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MUSIC: An Inside Look At Record Store Day In Providence

Friday, April 18, 2014


Saturday is a worldwide celebration of a rare treasure that you can still find on the streets of your local neighborhood chock full of vinyl and old-school music fanaticism.

This celebration is known as Record Store Day, a time that brings together music lovers of all kinds, musicians and independent record stores all over the globe. In our humble city of Providence, the feeling will be alive and well with a quartet of local establishments becoming hubs for the music connoisseur with special releases and unbeatable sales.

I managed to have a talk with Kevin Morosini from Olympic Records, Chris Daltry from What Cheer Records + Vintage, Ben Barnett fromArmageddon Shop and Dave Moran from Analog Underground about what it’s like running an independent record store in the 21st Century and what people can expect to be happening at their places of business tomorrow:

Rob Duguay: So first off, what made each of you want to start an independent record store?

Kevin Morosini: Born out of a love for records and music and an out of control personal record collection, my wife Erika and I decided to go for it and open Olympic Records in July of 2011. Providence's East Side hadn't had a record store that carried new music since Tom's Tracks closed in early 2008 and that was a hole that I hoped we could fill.

Chris Daltry: My wife Jennifer and I have always loved thrifting and old stuff. We started the business back in the mid-late 1990s when we both still had other jobs. At first, we sold out of a booth at the now-defunct This And That Shoppe on Wickenden. I was working across the street at the Coffee Exchange, and I'd stock and tidy up our booth on my breaks. Besides what we reinvested in inventory, we saved every cent we made selling stuff there, including records. After a year or so, we'd saved up enough money that we started to think about opening our own shop. Initially, it was also to allow me more flexibility to play music, but over time the business has grown and it's now the main thing that Jennifer and I do, although we've both kept up our artistic / musical endeavors. We've both also always been music lovers and record collectors, so that being part of our business has always made sense along with records having also become a bigger and bigger part of what we've done over time.

Ben Barnett: The idea to open up Armageddon Shop was conceived in the spring of 1999. Providence had no truly independent shop left dedicated to underground music, especially one focusing on vinyl. While working and saving money, we were also scouring flea markets, yard sales, and other shops for records, tapes, CD's, and anything else we thought would be good to have in the shop we wanted to do. We located and leased the space for our current store on 436 Broadway in September 2000 and work began on creating what you see today. The space was cleaned, painted, and improved. All the fixtures were built by us, except the magazine racks which we acquired from a closed bookstore, and inventory was moved in by the following December. After a pre-opening party on January 12th, 2001 the doors opened the next day. The shop has continued to grow, and we're hoping to keep it growing and improving as much as possible.

Dave Moran: I have a slightly unhealthy love for music.This was my only choice after studying Philosophy and being a touring musician for ten years. I wanted to spread the joy without eating at a Waffle House for every other meal. The store gives me the chance to continue this musical journey, with all the fine heads who contribute to the eternal sound.

R.D.: With the big boom in vinyl releases that’s been happening over the past few years, from a first hand experience what do you think makes people want to go back to using analog equipment to listen to music while there are digital services like Spotify & ITunes that enable people to purchase music with a click of a button?

K.M.: People's motives for listening to records probably vary from person to person, but for me the whole process of shopping for, collecting, playing music is just far more enjoyable when it involves records. It’s way more fun to actually go into a store and find a record, take it home and listen to it while not being on your computer, then when you're done you get to put it away. Digital music, Spotify and all that other stuff are by all means more convenient and great for certain situations like work or jogging.

C.D.: While many people like us have never given up on records in the first place, most did. I think part of what's happening is that older generations of people that either stowed away or got rid of their records and record players have recently gotten nostalgic for them, and this is in turn exposing their kids to the vinyl experience. We get more and more middle and high school kids in at What Cheer buying records, which is awesome. It's what we were into when we were that age, so we're happy younger people are getting into records. I also think that some people in younger generations may have just become overloaded on the purely virtual ways of digital music, there's nothing to show for it, nothing tangible. With records, it's an experience, and it's really enjoyable. We first noticed this at our Rock And Roll Yard Sales, with kids flipping through everyone's crates of records, but now we see it in the store all the time.

B.B.: Having a piece of vinyl with a record cover in your hands is a different experience from just having the sounds. You miss out on the artwork, lyrics and presentation a lot of times when you just get digital releases. You interact more with a record, you have to pay a little attention and there’s kind of a slight ritual to spinning vinyl that makes you appreciate what you’re holding in your hands.

D.M.: It is a completely different experience. A hamburger from McDonald’s tastes great, until you have a grass fed steak cooked perfectly. One of these things will quicken your death, the other will bring out the love of life and the great sacrifice it necessitates. That being said, the computer is a great tool for discovery if you have the time to sift through the garbage "they" are trying to sell you. There are two sides to the coin. Use the computer for what its good for: information. Music is not just information. Vinyl played on a decent stereo can change your life. There are just some things you gotta own with a record.

R.D.: What’s the most enjoyable aspect of running a record store and what’s the most difficult?

K.M.: Running a record store is for the most part super enjoyable, I get to listen to records all day, get to work for myself, and get to chat to nice people all day long.

