In rotation: 4/30/21

Dallas, TX | [Q&A] Inside one record store’s successful online pivot. When The Pandemic Hit, Denton’s Mad World Records Was Forced To Close Its Brick-And-Mortar Location — Only To Then Find Salvation As An Online Retailer. Mark Burke has worked in the record store business since 1991. From clerk to owner, he’s worked in every facet of the game — and served as a firsthand witness to the CD boom and the vinyl resurgence alike. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s immune to changes within the industry. As the pandemic claimed hundreds of small businesses in the region last year, his Denton Square storefront for Mad World Records shop was sadly among of them. Just because he had to close his storefront did not mean Mad World had to cease as an operation, though. In fact, Burke says he’s much, much happier running his business as an online, mail order and delivery retail service. Working with his wife Maria and their son, they now run operations out of their Denton home — and, better yet, they’re finding some success in their new model. Curious to learn more about this pivot, we recently caught up with Burke after a busy afternoon of hand-delivering items — and got a whirlwind of answers from him about the state of Mad World.

Swansea, UK | Swansea is getting another new record shop following a boom in vinyl sales: The Tangled Parrot at Alleyway Coffee on the city’s High Street follows the opening of another new record business two years ago—Swansea Bay Records in Swansea Market. The digital revolution was supposed to herald the death of vinyl. Yet sales of the once seemingly-dated musical format in the UK are the highest since the early 90s, with sales soaring and reaching a 13-year high, according to British Phonographic Industry figures for 2020. It’s one of the reasons Swansea is about to see the opening of a new store selling exclusively vinyl records. The venture on High Street has a celebrated pedigree, being the latest venture by Carmarthen ‘s Tangled Parrot. The business on the town’s King Street has been serving music buffs since 2011, having began life as a market stall in 2000, and until three years ago ran a hugely popular live music venue. And next week will throw open its doors at the former home of Gallerie Simpson in Swansea, in a joint venture with cafe Alleyway Coffee. Despite the pandemic and its restrictions, owner Matt Davies said he is convinced the time is right for a new vinyl store in the city.

Alberta, CA | Leduc family prepares to part with rare vintage music collection: The Kiss family has been busy restoring and cataloguing their grandfather’s prized gramophone and audio collection for auction in Texas. Some of the items date back to the 1890s. Jeff Kiss and daughter Kennedy say they’ve decided it’s time for others to appreciate this slice of musical history. “It goes back a long time. My grandfather was one of the first gramophone record collectors and restorers in Alberta,” said Jeff Kiss. The incredible collection includes dozens of century-old gramophones, hundreds of vinyl records and audio cylinders that have been in the Kiss family for more than 60 years. Jeff’s grandfather Coleman would spend his spare time scouring garage sales and flea markets all over North America looking for old gramophones to salvage, and also rare audio recordings. The recordings from the latter part of the 19th century include fragile Edison cylinder recordings as well as political speeches, opera, nursery rhymes and comedy sketches. “These are very historic because they had low production and did not survive well, so with new technology they became outdated and disposed of…”

Amityville, NY | Cassettes are making a comeback. Really. When Charlie Kaplan started Tapehead City, an online store devoted to selling used audio cassettes, friends called him crazy. The year was 2014 and cassettes had all but vanished, with yearly sales officially totaling $0 according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Sure, vinyl was a hot seller again – but tape? “People were like: What? Why would you do that?” said Kaplan, who lives in Long Beach and goes by the nickname Charlie Tapes. “And I would tell them: They’re selling.” It turns out Kaplan was onto something. Flash forward seven years, and his business has more than quadrupled. Cassette sales last year jumped by one-third at the online music marketplace Discogs, according to Billboard, and nearly doubled in the U.K., according to the British Phonographic Industry. Granted, the numbers are small: Cassettes tend to sell in the tens of thousands, not millions. But popular artists such as Lady Gaga, 5 Seconds of Summer, Sturgill Simpson, Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez are riding the trend, making their new releases available on a format that once seemed extinct. You can even find cassettes on sale at the youth-oriented retail chain Urban Outfitters.

Wacko Maria and Vans Celebrate Vinyl Culture With Their Latest Three-Shoe Collaboration: Vault by Vans has a new sneaker collaboration on the way, and for its latest project, the premium skatewear brand has partnered with Tokyo-based fashion label Wacko Maria. After dropping their first collection for spring ’21 last month, Vans and Wacko Maria have announced their second capsule for this season featuring three iterations of the classic Slip-On model, as well as matching apparel. The shoes will come in contrasting white, brown, and purple color schemes while vinyl record graphics cover the canvas upper paying tribute to the vinyl culture. Adding to the look are black trims at the midfoot as well as on the white vulcanized midsole. Much like the shoes, the capsule includes three camp collar rayon shirts in tonal white, blue and orange colors featuring the aforementioned vinyl record print throughout. In addition to the release of Wacko Maria and Vans’ sneaker and apparel collection, the duo is also releasing a new film that captures the essence of Wacko Maria.

Portland, ME | Maine’s independent bookstores resilient during COVID pandemic: According to the American Booksellers Association, more than 70 independent bookstores nationwide closed in 2020, and many others are still in danger of closing. Throughout the last year, we’ve seen many small businesses in Maine shut their doors for good. Maine’s independent bookstores took a hit at the start of the pandemic, and some are still struggling to make up those losses. That said, most Maine bookstores have now weathered the storm, thanks to loyal customers, with some seeing great business in recent months. At Sherman’s Books & Stationery, Maine’s oldest bookstore, customers have taken advantage of more than just its book selection. “People were reading more,” store co-owner Jeff Curtis said, “but we sell so much more than just books. People were definitely doing jigsaw puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles were flying off the shelves.” In addition to jigsaw puzzles, cookbook sales were up, as were journal sales. “People are not only reading,” Curtis said, “but some have started writing more and reflecting in writing.”

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