Here is another interview I did for sideonetrackone, this time the interview topic was on Record Store Day 2013 and the impact it has on independent record shops. To celebrate and discover more about this day, I took a trip to Drift Record Store in Totnes which is a beautiful little shop in a nice little village in Devon and interviewed the owner to find out what Record Store Day means to Drift. Also, I was fortunate enough to have the lovely photographer Steve Harrison take some pictures of the store to accompany this interview. If you are interested in viewing more of his work then head over to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/steevharrison/
Could you briefly give the readers an overview of how Drift came about and the position you are in now.
We’ve been in Totnes (Devon) in one form or another since 1994. We operated out of a small shop (about the size of a living room) for years and on April fools day 2012 we moved to a new double shop with loads more room. We stock new music from all genres and try to carry as much of it as we can. We keep it simple; anyone is welcome and we encourage everyone to come and find something new. It’s what we’re there for.
What are your plans for Record Store Day?
This year is massive, we’ve got two live in stores that we’re really thrilled about. Gold Panda and Luke Abbott are both going to come play and we honestly couldn’t have picked anyone we’d be more excited about. I met Gold Panda back in January as he did an interview for our newspaper. He took us round Berlin and was just the nicest guy. I tentatively suggested he came and did something with us and he took me up on it. Luke put out two stunning EP’s on Gold Panda’s label (NoTown) so I suggested he came down and played also; I am still stunned they both agreed!
Record store day has just gone from strength to strength and the excitement and awareness of the day is insane. We try really hard to make sure we have enough stock so that everyone can join in and not leave empty handed.
What Record Store Day releases are you most excited about? Will you be buying any for yourself?
Oh wow. I have been after four bits of vinyl pretty much all of my adult life. The Blade Runner soundtrack and the Three Beta Band EP’s… so it’s pretty much magic that they are all arriving at once! – I try to be super fair with the staff and the releases. We get loads of cool stuff all year round, so I think that all of our valued customers and friends should get first look at what we’ve got for Record Store Day – it’d be pretty negative if me and the staff woofed up all the good stuff; we all struggle with the ‘ebay guys’ as it is so we’re all about trying to keep the day as positive as possible.
How far in advance do preparations for Record Store Day begin at Drift?
I have been speaking to labels, distributors and bands about releases since last year so a good long while. We just want it to be a positive day and for everyone to feel enthused and involved so it’s like planning a massive party.
What does Record Store Day mean to you, as a music fan and a shop owner?
It is a remarkable thing. The growth rate has been exponential and the awareness of record shops is just at an all time high. Ordering the right amount of releases and in the right quantity is a difficult balance, but I just bear in mind that without RSD, next weekend would just be another wet April Saturday.
There can be a tendency for people/opportunists to buy up the limited edition releases on Record Store Day and then they will stick them on eBay, which I think is a real shame. What do you think should be done to prevent such behaviour?
Yeah, it sucks, but it’s not going away. I think the eBay thing is quite fixable and I think that if they were prepared to play ball they’d gain a lot of good will and support. Just block any of those items for a full week. Thats all it would take because truth be told, I could sell maybe 100 copies of Kate Bush on 10” on RSD… If you put the same release out a few weeks later you’re talking about maybe 10% of the demand. Supply and demand, just let things cool off for a few days and the market would disappear. I know who shops regularly, I know who supports us all year long and I know who has turned up for one day only. I’m not saying I wont sell releases to those guys, but I don’t make it easy.
There is a saying that; ‘A Record Shop is for life not just for Record Store Day.’ Other than Record Store Day, what do you think could be done to help ensure people visited record shops all year round?
Man. Thats a huge question. Peoples relationship with the consumption of music has changed so drastically in the last decade, its more of a universal problem where people have adopted this fucked up opinion that music should be free? A lot of my friends in American stores say – “use it or you lose it” – Record Shops aren’t a charity and in all honesty those of us who are working hard and finding new ways to keep people enthused are thriving. Supermakets, Amazon and all those shitty streaming sites have undoubtedly damaged the landscape (in my opinion) but you can only really assess these things retrospectively. Do people want record shops to be about in five/ten years? If so, by your music from them. I do… so I do!
Alternatively, Inland Revenue could give physical record shops a tax break on physical music sold hand to hand; promotes growth on the ‘high street’ and evens the playing field with the multi nationals.
Drift also sells records online, with everything is increasingly being transferred to the internet, do you think that there will be an increase of virtual record stores and that physical shops on the high street will start becoming defunct?
There are a handful of specialist music sites that are doing astonishing work. Boomkat and Experimental Media in particular are amazing resources. The releases they carry are so avant garde it is almost impossible to imagine where a physical shop could exist with that range? Having said that, an astonishingly good website still can’t touch a good physical record shop; they are two very different things.
We sell stuff online because its a necessary way of getting a few more people through the door each week. I’ve got loads of very valued customers who live miles and miles away from us. They all drop in every so often, but the website enables them to shop way more regularly. If you look at our site, the same records on the front page are physically as on the front racks in the shop and they are priced the same… we’re trying to create something that in some way simulates visiting us in person.
Bricks and mortar record shops will never be defunct.
With recent mentions in The Guardian as being one of the top 10 independent record shops in Britain and also being nominated for Music Week’s 2013 ‘Best Independent Retailer’ it appears the shop is going from strength to strength. Where do you see Drift heading in the next few years and what do you think it is about Drift that attracts customers?
Thanks! Well we just have to keep on keeping on I guess. We are only able to do this because of the support of the labels and distributors who provide these amazing releases, and the hard working people who come and buy them from us. I’m living the life of riley in all honesty, so I’m just eternally grateful for being able to open the door every day.
We’ve got some exciting new things to roll out this year and we’re really committed to keep making the shop the best place to hang out. We are entirely driven by the notion of having as much fun as possible; it’s infectious!
What has been the most memorable thing that has happened in the shop over the years?
It’s always nice when musicians and labels drop in to the shop. I think they can see how enthusiastic we are about stocking their work and thats rewarding. In the smaller shop we had a couple of instore shows just before we moved that shut down the whole street; loosely controlled chaos. The most surreal was about two months back we got a call from New York. The guy on the phone had seen a news piece about us and thought that the shop looked like a cool place. So he phoned up to tell us. It was Seymour Stein – he’s a genuine legend in this industry and he just phoned up which was such an awesome call to take.
Have you ever received any misinformed or bizarre requests at your store or have there been times when a customer has requested a record and you have been unable to get hold of it for them?
We try and go above and beyond tracking stuff down for people. We all know that they could most likely get it cheaper from Amazon and the like, but we do appreciate that they want to buy it from us. People come into the shop and sing at us quite a lot (which I like)… or quote partial lyrics; it’s a weird musical detective process. There are quite a few artists using numbers and icons in their name (!!!, A$ap Rocky, Le1f) and they provide some amazing pronunciations… from the Drift staff as much as anyone else in all honesty.
If I entered your store with £20 to spend, and gave you no knowledge as to what music I would be interested in, what would you recommend that I should buy?
You’re in safe hands… we only stock good music. This week, either Parquet Courts or Kurt Vile – they will both make you feel awesome.
You also run ‘Drift Record Store Club’, could you tell us a bit more as to what the club offers and how people can become a member of the club.
Its essentially my thinly veiled way of running a bar and getting all my favourite customers in to listen to records before they are released. If that sounds like fun, you’re gonna fit in just fine.
This interview can also be viewed at: http://www.sideonetrackone.co.uk/2013/04/24/interview-drift-record-shop-totnes/