Monday, October 26, 2009

the importance of a local record shop

I've heard rumors that business has been a little rough for The Disc Exchange in recent months. I know this isn't very shocking news considering all the factors that are detrimental to record stores these days, especially (do I even have to say it?) the economy. It still makes me very sad, however, to think that I could know a Knoxville without The Disc Exchange. I dislike this thought very much.

It's had me thinking for a long time, though. Should we just blame the economy and/or the internet for the demise of record shops? Or could it be possible that the problem is bad business practices?

I've always been so proud of The Disc Exchange. Over the years, I've heard many out-of-towners claim it's better than any other record store out there, which makes me raise my head a little and say, "Yes, yes. It is wonderful, isn't it?" as I chalk another one up for Knoxville.

These thoughts lead me to another question: How vital is a local record shop to a city?

I just recently went to Asheville, NC and heard about Harvest Records. Apparently in the five years they've been open, they've laid claim as one of Asheville's most successful businesses (this is hearsay. correct me if I'm wrong) Every cool kid in Asheville (which is everyone) has a record player. And where do they buy vinyls? At Harvest Records, which also promotes shows and are vital in bringing live music to Asheville. They even state on their website, "(we) won't scoff at or judge your musical tastes." This is something I appreciate knowing, as my taste covers a wide range of musical genres, some of which I know not to brag about.

Two things I've always thought The Disc Exchange could stand to lose are a) (for some employees) the pretension and b) the fake vomit, figurines, lunch boxes, all the crap that makes them feel like Gadzooks. Then they can focus on...wait for it...this is profound... music. I think they should stake their claim as Knoxville's hub for new music. No gimmicks, just good people trying to spread one of the best things around.

My thoughts may be futile on the matter. I do think it wouldn't hurt for some of Knoxville's superheroes (the initials A.C. come to mind) to realize Knoxville's need for a local record store and work with The Disc Exchange to give it the boost it needs not only to survive, but to also flourish. Who knows. Maybe one day our children's children will be able to peruse the rare and vast array of vinyls down at The ole D.E. That'd be nice, I think.

PS It's their 22nd birthday this week so show them some love.


micah daniel said...

for me, a good local record store is crucial to a city. whenever i go to nashville, i have to visit grimey's. while i am biased toward grimey's, i was extremely impressed by the disc exchange when i moved to knoxville, especially because of it's, let's say, interesting location.
i love going down and visiting the book eddy and the disc exchange on a lazy saturday. it's one of my favorite things. i agree with your comments about the novelty items, but i'm wondering if that is just me being pretentious and judgmental. i think that the idea of it becoming a hub for all things music knoxville is a good one, however, i'm thinking that it's location might be a hinderance.

Anonymous said...

pretentious employees with smug looks on their faces is exactly why I stopped shopping there. You don't get those on the internet. And it's truly a shame because Disc Exchange has an AWESOME selection. But I'm a stickler for customer service and politeness.

Anonymous said...

be careful what you write. a little bad press like this could close the disc exchange's doors.

Anonymous said...

I love the Disc Exchange and have never really found their staff to be pretentious. I agree with you that they could stand to lose all the tacky crap they sell. But who knows, maybe all that stuff is a big revenue source that helps to subsidize the record sales. Doesn't seem likely, though, does it?

There's something about physically browsing through a music selection. I feel the same way about books. But I guess there are a lot of people who don't feel the same way. All I know is that whenever I go home to Ann Arbor (a big music store town), I can't wait to visit shops I miss; and whenever I go to Detroit, John King's book store is a must visit on my list. And Amoeba records in CA and Powell's books in Portland continue to be HUGE tourist attractions (along with being resident favorites).

I hope the Disc Exchange thrives for years to come. Thanks for the thoughtful post, B.

Lo said...

when i saw wilco earlier this year at the tennessee theater on "local record store day", tweedy announced that they had visited the disc exchange earlier in the day to celebrate with fans. aside from the fact that i was really upset that i never got the news and missed it, i think that highlights how artists love local record stores, almost as important as really good venues, i suppose. knxoville already has good venues. it'd be a shame to loose a legitimately good record store.

The Modern Gal said...

Anon #2: How is this bad press? B is saying how much she loves the fact that we have a great local music shop in Disc Exchange and merely making suggestions on how DE could improve to fight through the tough time they're having right now.

I'm with Em, I like being able to touch and try out books and music at the store. There's something great about being able to browse.

I guess the one thing that keeps me from going to DE as much as I should is the location. I don't have a problem with Chapman Hwy, I just rarely cross the bridge because everything else I need besides Ijams and Ye Olde Steak House are closer to me elsewhere. I don't know that moving would be feasible for DE, but I'd be much more likely to browse if they were somewhere I pass through on a regular basis.

todd said...

i know disc exchange has a great selection of cd's, and i've never had anything but good experiences with their staff, but i will say as far as vinyl selections go, they aren't what they could be. in most cases i find myself waiting for a trip to grimey's in nashville or even shangrila in memphis to find something specific or even just browse for fun. and if i do need to get my record fix in knoxville, i'll usually head to basement records a little farther south on chapman (an awesome [and organized] selection of classic used records.)

in my opinion, a sweet record shop with a little bit of character (which DE lacks big-time--the biggest reason i don't frequent) would flourish in knoxville, just like harvest records has in asheville.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the DE vinyl selection is pretty average, and they don't seem to restock a lot of fairly recognizable things very promptly. I wish they had a more adventurous inventory, which I'm sure they could better afford to do if the music business as a whole were doing better.

