Dave Brookhouser
Dave Brookhouser

I think you're dead on with this one ... all of the major record stores went out of business selling "everything" ... the only record stores still keeping the doors open are "boutique" stores like Revolver and Stinkweeds, it works for them. Trendy ass kissers will always want to seem cool.

Also it's been know for years that those older/mainstream customers are not comfortable shopping for albums at indie stores (because they feel out of touch, awkward and think they might be made fun of for buying that Lady Ga Ga CD they so treasure). Therefore adding a few mainstream albums would in no way make them feel any more comfortable shopping at your local indie record store.

Plus ... let's be honest here ... most of the "trendy ass kissers" claim to like the music they do because they think it buys them some cool/hip points ... and guess what kiddies ... you can't buy cool no matter how much you claim to love Russian Futurists, Black Dub, Charlie Parr, etc.,

And finally I'd be willing to bet that in the next five-seven years you'll be hard pressed to find even a boutique "record" store with their doors open.

The music industry is getting it's just dues for ripping off both their customers and thier recording artists, something they've been doing for decades.

Connor
Connor

Wow, Wanickbill, way to be an asshole. I will never stop buying at brick-and-mortar shops.

Anyway, I agree with the guys at Eastside. I would much rather a place go out on top than become a shell of its former self. That's why I never buy at Zia anymore. They will sell anything, and most of the clerks I've spoken with don't seem to give two shits about the music they are peddling. At places like Eastside, Revolver, Rockzone, Stinkweeds, and Hoodlum's, the employees really care about their products, and they are absolutely behind what they're selling. It's these personal touches that really make the difference in today's impersonal internet world.

Dave Brookhouser
Dave Brookhouser

ok ... I know I shouldn't but when someone talks about employees caring about the "PRODUCT" they sell ... I think that says a whole lot.

I wonder how many bands say "I can't wait to make some more product to sell to my retarded fans" ...

#OldFuck

Wanickbill
Wanickbill

selling out or selling off? one can hold true to their ideals and not sell "mainstream" music or whatever, but if that means that you dont get to sell any of the lesser known artists either, then no one wins. ahh, you can just get what you want online, tear eastside down and put in another filibertos too...im cool with it either way.

Nicki Escudero
Nicki Escudero

I think if it has a chance to save your business and keep you doing something worthwhile, then "selling out" a little and selling music you don't like is a necessary evil that ultimately benefits a wider variety of customers. Who knows, the kid that comes in for Dave Matthews Band or Lady Gaga might end up discovering that classic jazz you love so much and keep coming back for the "good" stuff.

Slavovminov Lemonov
Slavovminov Lemonov

admit you were inspired by my OAR tweet and do hawkwind reissues count as cool or uncool. Discuss:

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

I definitely was! In fact I really tried to come up with a better example of something to not sell than O.A.R and failed miserably so I had to use a shitty one (DMB) rather than ripping you off.

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