Earlier this year Music Week awarded Sound It Out record shop the honour of 'Best Independent Retailer' at it's 2012 award ceremony. Sound It Out is the last remaining record shop in Teesside. It's friendly and knowledgeable staff give it the character that keeps its customers coming back for more.
Against the flow of the High Street, where we have seen a number of 'music' retailers disappear over recent years, there are still some independent record shops who are doing good business and are here for the long term.
There is a passion for vinyl that will never be seen for a digital release, it's the smell, the sleeve design, the message in the run off groove, sometimes even the gatefold finish, and the fact an mp3 signed and framed would look crap on your wall. You normally find what lies behind the door of an indie record store is a community connected, promoters, DJs, bands, crews and maybe just the odd record geek.
We spoke to Sound It Out about what keeps an independent record shop trading in the digital age!
Can you give us a bit of history of Sound it out?
Sound It Out has been in existence since the 1990s. Tom has owned the shop since 1998. The shop started with nothing more than a few records, a coffee machine and a couple of battered sofas. Local punks and youths used to come in and hang out. Since then the shop has grown to accommodate approximately 50,000 records with a worldwide customer base.
How does Sound It Out continue to survive when so many other indie record shops have disappeared?
Diversity is the key. We don't judge anyone on their musical taste and we stock a huge range of styles and genres. If its available we'll pretty much sell it. The ethos of indie record shops years ago was 'That's too mainstream for us, try WH Smith or HMV' The days of being able to do that and thinking you're too fashionable are over. We also believe that we offer a customer experience that is second to none. We have won national and local awards that attest to this.
Do you think anyone is to blame for the decline in record shops and physical sales or are we just moving with the times?
The decline in record sales and indie music retailers is definitely a signifier in shifting priorities with today's young people. The advent of the internet and iTunes has had a massive impact on music sales. If anything is to blame it is that. Kids today generally see music as a disposable form of entertainment, unlike thirty years ago when all they had was a record or tape player, and four channels of television. Record companies who release vinyl are becoming wise to this and most new releases actually come with mp3 download codes or a CD included, giving those that enjoy their music on the move the opportunity to do so as well as having the record to play at home. We have a hardcore of about 50 fantastic young people, aged from 10 to 20, coming into Sound It Out who buy vinyl, and we believe they are the future of our business.
There seems to be a lively music seen around Teesside with festivals and venues attracting new and well established bands, does that have an impact on the shop?
The local music scene does have an impact on the shop. We sell tickets for local gigs and have many local bands and artists performing in-store most weeks. We also sell music made by local musicians. On a wider scale, bigger and better music festivals in our region are ensuring that established acts are becoming more and more interested in playing in our shop. Recent months has seen the likes of Maximo Park, The Futureheads and punk legend TV Smith perform in Sound It Out. We also get customers from other areas of the country visiting the shop when a particular band or artist is playing nearby.
For new and unsigned bands it not as easy to sell their music to record shops, do you still play a part in promoting new and unsigned music?
We receive emails and phone calls from many unsigned bands and artists who want us to stock their music. We also have local artist sections in the shop. We try to help in any way we can with promoting them too.
A film was made last year about the shop, can you tell us a bit about that?
The film, called 'Sound It Out', was made by a film-maker who is an ex-native of Stockton. Its a fly on the wall documentary which shows who we are, what we are, and why we do what we do. There are some characters in it who have become quite well-known locally as a result of appearing in the film. The documentary was selected to be shown at SXSW Festival in Texas in 2011, and from there it has travelled across the world from America to Australia. Its been shown at independent cinemas and received rave reviews from Empire magazine to the New York Times. The film was funded by the public who each received credits and/or perks for helping out. The DVD was released about six months ago and has proved to be one of the shop's biggest selling items which we find quite amazing!
If there is one album everyone should own what would it be?
That's a difficult question. It'd have to be The Clash. 'London Calling'
Whats on the stereo at the moment?
Paul Giovanni's 'Wicker Man' soundtrack on limited sunshine vinyl!
Whats the rarest record you've had at Sound it out?
Probably something really predictable like The Beatles white album or Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon with the rare solid blue triangle label. we seem to get lots of really rare Jazz too, which the Japanese seem to love.
In 20 years time do you think will we still be buying physical music formats?
We better be. I'm not getting a real job!
Sound It Our records are base in Stockton-on-Tees, 15a Yarm Street. TS18 3DR
On Twitter: www.twitter.com/_sounditout
For more information on the excellent film about Sound It Out visit http://www.sounditoutdoc.com/