As far as the staff goes, I find that most of them are pretty friendly and helpful, and there are only a couple of sour apples.

Wild Bill said...

todd, there is a vinyl store opening in old city soon. Jason Boardman, owner of the pilot light and knox independant music go-to is opening a vinyl shop next to the cereal bar on jackson, where woodward books used to be. That being said, I like DE, but being from nashville I miss my Grimey's. here's to hoping for a great new vinyl shop.

Michael said...

I have recently begun to frequent the DE, after 5 or so years here in Knoxville. I really like the place. It's almost as cool as Magnolia Thunderpussy was in Columbus (not even sure if they're still open). But I think it would be a shame for DE to close (if this is truly the case) as I think it's the best shop in Knoxville. The vinyl selection isn't great, but then I don't have a record player, so that doesn't affect me. (Though I think that admission just destroyed any hipster credential I ever had...) Nonetheless I've decided to try and buy a new item there at least once a month (ya know, the economy....)

Johan said...

I was down at Basement a couple weeks ago and the owner told he's selling all of his vinyl to some guy in Lake City. I'm not sure if that deal fell through or not, but we could be loosing Basement rather soon. Apparently gold coins are more lucrative.

That's good to hear they're opening a record shop in the Old City. Jason has interesting tastes in music. Hopefully the store will reflect that. As for the DE, I love it, but I've had to turn to the internet for a lot of my more recent purchases. Their hip-hop/electronic selection is really sparse and they can rarely special order promo singles and new releases I'm looking for. Tis a shame - I would love to give them my business more often.

Anonymous said...

As a former employee, I tell you NONE of us liked that gadzooks crap and we were at a loss as to why in the world we had so much of it! I don't remember ringing up very much of it.
And as far as Vinyl, it's more risky than CD's to purchase for the store because often they can't be returned to the supplier, hence a less-than-desirable selection.

Anonymous said...

I will say that the DE vinyl clearance rack has occasionally turned up some unreal gems, the kind that make me wonder what people could possibly be listening to that they're passing this stuff up.

Unknown said...

"Or could it be possible that the problem is bad business practices?"
Funny how this is hardly ever mentioned in stories about disappearing record stores..I think this is quite often a huge factor...I should know since I run a record store (in the Netherlands but nevertheless..). We're surviving and we're a small indie kinda store. Lotsa stores closing here too and always the 'changing markets', 'downloading' gets blamed in articles but there's almost always another factor at play, bad business being one of them.

Unknown said...

I am in my forties, so you would think I would be a big fan of record stores, I guess. Yup, I loved 'em back in the eighties, but I just feel that they are obsolete now. I'll bet it's been ten years or more since I set foot in one, and I have no desire to now.

cmp said...

I worked at the DE for about 10 years, so I am a bit biased, but I would like to say a couple of things on the topic. As far as the vinyl selection, the DE gets (or can get) pretty much every new release, so I think the selection is really great...maybe not for used vinyl as much, but they are definitely on top of the new market...and rival (or exceed) stores in much larger markets (not sure about the electro-stuff), especially considering the risk/cost of stocking non-returnable items.

I would also suggest sending them an email if you have ideas as to the "boutique items" they might sell to offset music sales. I have seen other music stores thrive with graphic novels and specialty books, but am not convinced Knoxville can support those items. Tell them what you might like to see...maybe they'll listen.

The CD selection is off the charts compared to most, and as far as employees go, they at least have a staff that knows what they are talking about...and stores of that size will always have "bad apples" or as I see it personality. I would dare say that even the "rude" employees will almost always be helpful. Isn't that the stereotype that has always plagued record stores? I kinda like employees with personality, it makes it interesting at least.

As far as Basement Records goes, I would also recommend you check out Lost & Found Records, a far more friendly and supportive place. While Basement does have good quality gems, I quit shopping there years ago because of the lack of interest by the owner and several bad experiences with his business practices (upping the price on items I had him hold for me).

Anyway, the DE is a great resource for this town, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention how well they treat their employees...something to be said for that in this day and age. I wholeheartedly think Knoxville can support several good music stores, and hope it continues to do so. Books and records. Local business. Support 'em.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I've been spoiled living in bigger cities, but the DE vinyl and CD selection leave a lot to be desired. I like the store and wish them well, but it's rare that I find what I'm looking for.

TheDailyVinyl said...

Nashville has some pretty awesome local music stores: Grimmy's, Phonoluxe, The Great Escape, and The Groove in East Nashville. The latter is within walking distance of my house, so I PRAY that they can weather this economy and begin to thrive. There is just something so magical about the vinyl record spinning. That's why I created my vinyl videos at (I put my turntable in random places then dub the vinyl audio. You kinda have to see it. Some people love it, some, well... don't get it.) Anyway, THREE CHEERS for the local record store!!!