searchsearch
4 Independent Record Stores Across The U.S. Weigh In On Their Struggle To Survive During COVID-19

Photo: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Image

news

4 Independent Record Stores Across The U.S. Weigh In On Their Struggle To Survive During COVID-19

We talked to four fan favorite stores in Austin, Brooklyn, Indianapolis and Los Angeles about their harsh reality during the coronavirus crisis

GRAMMYs/Apr 8, 2020 - 01:09 am

At over 18 million LPs sold, 2019 marked 14 consecutive years of rising vinyl record sales. As COVID-19 continues to bludgeon the music industry, independent record stores are left particularly vulnerable. The indefinite closure of these small businesses comes poorly timed with Record Store Day, the annual shopping event often noted for record breaking sales now postponed until June. For store owners, everyday their sign reads "closed" adds uncertainty to the livelihood of their shops, employees, and community at large.

As vinyl collectors lament the current loss of their safe havens, record stores are working tirelessly to find short-term solutions to what appears to be growing into a long-term problem. Hopeful that crate-digging will commence, we spoke to four record shops across the country to hear more about the toll the pandemic has taken, the implications of store closures, and what strategies and revenue streams are currently keeping them afloat.

Permanent Records (Los Angeles, CA)

How many days have you been closed? What’s the longest you’ve ever shut down at one period of time prior to this?

We were forced to close the Roadhouse on 3/15 and we closed the shop on York on 3/17. Since we opened in 2006, we've never shut down before aside from holidays. Never.

When did the reality of having to close indefinitely sink in? What were your initial thoughts?

I still don't know if it has set in fully, but the hardest part of the closure has been informing my staff that all of their scheduled shifts have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. My initial thoughts were that we'll do whatever we have to do to weather this storm and hit the ground running as soon as things get back to normal.

How would you describe the overall mood/attitude in your city at the moment?

Overall, people seem to be positive, even though we're all suffering greatly.

To what degree have sales been impacted by COVID-19?

Sales have been decimated. Our Roadhouse location is shuttered completely and the only business we have going is online, which is a fraction of what we normally do when we're open to the public.

How many people does the store employ? What are the current implications of a closure for them?

There are ten full- and part-time employees. I've suggested that they all look into temporary unemployment claims. Customers and the community can support them by supporting Permanent, so they all have a place to come back to work when this all blows over. I've also offered my support to my supervisors if they feel inclined to start a fundraiser, but they, like I do, feel a bit uncomfortable with it considering how many people are all in a similar situation.

Are you offering any kind of special promotions right now?

We did everything we could at first, but the demand for curbside pick-up wasn't where we needed it to be to support it. We're offering free shipping on the rare records we're posting on Instagram. We have gift certificates and other merch available on our web store (PermanentRecordsLA.com). Before the "safer at home" ordinance, I offered a private shopping experience at Permanent to people who bought $100 gift certificates, but we've been forced to postpone that offer.

Were you already in a position where customers could access your titles online or via Discogs?

Yes, but it's especially crucial now. It went from being a supplemental necessary evil to being a necessity overnight.

What are your most immediate concerns?

Earning enough to pay our monthly bills and rent are my most immediate concerns. I'm hopeful that things will get back to normal soon enough to not worry about the long-term, but the economy at-large and the unemployment rate are my biggest concerns currently.

What might be a way record stores in your city could ban together right now?

Los Angeles has the best record stores in the country. We generally do a pretty good job of supporting each other and I think the best thing we can all do is to stay positive, stay healthy, and stay productive during these unprecedented times while remembering that there is a

End of an Ear (Austin, Texas)

How many days have you been closed?

We reduced our hours starting March 16th. We were only doing mail order, online and curbside. Since this Tuesday (the 24th) we are just doing mail order and online.

How would you describe the overall mood/attitude in your city at the moment?

I think like everywhere, it seems like we woke up into an episode of "Twilight Zone" and trying just to take it day by day. We've had lots of support from customers and other Austin businesses as well.

To what degree have sales been impacted by COVID19?

It's too early to tell, but we've seen a drop in business somewhere between 60 to 90 percent.

How many people does the store employ? What are the current implications of a closure for them?

Including the owners (myself and Blake), there are 13 of us. We have a small staff, so no one was laid off. The mail order and curbside helped get cash still coming in. We have a small reserve. Customers have been very supportive.

How will Record Store Day being postponed affect your shop?

We already had SXSW cancel, and then there would have been Record Store Day in April and then our 15th year anniversary in May. So now of course it will all be pushed back. Once we all crawl out of this mess we can make new plans.

What are your most immediate concerns?

That my customers will have jobs they can go back to and places to live. And above all. healthy friends that run bars, clubs, restaurants, etc... There are a lot of mutual supporters and champions of the shop.

LUNA Music (Indianapolis, IN)

How many days have you been closed? What’s the longest you’ve ever shut down at one period of time prior to this?

LUNA music has been closed, as a storefront, for 12 days—but, we are still shipping worldwide mail order. We've never experienced a closure like this before, in terms of a protracted period of time—where our public space was closed.

