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No. 135 August 2015

“The Record Store Book”

ebsite “The Vinyl Factory” about everything that is somehow connected with vinyl records. Although it was created as a part of a label (with the same name) that specializes in exquisite, refined re-issues and new releases, over time it emancipated from the label and turned into important source of information for the whole society.

For some time now next to information like: This state-of-the-art cast-iron turntable is one of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen, Crate Diggers: Peanut Butter Wolf, or Harmolodic Hero: A friend pays tribute to Ornette Coleman one could find there news about new record stores. Yes, this is not a “return to the past”, it is a second decade of the 21st century!


Most of those stores offer vinyl records and sells both, new items and second hand ones. As it turns out vinyl comeback changed the way music is sold. And just a moment ago music files supremacy and changes that followed in sales and distribution ways of music seemed to be the only future for the industry. It seemed that in the very near future we would buy only music files and only via Internet. And classic shops were supposed to be obsolete, to disappear from the face of the Earth. If you still think that you might reconsider while reading articles like the one about new cultural center in Seoul: 10,000-record strong vinyl library opens in Seoul .

Unlike music files that belong to labels even when customers pay for them (as they actually only buy a license to listen to the music), physical carriers, including vinyl records, belong to the buyer as soon as he pays for them. Once we buy it we can do with it whatever we want – lend them to friends, copy them, at least for ourselves, family and friends (not so true for Great Britain anymore; MD), and even sell them. According to the law, one can not do all these things with music files.

In Poland records stores seem to die out. Not all of them as some still do pretty well, but in general it seems that owners of such stores don't have any concept how to make them profitable, and the only way (according to them) is to close store up and start selling in the Internet. For some it works quite well, for some it doesn't, but anyway it means that the “old” way, the direct interaction between buyer and seller who usually shared the same passion about music, which was as important as the sale itself, isn't happening anymore.

It seems that Cracow stores are exactly on the skids. When writing this article I tried to contact several shops via email and Facebook asking for short interviews. I got response from... one of them, who, when received my questions, decided not to answer. Looking sadly (as it brings many good memories) at the dirty shop window of Music Corner (Św. Tomasza Street, Cracow) I wasn't really surprised. It was pretty clear that stores owners simply didn't have any faith, any hope for survival on the market, nor the conviction that fighting for the survival was worth their effort.

But maybe it is time to change the way of thinking. The idea as old as the vinyl record itself – records exchange or market if you will – it came back and maybe today this is a way to do this sort of business? Maybe it should be conducted in... same place every time – how about... a record shop? Once a week, perhaps?
An indication of a need for such places should be how successful events like Record Store Day are, how many people come and how much they are willing to spend buying physical carriers of music. Another successful event, one that inaugurated recently in Cracow, is Vinyl Bazaar, opened on June 13th in Forum Hotel.


Vinyl records are what drives the comeback of music shops, maybe not in Poland yet, but in many other countries. Major labels can not ignore this fact anymore, they have to include releases of vinyl records in their plans. You can see this trend already, for example, by the changes introduced in their policy by one of the giants of music sale industry that has stores all over the world – the HMV. Beginning this year the company announced that after some years vinyl records return to where they belong – to HMV shops (see Joel Levin, HMV returns to top of music charts, “Retail & Consumer” Jan 16th 2015 [accessed:June 18th 2015], see HERE).

Paul McGowan, director of Hilco Capital, specialized company responsible for restructuring of HMV commented: „I am particularly pleased of the significant influence on sales of such events as live concerts, album signings and so on, that happened all over the country – these focused our energy on a clear goal and attracted fans back to us”. I should add that last year over 200 concerts and meetings took place in HMV stores, with artists like.: Kasabian, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Take That.

One has to realize that record stores invented such events long time ago and used them for many, many years. One of recently released books about vinyl records, „The Record Store Book”, tells a story about such stores in sunny California. It is co-authored by a photographer, Mike Spitz and a writer, Rebecca Villaneda. It tells stories of 50 stores, some legendary and some newcomers, all of them based in one state.

There are few pages about each store with some images, description and short comments from their owners. The Canterbury Records is the oldest among them, opened in 1956, the “youngest” were founded in 2012, so just before authors closed the list of stores for their book. Mike took pictures of first several shops already in 2011, but later he decided it would be a good idea to take analogue photos, on a film, and style them to look like from 1970ties. This decision brought him a lot of additional work, as it would be so much easier to take digital photos, but it definitely paid off – everything one finds in this book creates one, consistent content – stories that are told, people starring in it, music often referenced in the stories, and those fabulous photos. All these elements together create an added value to this book.
It wouldn't be even possible without someone to listen to these stories – this person was Rebecca. Good writer is a good listener – just like the author of this book. Without imposing her own presence she steered conversations in such a way that they created a coherent whole with others.

