Indie Record Labels Saddle Creek, Fool's Gold Open Retail Stores
Indie Record Labels Saddle Creek, Fool's Gold Open Retail Stores

Brick and Mortar: Saddle Creek's new store in Omaha, Nebraska.

This past weekend (July 23) Saddle Creek Records celebrated the grand opening of its new record store in its hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, with live performances by The Mynabirds and Orenda Fink. A few weeks earlier, Fool's Gold Records, a label that bridges the worlds of hip-hop and electronic music, launched a store in Brooklyn, NY. While the idea of an independent record label opening its own shop is nothing new (Jack White's Third Man Records, Team Love Records, etc ), indie labels like these are putting their own spin on the concept.

"There are so many things vying for people's attention culturally," Nick Catchdubs, co-founder of artist run record label Fool's Gold, says, "that you have to find that one thing you can cling to that is original and represents you. And that's the store for Fool's Gold."

For Catchdubs, the Fool's Gold store was an opportunity to bring together all the things they do as a record label and showcase it in one space. The making of the store was a detailed process: their art director Dust La Rock came up with designs for the store, which included custom wallpaper and a bar made from reclaimed wood. Adam G, head designer at Karma Loop, designed the store's layout.

Located at 536 Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn, the Fool's Gold store is open for business (Photo: Brook Bobbins)

"We put so much time and energy in planning remixes and making the artwork look good" says Catchdubs "the store needed to have the same vibe."

Saddle Creek's Robb Nansel says he wanted to provide fans of his label with something real and physical in this digitally focused world. "For us," he says, "it is almost a service we are providing for the people who want to use it. We ultimately view this as having a physical presence locally. We've had our offices here in Omaha, and we are present within the community and going out to shows, but there was never a place where you could just stop by and see the label"

Their physical presence can be as important to artists as it is to fans. Labels want their artist to be able to see that their operation is more than a guy with an e-mail account. For Catchdubs, the store will serve as a homebase for such Fool's Gold artists as Nacho Lovers, Kid Sister and Treasure Fingers when they're in New York City.

As for fans, if they ever walk into the store they too might run into an artist or label founder such as A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs working behind the counter. "People can come in and put a face behind the mp3," Catchdubs says, "and see that there are real artists involved with all of this"

Not only do these stores help differentiate their labels from the rest of the market, but they also give birth to more business opportunities. For Saddle Creek, they installed a small stage in the store for in-store performances. (below)

Live performance by the Mynabirds at the Saddle Creek Store Opening (Photo: Daniel Muller )

The Saddle Creek store not only includes vinyls from their own artists like Bright Eyes, Azure Ray or Sebastien Grainger, but also releases from other labels. "We've have brought in a bunch of vinyl from non Saddle Creek artists, a sort of curated collection from the classic vinyl to the current records like the new Fleet Foxes and Tyler the Creator." Nansel says.

Without being "too museum or hard rock café about it" Nansel tell us, the store has started to put up different artwork, set lists, backstage passes, old photos and all kinds of Saddle Creek memorabilia.

Catchdubs says the Fool's Gold store has enabled them to collaborate with different brands and open doors creatively in terms of merchandise. They recently partnered with an Italian company called Pijama, for example, to create a limited series of laptop cases.

Fool's Gold strong visual identity developed by artist Dust La Rock is exemplified through the unique and quirky design of their merchandise. On of their most popular item is the Duck Sauce Rubber Duck (below), which is currently only available in the store. Other items include lighters, mugs, stickers, t-shirts and vinyl.

The Duck Sauce mascot available for purchase at the Fool's Gold store (Photo: Brook Bobbins)

The most desired Fool's Gold item yet to be mass produced - a leather jacket- is a result of their partnership with the clothing brand, Members Only. Right now only three exist in the world: the one Dave 1 from Chromeo wears, the one A-Trak wears, and the one they have on the mannequin in the store.

All merchandise is premiered in the store first, and is available online only later. "We want people to sort of feel like they should make the trip out to the store and get it first" explains Catchdubs.

Fool's Gold and Saddle Creek also have several distinct advantages over entrepreneurs who are considering opening their own music retail shops: Both labels opened stores within their office space, had merchandise already made, and could use current staff to manage the storefront. Consequently, neither label store required much financial start-up investment.

"How can we make it as least intrusive as possible?" Robb Nansel of Saddle Creek asked his team as they prepared to open the store. "We wanted to make it easy on ourselves and not create additional expenses. We don't have to make money with the store because we own the space and the staff. All we are really doing is opening the backdoor of our warehouse and letting people come in and buy stuff"