In rotation: 8/15/22

Jackson, MI | “Inflation is gut-punching my business,” record store owner laments: At his store in Jackson, Mississippi, Phillip “DJ Young Venom” Rollins sells a lot of different things. “Offbeat is an alternative culture store,” Rollins said. “It’s a record store, a comic book shop, a designer toy shop. And most importantly, it’s an art gallery for young minority artists in the area, so they can showcase and sell their work.” During the pandemic, vinyl records became the financial backbone of Rollins’ business. As a DJ himself, Rollins takes pride in his selection. “If I don’t give good recommendations, then I can’t say that I’m a good DJ,” he said. “I know what moves the crowd and what people will like.” But even before the pandemic, record printers struggled to keep up with demand; the pandemic only made it worse. And for Rollins, that meant some of the prices on his most popular records have skyrocketed, especially records that have been rereleased.

Cambridge, MA | Stereo Jack’s Records packing up after 40 years, relocating under new ownership to Ball Square: Stereo Jack’s Records closes Monday between Harvard and Porter squares after a 40-year tenure – an impressive existence selling just old-school vinyl in a biz that has shifted from records to tape to CDs and ultimately to digital, surviving Tower Records and a pandemic. Since a reopening after the worst of Covid, owner Jack Woker said business has never been better – the draw for vintage vinyl is at a remarkable peak due to its audio quality, usefulness to DJs and collectibility – but the locale is making way for a recreational marijuana dispensary called Budega. Woker believes the cannabis shop will pay a significantly higher rent, as well as remodeling at 1686 Massachusetts Ave., to bring a circa-1890 structure up to date.

Liverpool, UK | Behind 81 Renshaw, the record store where The Beatles used to visit: “Liverpool’s music has led the way rather than changed.” 81 Renshaw opened its doors in 2016 as a record store and has since become the most sought-after spot for Liverpool music lovers. While many go into business for the prospect of riches, 81 Renshaw is the product of managing director Neil Tilly’s passion for music. Neil told the ECHO: “I was lucky enough that I was doing this because I wanted to and it was something I loved. “I was surprised with how well it did, but vinyls have really taken off, I think people have realized the value in having something physical. Luckily we started to get regular customers, and we still have people coming in every week” When asked what was the best thing about owning the shop, Neil said: “Probably the customers and their love and enthusiasm for music. We show them new music and discover new artists through them. That’s the biggest joy I get.

Greenville, NC | More revision in the works for bar regulations: Book-record store owner says 500-foot rule limits downtown business model. A business owner who plans to open a record shop with entertainment space in downtown Greenville says a proposal to eliminate restrictions on alcohol sales would allow him to bring in additional revenue. David Brown, owner of David’s Used Books and Records, said he needs the Greenville City Council to change a decade-old rule that prevents bars and nightclubs from opening within 500-feet of another bar or nightclub before he can sell bottles of beer and glasses of wine during events at his new shop. When Councilman Will Bell recommended the change in late 2020, he said it would improve the quality of nightlife options by making it easier for businesses like martini bars to open. However, some think the change would allow the return of venues that contributed to an environment that saw vandalism and violence downtown including a drive-by shooting that killed two men in 2010.

Louisville, KY | Flashback: Remembering iconic Louisville record store Ear X-tacy: It was a mecca for music for many years in Louisville: Ear X-tacy. The independent record store opened in 1985, and for years, its massive iconic sign caught the eyes on Bardstown Road. The music store had loads of records, attracting people near and far. They would often stage intimate sets, and drew in names as big as the Foo Fighters and John Mayer. It was a sad day for music lovers when it closed in 2011. Now, the big sign lives at the Frazier History Museum. When it was moved there, owner John Timmons said, “I’m grateful that it holds such a dear place in the hearts of many Louisvillians. Everyone seems to have their Ear X-Tacy story.”

East Bay, CA | East Bay record stores flourish after lockdowns: Local record stores are enjoying an increase in vinyl interest, despite the precarity of most other businesses during the pandemic. Far from folding, new record stores have opened in the East Bay and flourished during the pandemic. Older establishments such as Contact Records have, in the words of owner Andrew Kerwin, “upped their online game” and courted the global market of vinyl fans. Kerwin has run Contact with his wife, Hannah Lew, from a shipping container in the MacArthur Annex since 2016. Lew has ample music experience, having played in post-punk groups such as Grass Widow and Cold Beat, while Kerwin, a musician with over a decade of experience working at Amoeba in San Francisco and managing 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in Oakland, was able to fulfill every earnest record store employee’s dream and open his own. When Contact opened, many were skeptical. Even in 2016, Kerwin said that friends were convinced he was “catching the tail-end of a vinyl comeback which would plateau or dip.” Since then, the “trend” has only mushroomed

Seattle, WA | Lawsuit filed over Music Direct’s quality of audio on vinyl: A company promising high-end audio on vinyl cheated customers, a new class action lawsuit says. Plaintiffs Stephen Tuttle and Dustin Collman filed suit Aug. 2 in Seattle federal court against Music Direct and MoFi, alleging their promise that recordings were produced through a process called “triple analog” was false. Those recordings were supposed to be made by duplicating the original analog master recordings using only analog processes, the suit says. They are highly valued by audiophiles and collectors, it adds. It cites online reports that the defendants’ reproductions are actually digital, as well as a statement from Music Direct’s president on July 27. “We recognize our conduct has resulted in both anger and confusion in the marketplace,” the statement by Jim Davis said.

Brisbane, AU | Suitcases, tea towels and a brand new record press: the Brisbane couple taking a punt on the vinyl revival: Neil Wilson stands outside a large blue shed at Pinkenba in the industrial outskirts of Brisbane, looking like a kid on Christmas Day. He slides back a glass door and reveals the source of his enthusiasm – a brand spanking new, fresh off the boat, vinyl record press. The Allegro Line II. Designed in Hong Kong and Italy, the machine was manufactured in China and is almost ready to start spitting out vinyl albums every 28 seconds. Neil and his partner, Kathy Wilson, have dubbed their family business Suitcase Records. After all, that’s what most independent artists carry their merchandise in. The big seller on the merch stand these days is either a tea towel or a vinyl album. And who wants to be in the tea towel business? The vinyl revival has been a talking point in the music industry in recent years – there’s no romance in filesharing, and CDs are moderate sellers. But Suitcase is Queensland’s first fully functioning record press in 30 years. For Neil and Kathy, this endeavour is more mid-life awakening than mid-life crisis.

Chicago, IL | Record Plant Smashed Plastic Is Keeping It Local: Known for pressing vinyl for Chicago artists, the shop’s new partnership with Jeff Tweedy will help keep the records spinning. In the fall of 2019, Andy Weber and the three other co-founders of Smashed Plastic, Chicago’s local record pressing plant, arrived at the glitzy Chicago Theatre to meet with Jeff Tweedy, guitarist and frontman of the band Wilco. Arguably the most successful band in Chicago, Wilco has produced twelve studio albums since 1994. Their music has resonated with listeners across decades, shown by the number of albums sold, plays on streaming platforms, and ticket sales for their live performances. …The Smashed Plastic team had just 15 minutes with the famous rockstar before Tweedy performed to a sold-out crowd. His manager had made the initial contact with Weber to say Tweedy was interested in getting involved with the plant. Having the ultimate Chicago-based musician’s support fit perfectly into Smashed Plastic’s local clientele, so Weber came with a proposal for Wilco to fund a second pressing machine — doubling the plant’s capacity to serve local artists.

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