When did the reality of having to close indefinitely sink in? What were your initial thoughts/feelings?

Honestly, I just wanted my crew and clientele to be safe—so as soon as it became obvious that we should cease contact with folks, we started using a drop box, at the front of the shop—for customers to pick their orders up and began dropping orders off, on folks' front porches.

Since then, we have a "shelter in place" order and are doing business over the phone and online—shipping packages out worldwide, with no local pick-up or drop-off.

How would you describe the overall mood/attitude in your city at the moment?

One of hope and one of help!

To what degree have sales been impacted by Covid-19?

Dramatically; from a flow to drips.

How many people does the store employ? What are the current implications of a closure for them?

Two full-time and four part-time. Currently both full-time co-workers are working from home, on a variety of store projects. The part-time crew has been put on stand-by, waiting for a re-open date. The best way folks can support is continue to shop with us online or give the shop a ring for assistance!

Have online/phone sales helped soften the blow?

Absolutely—it's also a great way to have a bit of interaction with folks!

What are your most immediate and long-term concerns?

The health of my friends and family.

What are three LPs helping you stay hopeful?

Ben Watt-Storm Damage
Nat Russell-Sunlight (LIVE at the Warfleigh Labs)
Hiss Golden Messenger-LIVE at LUNA music's 25th anniversary show (private reel...)light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Human Head Records (Brooklyn, New York)

How many days have you been closed? What’s the longest you’ve ever shut down at one period of time prior to this?

We closed the doors as of Sunday March 15th 8:00 pm.  We had been open everyday for 5.5 years at that point. I used to tell people on the phone all the time, "Christmas Day, Chinese New Year, Mother's Day."  Everyday. Before that we closed half a day when I got married so employees could be there. In the first year, my partner suggested I have a break and we had  the store "closed on Wednesdays," but then I was always working on records so I'd just left the door open. We really never close. It's very rare.

When did the reality of having to close indefinitely sink in? What were your initial thoughts?

These were things that you were hearing as the potential oncoming issue for months, but I had gotten back from a four-day trip to Brasil the Tuesday before we closed March 10th. If I thought everything was going to be shut down to this degree I would've never extended those kind of resources to do that.  It was pretty apparent in the airports that this was an inevitability not a possibility. The only proactive measures that we saw at the airport was the private sector shutting their staff down from travel. Latin America had been significantly behind the curve of the spread at that point so we weren't overly concerned. Population on the planes that I flew on anyway was already down to max 20 percent capacity. I think we understood a virus was coming, but until Italy I'm not sure how many of us appreciated the real issue which was the overwhelming of the healthcare system.

How would you describe the overall mood/attitude in your city at the moment?

It's obviously very tense. How do you describe an insanely dense population where it's tumbleweeds everywhere in the city and what appears to be the exact opposite at hospitals around the city? People know they are in for the long haul. To be able to turn this to a level where we have some confidence on when we would be able to begin to grow out of this would be a major accomplishment. Regardless of how far out it is, the uncertainty is far worse than a dependable but distant target.

How many people does the store employ? What are the current implications of a closure for them?

There are six employees. They were all immediately laid off due to the closure for not only business but health and safety reasons. That doesn't mean we've stopped moving. To create something dependable for all of us to look forward to, and hopefully help the employees a bit, we mobilized an online radio show everyday at 4:20 pm. It's comprised of the six guys playing records for an hour once a week and one guest DJ steaming on Instagram Live all playing from their homes. We've also added a donation link to the broadcast and linked at our Instagram home page. 100 percent of the proceeds is split between the six employees without work during the pandemic. We already have two days in the books and we'll be doing it everyday during the shutdown. Our mixes from the board can be heard also on our mixcloud which is all linked in our homepage on Instagram. We are working on adding to it everyday. The responses so far have been really invigorating and positive.

Are you offering any kind of special promotions right now?

We are doing a promotion for our online store. Go to humanheadnyc.com to find our discogs page of 27,000+ items. With an order of $20 or more and the word "Modelo" in the info gets you free shipping.

If there's something in the storefront that someone remembers and they want I'm happy to take the call and ship it to them as well.

What are three LPs helping you stay hopeful?

União Black-Eponymous
Any/All Mizell Brothers Productions
Any/All Tim Maia

What might be a way record stores in your city could ban together right now?

I think multimedia streaming is so wide open and moved to the forefront, I'm sure it would be something within that platform. What that entails, who knows. It's so difficult to say because every record store has a different framework and situation. If we're able to come back after this and people feel comfortable to be out and together I think we'll see everyone win. We've seen a lot of love and positivity expressed not only toward us personally but to many record stores across the country. I think people will be leaping at the chance. I will also.

Learn more about how you can donate to or apply for assistance via the Recording Academy's and MusiCares' COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Learn more about the financial, medical and personal emergencies services and resources offered by the Recording Academy and MusiCares

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

news

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More

Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

news

Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Brittany Howard

Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images

news

Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2020 - 04:13 am

This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.

“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”

Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.

Ivan Barias On Silence As Complicity, Holding Major Labels Accountable & How To Be A Non-Black Latinx Ally

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

news

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.