In rotation: 6/19/20

Jacksonville, FL | Don’t let the music stop: How First Coast record stores are fighting their way back: Despite being closed as non-essential businesses in mid-March, several of Jacksonville’s locally owned record shops said they’re making solid recoveries now that they’re able to operate again. Whether they’ve been around for less than a year – such as Tiger Records – or more than half a century – such as DJ’s Records Shop – First Coast record retailers faced a significant challenge when non-essential businesses were closed following the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the shops haven’t skipped a beat during reopening. “Everything is great, everything feels like it’s getting back to normal,” said James Siboni, owner of Tiger Records, which is located near Bold Bean. “The café near me just reopened – while they were closed we were a little bit slower than normal – but this week feels like a completely typical week pre-Covid.” Siboni debuted Tiger Records – an 850-square-foot shop located at 875 Stockton St. – in November 2019, and he said the relative youth of his business made closing up shop a frightening prospect.

New York, NY | Record Store Owners Don’t Skip a Beat, Prepare for Reopening: The Limited to One Record Store is the one thing that’s been a constant for co-owners Kristian Sorge and Nichole Porges. The couple was let go from their jobs as casting directors for extras in TV and movies and they lost their main source of income when the coronavirus crisis erupted. “Everything kind of fell apart within a week. I lost my job, I had to file for unemployment for the first time,” said co-owner Nichole Porges. When Governor Cuomo ordered all non-essential businesses to close, the couple had to face the music. They needed the record store to make money, but without physically being open. Before the health crisis they’d focused solely on sales out of their East Village shop. Now they needed to offer an online option and were shocked at the response. “We started selling rare records thru mail order on our Instagram and that had a really positive, we’d sell I’d say, 80 percent of everything posted would sell within minutes,” said co-owner Kristian Sorge.

UK | Love Record Stores: how to help save your local record stores: Over 130 record stores will take part in the 24 hour event on June 20. With the official Record Store Day postponed from June 20 to three dates later in the year (August 29, September 26 and October 24), a new campaign to help support independent record stores through the continuing Coronavirus crisis has popped up and stepped in. Fronted by ambassador and vinyl obsessive Tim Burgess, the Love Record Stores campaign will host a virtual 24-hour in-store event on Saturday, with live performances, interviews, DJ streams and special limited edition releases only available online. Beginning at 7am, highlights of the #LoveRecordStores programme – which has been curated by curated by independent labels including Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar, Dead Oceans and ATO Records – include appearances from Four Tet, Fontaines D.C., Laura Marling, Erol Alkan, Khruangbin and Tim Burgess himself. Over 130 record stores from across the UK are taking part, from Chameleon in Aberdeen down to Mr Bongo in Brighton, with special releases from the likes of Oasis, Radiohead, Bon Iver, The Libertines, Robyn and dozens more available to buy online.

New York, NY | Record Mart, Manhattan’s Oldest Record Store, Is Shutting Down: Record Mart recently confirmed the unfortunate news on Facebook, writing: “Sad to say it is the end of era!!” Outside of that brief statement, the famed Times Square subway station record shop hasn’t addressed its closure on the internet. Instead, the store taped a typed message on its entrance (penned by Lou Moskowitz, son of the brand’s co-founder). Citing the pandemic as the chief cause of his store’s closure, Moskowitz thanked customers for their support and signaled that his brand “will be moving into the vintage audio business.” Founded by Jesse Moskowitz and Bob Stack in 1958, Record Mart quickly emerged as one of New York’s foremost distributors of Latin music. Following nine years of suspended operations (between 1998 and 2007) as the Times Square subway station was renovated, Record Mart reopened and achieved relative success. Unfortunately, New York City’s total number of subway riders fell dramatically amid the early portion of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and its associated lockdown measures.

Spokane, WA | Spokane’s record stores are back up to speed, albeit with extra precautions in place: One of the true pleasures of perusing a record store is the randomness of discovery, the unpredictability of thumbing through overstuffed bins and stumbling upon an old favorite or an irresistible curio. With retail shops either closing outright or limiting foot traffic in response to COVID-19, the option of browsing your neighborhood vinyl emporium hasn’t been possible. Toward the end of March, Resurrection Records owner Mike House closed the doors of his storefront and pivoted to online orders. Nearly three months later, the store itself is still closed to foot traffic, but his online sales through sites like Bandcamp and Discogs have exploded. “Since those stimulus checks came out, I’ve been working 14 hours a day,” House says. “I’ve been selling records for 13 years, and I’ve never been busier.” He estimates that he’s been sending out between 300-400 individual packages a week, and though a date for reopening the store itself is still up in the air, he’s contemplating a model where customers can set up appointments to browse on an individual basis.

Record stores were already struggling before the pandemic. Here’s how they’re staying afloat now: Some independent record stores across the US have been barely hanging on in recent years, thanks to a rise in online streaming and the dominance of mega-retailers such as Amazon. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, making matters even worse. Brick-and-mortar stores shut their doors more than two months ago and, in many parts of the country, are still closed. Those that have reopened have had to make extensive and costly modifications to how they do business, such as adding plexiglass shields at registers and buying hand sanitizer in bulk. Record Store Day, an annual event designed to bring in business for indie record shops, had to be retooled, as well. Now, instead of one day, it’ll be split into three to help reduce crowds and allow for social distancing: Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 24. Sales of physical albums have dropped every year since 2004, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. During the pandemic, some musical genres saw double-digit dips compared to the same period last year. Christian/gospel albums, for example, plummeted 53%. Rock fell 20%. Country was 16% lower.

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