I purchased it on Mike’s website. When I received my copy of the book I found out that it was signed by both authors – it seems that they sign all sold copies. TRSB is 230 pages long and includes 50 chapters – one for each store. It looks great and reads great – doesn't matter whether one reads it cover to cover, or just some fragments. It is definitely worth having because of Mike's nostalgic photos as well as because of wonderful stories told by Mike with Rebecca's help. Information about this book was published by all major vinyl magazines, but also in other titles like web-based „Billboard” for example. Dimensions of this book's cover are, which seems quite obvious considering what it is about, similar to vinyl 10'' album.


WOJCIECH PACUŁA: You both seems to be emotionally involved in the topic you write and photo of - am I right? If yes, what was the "trigger" for it?
MIKE E. SPITZ: I was a record collector, drummer and guitar player from an early age, and I used to go to my favorite record store since I was a young boy so I was always inspired by music and record stores and record collecting from an early age.

Do you listening to the vinyl by yourself? If yes please tell us about it.
I listen to a lot of LP vinyl records, I have a large collection. I also have many CD's and tapes. I have a large collection of Jazz, classic rock, Blues and black soul music. My record collection got bigger during the process of making this book because I would visit record stores, take the photos, and then buy records.

What did you find common in all this stores?
Common to all the stores would be a sense of community and an appreciation for the collectible aspect of music as opposed to the invisibility of MP3s and downloadable music. Stores are mostly set up the same way, with their records, used and new, CDs, tapes, posters and memorabilia, old turntables, etc but each of them have their own atmosphere and style. Some stores are more boutique and clean or tidy looking, some are more messy and like someone’s old basement or attic or closet with a more lived in feel. They each have their own vibe or feel to the store, often depending on the personality of the owner and employees.

What do you think about the future of the vinyl - I want to know what you think after all of this...
Vinyl records never left us, they were always there, but they are just getting more attention again by youth culture and others who grew up listening to records and people who may have put away their turntables and favored CDs for a while because of the convenience and also because the quality of new vinyl pressings is better now than it was in the 1980s when records began to compete with CDs ' so that stopped a lot of people from buying records in the 1980s and after that bec they liked the sound of CDs and also the vinyl was bad quality starting in the mid 1980s. New 180 gram records now are trying to recapture the sound of early records before the 1980s and 1990s.

I think many of the new pressings and the support of new bands and older musicians producing records on the new vinyl pressings like Bob Dylan, will keep records alive and becoming more popular again. Records have a collectible factor with the art work, photos, the liner notes, the tangibility that CDs do not have bec they are smaller and the packaging is plastic.

What was your last vinyl buy? Most worth to remember one?
The most recent records I bought were Ike and Tina Turner Live, and BB King record from the late 1960s. I am in Portugal now where I also bought CDs of FADO music such as Amalia Rodriguez  because it is difficult to travel with records.

What kind of music do you like, Could you tell us about 10 albums you can recommend us with your hand on your heart? :)
I am a fan of Jazz, Soul, Blues, and classic rock. 10 records I like:

  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
  • Marvin Gaye, What's Going On
  • Rolling Stones, Metamorphosis
  • Elton John, Blue Moves
  • The Who, Who's Next
  • Greg Allman, Laid Back
  • Bob Dylan, Desire
  • Donovan, Open Road
  • Albert King, LiveWire
  • The Beatles, Abbey Road

This book presents a very positive picture of today's record sales business. Authors did not avoid meeting owners who decided to close their stores, but those were very few. Those who stayed in business obviously did very well. What all these stores have in commons is, apart from creating sort of community of record fans around each store, holding similar activities in all these stores – live concerts, used records exchanges, actions like “national days” or weeks and so on.

Placing records on a dirty shelf in the dark corner of the shop won't convince anybody to buy them anymore. Whoever wants to sell records has to realize that people who buy records today are either young ones focused on vinyl, or more mature vinyl connoisseurs, usually collectors. And one has to create an offer for them. And one has to talk to them, answer emails and Facebook messages. Cause if one doesn't... one is already doomed...

Editor in chief
Wojciech Pacuła

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