Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Know Your Record Store - Let's Boogie

Owner Neil Keller with a very cool Led Zeppelin bootleg of a 1974 Chicago show.

For a fifth consecutive year, as the rest of the industry is in a free fall, the sales of vinyl records continue to increase. A total of 4.6 million units were sold in the US in 2012, according to Neilsen Soundscan, the official source for sales throughout the US and Canada.

While that might not seem like a huge number, it's important to note that most record stores are locally owned, independent businesses that need our support. Whether it's your first purchase, or a weekly addiction, knowing where to shop and what to expect is a great start.

Let's Boogie in Bridgeport, is an absolute blast from the past, complete with faded Led Zeppelin posters and a full wall of cassettes. I sat down with owner, Neil Keller, to discuss his store, his love for vinyl and where the industry may be headed.

How did you get into the business?
I always liked music and had a background in retail, so the two went together. The neighborhood needed a record store. There was Melody Records across the street, but the lady was about to retire. She didn't like kids and she didn't like Rock n Roll.

How long have you been in business?
27 years.

How many records do you have on the floor?
About 5,000. Another 5,000 in inventory.

Would you consider anything your specialty? 
Oldies, I guess [laughs]. I don't really like the new stuff. The '60s, '70s and '80s are mainly what we have.

As a record store owner, how did the transition to different formats effect you?
The transition to cd from cassette was fine. But then the transition from cd to downloads killed the business. The only that kept it going was the vinyl, because the collectors, the audiophiles, the vinyl junkies still collected albums. That's what paid the bills.

When did you first notice an increase in sales?
Um, probably 2008. The downside is the $25, 180 gram releases. All the new records are $20 to $25, they've reissued a lot of the classic rock, but people still want the original for $10 or $12. Most of my stuff is used, so I don't see the same numbers.

[Note: Most records use 120-140 grams of vinyl when pressing an album. 180 grams is considered "audiophile" grade. Aside from being heavier, the extra material allows for deeper grooves and better sound.]

Do you think there is a difference between the two?
Oh yeah. They're heavier, they're thicker. The bottom line is every time you play a record there is wear, so you'll lose some of the signal every time you play it. With the stylus hitting the record, there's wear and if you can lessen that, any record will last longer.

Why do you prefer vinyl?
You can touch it. You can feel it. The sound is warmer. It's not as convenient as a cd, or an MP3, but you get an experience.

When you opened this store, you were selling vinyl and 8-tracks. That must seem like ages ago.

So what's next?
I don't see it coming. I think manufacturers and artists are going to just send you a download. I think they're just going to own a master recording and shoot it out to your phone. It won't sound as good, but it'll be adequate.

Doesn't that concern you?
I think if the economy turns around and everyone is working, we'll go back full circle. Vinyl is a luxury item, it's definitely not a necessity. You'd rather feed your kids and keep the lights on. But, I have people that come in every week and spend $100, $200.

Any chance of selling the store?
I had one guy that came in and wanted to move it to Holland. The entire store, posters off the wall, shelves, everything. 

I kept the store because it turned into a hobby. It's a cool place to hang out. I don't consider it work. I'm here every day and I'm not going anywhere.

They pretty much have it all, from Charlie Brown to N.W.A.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! I really hope Let's Boogie sticks around. We had a cool local record shop that closed down not too long ago....pretty sad: