In rotation: 4/6/21

Toronto, CA | Toronto record store Soundscapes to close after 22 years: The shift to streaming services was already hurting the indie music institution’s bottom line when the pandemic hit. Toronto record store Soundscapes will close this spring after 22 years in business. “The last 20 years have seen a golden age in access to the world’s recorded music history both in physical media and online,” a statement on the shop’s website reads. “We were happy to be a part of sharing our knowledge of some of that great music with you. We hope you enjoyed most of what we sold & recommended to you over the years and hope you will continue to seek out the music that matters.” Soundscapes staffer Phil Liberbaum tells NOW a lot of “soul searching and number crunching” went into the decision to close. “Ever since the pandemic hit we were on shakier ground,” he says, explaining that the shift in music formats from physical media to streaming led to steady decline in business over the past 10 years. The store’s biggest sellers nowadays are legacy artists, Liberbaum says, and steep prices for vinyl albums mean the pool of shoppers tends to be limited to older, collector types.

Boulder, CO | Paradise Found: With new space on Pearl Street, Bart’s Records becomes Paradise Found. When Paradise Found Records & Music opens on April 1 at the corner of 17th and Pearl, it’ll be a homecoming of sorts. Pearl Street — albeit the West End — was where Bart’s Records started in the early ’90s; it’s the street where Bart’s bounced around for several years before finding its most iconic home where Ozo’s downtown store is today. All of that is to say: there would be no Paradise Found without Bart’s. “Not only is Bart a friend of ours, but he’s an inspiration,” says Paradise Found owner Will Paradise, who bought Bart’s Records from Bart Stinchcomb in 2016. After running the store for five years under the original moniker at cramped digs on Folsom Street, Paradise is taking the little record store that could back to Pearl for more spacious accommodations and a gentle makeover. “It’s a new day in a new location and I’m going to change the name, but the Bart’s sign is going to be hanging at the desk [at the new store],” Paradise says from the new space on Pearl, where a dozen or so empty racks wait for the thousands of records to be moved from the old location.

Memphis, TN | Malaco Records: An inside look at ‘The Last Soul Company’ For over half a century Jackson, Mississippi-based label Malaco Records has been an undeniable force in Black music. With a roster of R&B kings (Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland), soul-blues masters (Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle) and gospel greats (The Jackson Southernaires, The Soul Stirrers), Malaco’s catalog has been an essential repository of African American musical history — and continues to connect with contemporary audiences via high-profile hip-hop samples by artists like Drake and Kanye West. And yet, outside of a small fiercely loyal fanbase and a handful of music aficionados, the label remains relatively unknown in the wider world. A new illustrated book, titled “The Last Soul Company: The Story of Malaco Records,” seeks to give the label its proper due. “When I tell people Malaco has been around for 50 years, when I tell them it’s the longest-running independent label in American music history, and it’s the world’s biggest Black gospel label, they’re like, ‘Really?’” says Rob Bowman, author of “The Last Soul Company.”

Bolton, UK | How X-Records Bolton has kept going in coronavirus lockdown: The owner of Bolton’s only dedicated record shop has given an insight into how the store has managed to keep going throughout lockdown – as well as calling on people to support independent businesses. X-Records in Bridge Street has been trading for more than 30 years and is a staple of independent record shops in the wider area. However, with stores forcibly closed due to coronavirus restrictions, many businesses have felt the sharp bite of falling trade. Steve Meekings, owner of X-Records, said that “we intend to still be here for a while to come” as he praised the “art” of new record releases that have kept the store running. He said: “It has been a very strange time and we could never have expected something like this happening – but we are still here and we intend to be here for a while to come. We haven’t got any amount of great plans for the future but we’re just hoping.”

