Rough Trade Shops (London)April 17th, 2010 | Posted in indie
In honor of Record Store Day we caught up with Lucy & Nigel, Managers of one of our favorite record stores, Rough Trade Shops (in London). Catch the interview and bonus playlist below:
With internet it’s a lot easier now to have infos and to listen to bands before buying and selling their records: do you actually spend a lot of time surfing the internet to access those informations? How the internet has changed your way of getting informations? What are the sites and tools you are using the most?
Obviously, the internet has had a massive effect on the music industry as we knew it. While fanzines are still a useful source of information, blogs and mp3 based websites now seem the more logical medium. Being able to immediately listen to a track rather than trust someone’s judgement in a review means that we can make quicker, more direct decisions. Hot tips from friends of the shop who work in the industry are probably the most common source; they can put us onto a track whilst giving us a review and in this case, we can generally trust the opinion!
Do you think that your new customers are more informed than your customers 30 years ago?
I don’t believe the customers now are any more informed than they were 30 years ago, relatively speaking. A hardened music fan today will do as much research as one would have done back then, it’s just that the tools with which to do this said “research” have changed in many ways. It’s a lazier way of knowing everything there is to know about a band or artist you love, whereas 30 years ago, you had to act to know: magazines had to be bought, gigs had to be attended, records had to be bought. Now, a fan can still gain all this knowledge, but cheaply and with a minimal effort. This does not undermine the modern day music fan though, not in any way! As long as there are still customers in the world who keep themselves clued up, all is safe!
Years ago the buzz was created mainly by press and radio: is internet the new way to spread the words on a band?
As for the buzz created for and by the bands themselves, press remains a valuable option. Fanzines crop up every day and are at no risk of dying out, but it is true that the music blog has become the more obvious blueprint for making a buzz these days. It’s just a matter of keeping all hands on deck!
The records industry is definitively not a crisis of the music: a lot of new bands are releasing great records everyday. But at the same time less and less labels and artists are properly distributed: are you working more and more directly with bands from all over the world? Is internet a key tool to get access to bands/labels?
We are indeed working directly with bands today, particularly through our singles label “For Us”. We’ll be releasing the Surfer Blood single ‘Swim’ soon, and even though they’ve already released their record, we find it helps to get in direct contact with the bands to help push singles which might otherwise not get the credit they deserve. The internet is definitely a key way to get in touch with the bands and their management, especially on the grander scale of things. However, there is still and always will be (we hope) the culture of young people coming straight to the shops to look for help and advice on putting music out. Our longstanding belief and backing of SOR (Sale Or Return) goes to show that the whole system can be simple and direct.
In the past records shops were places to buy records and get access to informations (fanzines, mags…). Now with your store in East London it seemed that the new records shop is also a place to hang out, have a coffee, surf the internet, check some bands showcase, buy merchandise… Do you think the records shops have to reinvent themselves to attract a younger audience?
Remember, in ‘76, through record shop culture, record stores were THE place to hang out. If you were young, in a band or just into music, you should chill at a record store; who knew who you might meet or what you might get?! If anything, with the way society is now what with mobile phones etc, record stores are becoming less and less of a place to hang out and more and more of a one-stop shop. But YES, record shops have got to keep with the times, hence the change over the years in stock: sure, a shift in format majority, but more importantly, it’s essential to stay on top of the genres that come and go. You’ve got to keep on top of what the customer wants. This brings us to RTE. The shop is the perfect location to relaunch record shop culture, bringing it back to what a store was: a place for music lovers to hang out. The size of the east shop, its location are key factors in what it has become.
The more the infos are going digital (webzines, blogs, sites) the more the products sold are analog. Vinyl and even the old-fashion cassette are selling more an more: do you think it’s just a trend or is it a market trend that will last? Could you let us know the percentage of vinyl sold in your shops?
The thing about vinyl is that it will never die. There’s no sound like the sound of a record playing through a decent amp and speakers! People rarely realise the poorness in the quality of the mp3s they’re buying today, which makes hearing a record something truly incredibly. The format is obviously still popular on the clubbing and dj scene (dance music basically): although it’s no longer as common, white label dance tracks are still pressed for trial, and still go as quickly once we get them in (take for instance the Skream remix of La Roux ‘In For The Kill’ las year). Tape on the other hand… Well that’s a different thing. Tape has and will always sound pretty rubbish. An inferior quality of sound, really. But it’s nonetheless hugely trendy at the moment: all the young bands are putting stuff out on cassette tape, and mini tape labels are cropping up everywhere. Even if they stick around though, they can only be seen really as fad labels… Pleasing collectors essentially.
Vinyl sales represent up to 35-40% of our sales!
Is the Record Store Day an important day for you? Is getting exclusive records for this day attract a lot of new customers?
Record Store Day is obviously a wonderful event for us. Awareness of independent retail is hugely important and this year especially has taken on a whole new dimension. With our RTE manager, Spencer Hickman, in charge of the event on the European scale, this year’s RSD really tightened up. Some of the majors saw the success of last year and wanted in on it; just look at the amount of special limited releases we’ve got this year! It’s a real pleasure to see so much of the industry backing RSD and that, of course, only helps bring more of the public on board, raising their awareness with releases, this year, from the likes of Tinie Tempah and Blur.
What are your customers have to expect on the RSD in Rough Trade?
For this year, customers can expect some surprises and some great live music, both East and West!
5 acts to watch this year?
Surfer Blood / Bear In Heaven / Joy Orbison / Washed Out / Woo Life
While a lot of chain stores are suffering at the moment how do you explain the success of your Rough Trade East store?
I guess to best explain the success of RTE, I’d have to list the following: its location, youth/young adult culture in London at the moment (particularly East London), the DIY music culture, the boost of the live sector and so the appreciation of the instores. RTE fits in perfectly with its immediate location and its surrounding culture and demographic. The name obviously helps too…
Is the mail order service an important part of your revenues?
Mail order is incredibly important to us. People from all over the world order from our website which we are constantly keeping up to date in order for those overseas customers to better benefit from us.
Thanks to Lucy et Nigel @ Rough Trade Shops.