C.D.: As we've become more of a proper record shop, there's been an increasing demand for new sealed vinyl, both new releases and classic reissues. For years, we only sold used records, which are easier to come by at lower prices, but almost all the new stuff we're carrying is really expensive, even at wholesale prices. We were very conservative in our buying at first, but over time we've figured out what works. Having a mix of used and new records has helped us grow our customer base. It's also helped us keep up to date with new music we would've otherwise been unaware of. But what's really become difficult is keeping the most popular used titles in stock. New generations of record buyers are building collections that older record collectors already have, especially the classics, and this is suddenly starting to make it hard to find albums that were once easy to come by. Luckily, lots of the best-known and loved albums have or are starting to be reissued.

B.B.: The best days are when you turn people onto new sounds they haven’t heard, someone finds something they’ve been hunting for forever, when people meet and start talking in the shop, and when folks let us know that our being here means something to them. Challenges are just the basic daily issues of running a small business.

D.M.: My answer to both of those questions will be getting records in the hands of people who love them.

R.D.: Record Store Day always consists of awesome sales and one of a kind releases, what will be happening at your particular record store tomorrow in terms of sales and releases that will catch someone’s eye?

K.M.: On record store day this year Olympic Records will be carrying a bunch of quality record store day titles as well as having a huge sale on used records.

C.D.: We love local music at What Cheer, and as we've done in the past, we'll be having live music in the shop on Record Store Day. There are three great bands playing this year: Arc Iris, which features features Jocie Adams formerly of the Low Anthem, who's excellent new self-titled album just came out on Anti- Records; The Brother Kite, who's new album 'Model Rocket' is so original and amazing; and Cotton Candy featuring Mark Robinson of Unrest and Teenbeat Records and his wife Evelyn Hurley. These guys have played our Rock And Roll Yard Sales before and are extremely entertaining, with short songs that either resemble or are advertising jingles from TV and radio, and some they've written themselves. We'll also be having a sale, carrying special limited edition RSD releases, and our Record Store Day event is also sponsored by Narragansett Beer, so if you're thirsty and 21+, we'll set up with free 'Gansett while you shop and listen to the bands.

B.B.: We will be putting out a ton of newly priced used records, like we do every year, plus stocking the RSD titles we feel made the cut. We will also be giving our RSD customers free releases donated by local bands and labels like we did last year.

D.M.: Every record will be on sale from 15%-75% OFF. We will feature many RSD releases. A few labels of note are Numero Group, Light in the Attic and Death Waltz.


R.D: What do you think the future holds for the independent record store industry in the next 5 years?

K.M.: Who knows what the next five years will bring but it should be interesting. A lot of younger folks are getting into records, hopefully that trend continues to grow and more and more people will get back into music as entertainment.

C.D.: While we've been buying and selling records since the 1990s, we've never seen such interest in them until recently. It's a shame that the music industry killed off so many great independent record shops, and the ones that managed to stick around did so by changing with the times and created a new way of doing things. In a way, we were lucky to have come after the troubled times of the industry, and also to have seen how the best stores reinvented themselves. Also, in a way, we feel we've contributed to the resurgence of vinyl by never giving up on it and keeping it alive with our Rock And Roll Yard Sales. But we also have Record Store Day to thank. We've participated since its beginnings in 2008, and every year it becomes bigger and better, it's our best day of business all year. If the interest keeps growing, record stores will continue to grow and prosper, as long as we're aware of changes that will undoubtedly come, it pays to be careful.

B.B.: I think it will be fine. People who like records and people who enjoy the experience of coming into a place that you can have real human interactions related to music they love will continue to support small independent music shops. The music industry at large, well, that’s on them to figure out how to stay relevant.

D.M.: Records are just a flash in the pan, you might as well sell off your collection to me at Analog Underground and I’ll pay good money for your collections, although I don't know why because CD’s are totally going to replace them.

For more information on these 4 local independent record stores in Providence, stop by Olympic Records on 580 Wickenden Street, What Cheer Records + Vintage upstairs from the Chipotle on 180 Angell Street, Armageddon Shop on 436 Broadway and Analog Underground a few blocks up on 504 Broadway during the day today or tomorrow. If that isn’t enough for you, you can also click on the links to each shop’s website at the top of the page. Happy Record Store Day and support your local independent record store, it might even turn you on to something new.


Related Slideshow: MUSIC: Who is SweenS?

Here is the story of how Ryan Sweeney went from a Providence kid to a Nationally recognized hip-hop star. 

Special thanks to www.sweens365.com.

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Despite his gift for freestyling, Ryan dedicated his adolescent years strictly to basketball. After excelling at a New England Prep School Ryan decided to go to Florida Atlantic University to continue his career.

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After sacrificing his basketball career at FAU in order to pursue his rap dreams, Ryan came home to Providence and refocused his entire life. Since, Ryan has been going back and forth between New York and Providence trying to get his name on the scene.

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A Record Deal

After a show with Pusha T, SweenS signed a deal with Federal Hill Records, an up and coming Label that SweenS hopes to help expand. SweenS has worked with artists like, Fat Joe, Pusha T, Dan the Man, among others.

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Rhode Island Born, Rhode Island Bred

Combined with his honesty and unforgiving portrayal of his privileged suburban Providence upbringing, SweenS is destined to put his home city on the map.


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