In rotation: 6/30/20

UK | Physical sales bounce back with 20% market share: Music retail has been back for a fortnight and the effect on physical sales is clear to see. After a vinyl sales surge last week when stores returned to the High Street after a three-month lockdown, there’s been a consolidation for the physical music market. According to Official Charts Company data, for the previous seven days physical sales were up 7.6% week-on-week to 371,738 units (physical artist albums were up 9.1%). In comparison, album streams were up just 1.8%. Crucially, physical sales were back above the 20% mark (exactly 20.0% to be precise). That’s up from 19.1% in the prior week and above the 19.4% share in the week before lockdown. During the first weeks of lockdown, physical’s share slumped. New albums from Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Phoebe Bridgers delivered decent volumes, while Lady Gaga’s former chart-topper Chromatica moved a further 4,268 physical copies.

Boston, MA | Record stores are getting their groove back: For the past 12 years, Christmas has come in April for independent record stores. The advent of Record Store Day, the annual blowout when musicians release hundreds of limited-edition recordings to support brick-and-mortar stores, has boosted the fortunes of retailers in a business that was practically left for dead by the arrival of the Internet. This year, though, Christmas never came. March brought the coronavirus, and by April, record stores across New England stood as silent as an album still sealed in its shrink wrap. John Damroth, who opened Planet Records in Kenmore Square nearly 40 years ago, furloughed his four employees and braced for financial impact. Then he went to his current location outside Harvard Square, locked the door behind him, and began filling online orders. Dismayed about closing, his mood quickly brightened. Having handled an average of 20-25 mail orders per day before the Great Pause, suddenly he had twice that many. With no live concerts to attend, it seemed that some music lovers wanted to spend some of that stimulus money adding to their record collections.

The Best Scene From ‘High Fidelity’ You (Likely) Haven’t Seen: Today (June 28) is John Cusack’s birthday, and while many best remember him holding a boombox aloft and openly pining for a girl with the help of Peter Gabriel, his best role is the heavily flawed, yet endearing Rob Gordon from 2000’s High Fidelity. Based on the Nick Hornby book of the same name, High Fidelity is one of those movies to which nearly every obsessive music fan can relate. Perhaps, you’re not as judgemental as Rob or his motley crew of record store employees. (Props to Jack Black for his breakout performance as the hilarious Barry.) But his passion is all too relatable, and there’s no greater example of said passion than in the scene [above]. This scene, which was deleted from the final cut of the film, finds Rob visiting a home where a jilted wife (played by the somehow still hot Beverly D’Angelo) is selling her husband’s incredible collection of 45s. (Rob’s reaction to the collection is priceless.) The wife’s asking price? $50. Rob’s subsequent conversation with D’Angelo’s character is simply pure gold.

Iowa City, IA | There’s something special about record stores: For those who view music as a vital necessity like food and shelter, being without Iowa City’s longtime institution the Record Collector leaves a gaping hole in the soul. “A record store isn’t really a record store without customers,” said co-owner Alissa Witzke. “It feels empty and sad, like we’re just a warehouse.” The store shifted to online sales and began doing free local deliveries during the COVID-19 lockdown, which was better than nothing but not the same as the real deal. Shops like Record Collector have been a key part of the cultural landscape for decades, gathering places where ideas and musical tastes cross-fertilize. “Honestly, I just miss some of the general human interaction,” said Bobby Larson, the store’s other owner. “Community happens when you get enough of those music-fiend types together and talking, which is why COVID-19 has made things extra hard on businesses that were already troubled by the move to online sales and forums.”

San Pedro, CA | Record Store Owner Says Music Brought Him a Sense of Pride as a Black Man: Record store owner Erving Johnson says music has had a healing effect on him over the decades. At his store, PM Sounds in San Pedro, he dropped the needle on “the Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron. It’s a Black activism anthem released in 1971, when Johnson was just a kid growing up in the segregated South, during a time when he wasn’t even allowed to use a gas station bathroom. “On the sign near the side – ‘No Coloreds.’ And it was spelled wrong. I’ll never forget this, it was spelled in crayons, and it was ‘Kolored,’ with a K,” said Johnson. Gil Scott-Heron and other artists like James Brown brought him solace during this time. “I know I was young, but it gave me a sense of pride,” he said. He lived through the riots in the 1960s, the 1992 Rodney King Riots, and now the current Black Lives Matter protests. With each bout of civil unrest, he says, came a little bit of progress.

Amarillo, TX | Area record store changes approach during COVID-19 pandemic: During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ray Wilson has been appreciating various artists, and musical genres, through his extensive vinyl collection. “The music of the quarantine. It has been a lot of Elton John, a lot of Cher and a lot of Rod Stewart,” Wilson said. “But then everything from Kiss and Metallica to New Edition and New Kids on the Block. We have definitely been spinning a lot of things.” But through his ownership of the High Fidelity Record Shop, located in The Nat Antiques on Route 66 at 2705 SW 6th Ave., Wilson has given that same thought, and variety, behind the records he has been selling vinyl-loving members of the Amarillo community, either in person at the store, or through his frequent online vinyl sales on Facebook Live. Wilson said the store had to be closed down for a few months because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Because they were struggling with sales not coming in, the store attempted to move to an online platform and doing free deliveries to individuals.

Prince’s estate unveils 45 unreleased studio recordings: Prince’s estate officials have unveiled a special edition of the late star’s Sign O’ The Times album, featuring 45 unreleased studio sessions. The Super Deluxe Edition reissue, which will be available as both an eight-CD and 13-vinyl album set, features previously unreleased music from the singer’s fabled Vault, including the album’s single mixes, a 1987 live gig in Utrecht, the Netherlands and a bonus concert from his 1987 show on New Year’s Eve, 1987 at his Paisley Park estate in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The package comes with a 120-page hardcover book containing Prince’s previously unseen handwritten lyrics for several of the songs and never before seen shots by photographer Jeff Katz. The Prince estate has also joined forces with bosses at Jack White’s Third Man Records to create a limited edition vinyl box set showcasing all the singles from the album. Both items will go on sale on Sept. 25.

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