This year, Record Store Day (April 17) drove a 131 percent gain in U.S. vinyl sales, with 521,000 albums sold in the week ending April 21; the year before, it spurred a 12-year high for independent retailers. But the yearly event has not been enough to prevent the continual decline of physical sales overall, with Other Music co-founder Josh Madell pointed out in a 2014 guest post for Billboard. "Running a record store in 2014 is a passion, a labor of love and, these days, maybe a fool’s errand -- but we’re still here because we love the music, we love the customers, and it’s all we know," he wrote, before adding, "Still, every slow Saturday cuts like a knife."
That knife finally cut too deep, as Madell tells Billboard that while there was "no one last straw" that signaled the end, the industry's challenges -- the store is doing half the business of a decade ago, he says -- and rising rent costs (twice as high as when the store opened) ultimately made its continued existence unsustainable. "It was always a tough business and in this climate it’s gotten hard to make it work," Madell says. "It’s been 20 years, we’ve been struggling for a long time with the decision and it seemed like the right time."
Other Music's closure is sadly little surprise for an industry facing a bit of a paradox; vinyl sales continue to climb, while independent stores that sell them continue to close. The store acknowledged as much in its statement, which continued, "Times have changed, and soon we will be moving on, but in the coming weeks we hope you’ll come by and see us, dig through our racks, and reminisce about what has been a truly special era for all of us. We’ll also be announcing more events and celebrations soon, so stay tuned. Once again, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts."
Other Music was more than just another record store in the City's underground; it was also a destination, hosting performances by the likes of Vampire Weekend, Neutral Milk Hotel and St. Vincent and employing dozens of musicians, including members of Animal Collective and Widowspeak, according to a press release. Already, some musicians are chiming in on Other Music's announcement. "This makes me very sad! Thank you for sticking up for music all these years," tweeted Neko Case; Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai lamented the "terrible news" in a tweet of his own.
In 2014, Other partnered with Fat Possum to launch a record label called Other Music, which Madell says will continue to operate. ("We've got a lot of plans for that," he says.) He also noted that the store's all-time top-selling album was either Air's 1998 debut LP Moon Safari or Yo La Tengo's 2000 release And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out.
"This is really hard on us and our customers," Madell says, adding that there are currently no plans to continue as an online-only or mail-order business. "A lot of people have put a lot of passion into this place over the years, and over the next couple of months we’re going to celebrate the era we went through with all these great, great people. I don’t want to be one more dead East Village institution."