Halcyon Days: Williamsburg, Brooklyn's Sound Fix on its final Record Store Day. After nine years in business, the independent music retailer closed its doors for good. (Photo: Reggie Ugwu)
Brooklyn's Sound Fix’s Last Day, Smiles Tinged with Sadness
Free jazz blared inside Sound Fix records on Williamsburg’s N. 11th St. Saturday as a steady stream of well-wishers and old friends dropped by to pay their last respects. The mood was sanguine and light-hearted, as far as funerals go. Like so many heavily discounted LPs, laughter exchanged casually between customers and employees, tinged this evening with just a hint of sadness. One longtime patron even brought balloons.
“Everyone’s so concerned about me,” says James Bradley, owner of Sound Fix, after a customer asks the question “What will you do?” for the hundredth time. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll be fine.”
Bradley picked Record Store Day as Sound Fix’s last (actually next to last, the store opened briefly on Sunday as well) in the hopes of attracting such a devoted crowd. After nine years (he opened the original store a few blocks away in 2004 at Bedford and N. 11th) as the proprietor of the independent record store, he wanted to go out with a bang, liquidating as much of his inventory as possible in the process. He says multiple record dealers have contacted him about acquiring whatever customers leave on his hands.
On our last day, 6 new people have decided to follow us. #love
— Sound Fix (@SoundFix) April 21, 2013
The annual high holiday for vinyl lovers hadn’t been enough, of course, to keep the small retailer’s doors open after years of receding revenues and what Bradley deemed an untenable relationship with record labels. Exclusive Record Store Day releases are expected to be in short supply, but he says even regular Tuesday releases from sought-after artists were consistently under-delivered.
“Unless you’re selling instruments or equipment it’s a tough environment for new music retail,” Bradley says. “There’s more hope in the used market.”
Sound Fix’s neighbor, the Brooklyn offshoot of the Whiskey Town bar and restaurant chain, will expand into the space after its signature bright red shelves are finally picked clean. On Saturday, customers carefully perused the remaining inventory, asking Bradley and his employees about this new electronic artist or that Black Sabbath reissue, just as they had for years prior.
“Is there a list of what’s left?” one customer asked an employee named Christopher, who said he’d worked at Sound Fix for the past four years. Christopher threw up his hands and smiled.
“Not any more,” he said.
When a different customer asked Bradley if he’d considered taking the business online, he dismissed the idea without hesitating.
“It’s the interactions with people that I’ll miss the most,” he said. “Talking with them, making recommendations, sharing opinions about things you love and don’t love. That’s what retail is about.”
As with so many record stores before it, there is no longer a place for Sound Fix and its particular blend of culture and commerce— on North 11th St. or elsewhere. But asked if he felt bitter about the way things were ending, Bradley sighed and said he didn’t.
“Things change in this world,” he said. “Not much you can do about it.”
-- Reggie Ugwu
Black Gold, Brooklyn, NY
Jeff Ogiba in front of his Black Gold Records in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (photo: Andy Gensler)
By the time I get to Black Gold in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood at around 4:00 p.m. on Record Store Day, the shop is nicely crowded and just about wiped out of any exclusive Record Store Day product (including the Numero Group exclusive mentioned on the store’s web site I was hoping to score). “Most of it was gone in the first hour,” says store co-owner Jeff Ogiba. “We had over 50 different titles."
A common complaint heard both from consumers and retailers alike on Record Store Day is the scarcity of exclusive product and the lack of control stores have in obtaining it. “When I was ordering [RSD exclusives],” Ogiba says, “I asked if they could guarantee any of the titles from a few distributors I won’t name, and they said to me, ‘Well, we actually have to take care of the people who have larger accounts with us first,’ which is contradictory to the whole philosophy of the whole celebration.”
Another issue some stores face is how RSD exclusives arrive to stores at the last minute. “Our packages showed up last night,” Ogiba says. “It literally was dark out when they came. I have a buddy who has a shop down in Richmond, VA -- Vinyl Conflict -- who said his packages weren’t going to show up until later today.”
All that said, Ogiba acknowledged the positive side to the event and estimated that he did about “two-and-a-half” times the business of a busy Saturday and the day is only half done. “It works, it’s a nice catalyst,” he says.
Tunes' manager Michael Crino in Hoboken, NJ said this was his store's best Record Store Day event yet. (Photo: Evie Nagy)
Hoboken, NJ's Tunes Most Successful RSD Yet
The gorgeous weather didn't hurt, but Tunes in Hoboken, NJ had its most successful Record Store Day in the event's history, according to shift manager Michael Crino.
“We had a line of 60-70 people outside by the time we opened at 9am,” he said at 2:15 p.m., when the store's foot traffic was manageable but lively. “We're already 70% sold out of Record Store Day exclusives. Usually things are dying down by noon, but not yet.”
Crino says the most popular Record Store Day item every year is Phish's annual reissue, and this year was no exception. Also big was At the Drive In's color vinyl edition of “Relationship of Command,” as well as a Their / They're / There vinyl release that was limited to 800 copies total nationwide. “We got eight copies, and they sold instantly,” says Crino. He also says that a lot of people were asking about the Deftones, likely because of the recent death of their bassist Chi Cheng.
“Every year Record Store Day gets bigger as more people know about it,” he adds. “We've had a lot of people who don't normally buy vinyl, and some who just want to see what it's all about.
Tunes will host three in-store performances beginning at 4pm, from Burn and the Brights, Charles Keith Sztyk, and Bongos frontman Richard Barone.