AU | ARIA posts gains for 2020, powered by streaming: Australia’s recorded music industry punched through a difficult year, posting 7.3% growth across the market, with streaming services powering most of the gains. According to new data published Wednesday (31st March) by ARIA, the national record business lifted to $542 million in 2020, for the sixth successive year of growth. There were winners and losers among the formats. Streaming platforms were at the top of the tree once again, posting growth of 14% in the year of the pandemic, though the rate of growth cooled from the 30% reported the full-year period. Subscription platforms specifically, a category that includes Spotify and Apple Music, generated $362 million in the calendar year 2020, up from $317 million in 2019, while ad-supported and video streaming services boasted modest gains. Vinyl albums keep spinning a happy tune. Vinyl enjoyed a 32% rise against the previous year to $29 million, or 5.4% of the total market.

This Design-Savvy Record Brush Will Keep Your Vinyl Clean and Look Good Doing It: A wonderful cartoon from years back shows two nerdy guys staring at an elaborate hi-fi system featuring a turntable and shelves groaning under the weight of countless LPs. The proud owner says, “The two things that drew me to vinyl were the expense and inconvenience.” I still laugh at that one. But other attributes draw those of us who regard records as the preferred playback medium, and that’s the sound. CDs and other digital formats are all well and good, and may even constitute the majority of recordings in a collector’s library. But hypothetically, if push came to shove—left with only one pair of interconnects—many dedicated listeners would jettison all of their silver discs in order to preserve their turntable. Thankfully, both analog and digital formats can peacefully coexist in the audiophile ecosystem.

NZ | Farewell, Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs – it’s been nice knowing you: Sad news for Luddites all over New Zealand, and yet another blow to anyone who still watches films on DVD or Blu-ray and listens to music on CD. (i.e. me.) The Warehouse, one of the few places where you can still buy these objects new, is moving away from having such old-fashioned, nay Stone Age, technology embarrassing its shop floors. Warehouse branches in New Plymouth and Bell Block have been emptying their shelves and holding a clearance sale of stock, and an email to the firm’s HQ in Auckland confirmed my worst suspicions. “Over time, we’ve noticed there’s been less demand for these products in our stores,” Warehouse chief product officer Tania Benyon said in a statement provided by the media team. …For, and I realise I sound like some misty-eyed old man remembering his far-off golden youth, there’s nothing quite like browsing through racks of films or music for something to catch your eye. Ordering online takes out the fun, the ‘Blimey! Eight bucks for The Great Escape on Blu-ray!?

Lana Del Rey scores fastest-selling vinyl album of the century by a female artist with ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club.’ It’s the star’s fifth UK Number One album. Lana Del Rey has scored the fastest-selling vinyl album of the century in the UK by a female artist and for international acts. The LA-based musician has achieved the feat with her new album ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’, which was released last week (March 19). The record sold 16,700 vinyl copies in the last seven days, according to the Official Charts Company. The fastest-selling vinyl album in the 21st century is Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’. ‘Chemtrails…’ is also Number One on the Official UK Albums Chart this week, marking Del Rey’s fifth UK Number One album of her career. She is now tied with Celine Dion for the fifth most Number One albums by a female solo artist in the UK. Only Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Barbra Streisand and Taylor Swift have more.

Integrator Says It Is Time for Industry To Rediscover Vinyl Records: Record sales have been increasing since 2005. Franklin Karp of N.Y.-based Audio Video Systems recommends that integrators sell turntables to take advantage of the format’s reemergence. If you are a music fan, you are probably well aware of vinyl’s reemergence as a format. Long-time custom installation market veteran and GM at Audio Video Systems in New York City Franklin Karp says it’s time for integrators to offer analog music solutions to their clients if they have not before. A CE Pro 100 integration firm, Karp and the Audio Video Systems team have recognized the revival of records in today’s age of streaming media. “The surge in sales of LPs and turntables gives rise to hope and speculation that not all older things are gone, never to be seen or heard from again. The cycle of old giving way to the new and younger generation has been a fact of life since time immemorial,” says Karp.

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