Recently we broke ground on our newest Matablog feature Get To Know Your Local Independent Retailer with L.A. vinyl gurus Origami Vinyl. This week, we travel up the Pacific Coast to Portland for a chat with Terry Currier (pictured below, on the right), owner of Rose City institution Music Millennium.
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
Music Millennium opened on march 15th, 1969. It grew to a full catalog store. Music Millennium pioneered live music in a record store putting in stage on our 10th Anniversersary with a permanent sound system. We do about 150 live performances a year.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
I started in record retail in 1972. I did not grow up listening to the radio or recorded music. I played clarinet and was going to go to college on music scholarships. I got a car at 16 1/2 after riding a motorcycle in the rain and snow for the first six months of my 16th year. The radio got me interested in music and 2 weeks before my senior year of high school, I went to my first concert – Leon Russell & The Shelter People. Two weeks later I applied for a job in a record store and they hired me on my enthusiasm and didn’t ask me what I knew about music or I would have not got the job. 3 weeks later my girlfriend (met at the store) told me she had a surprise for me that night. It turned out to be a trip to Music Millennium. I went there almost every night after work in my record store job reading album covers back to back, specially their import section. In 1984, after the middle ownership at Music Millennium was going to file bankruptcy, I went to work for the original owner as he assumed the debt and the inventory and building. I bought pieces of of it and eventually bought the whole thing. I paid it off around the dawn of downloading.
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
I have so many favorites but Twist & Shout in Denver and Waterloo in Austin have pretty amazing stores. Fingerprints‘ new store in Long Beach is really incredible. I always gravitate towards the vinyl section of any store i get to visit.
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
The past decade has been very trying, especially the past couple years. The economy really has been a factor in slowing business the past couple years. It’s sad to see stores like Ear-X-Tacy go from being one of the best record stores in the country to having to close.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
Anyone still doing it is doing it for the right reason – the passion of the music. That is why they are still open. Many indie labels have succeeded in these times and had much success though. I still feel that physical goods are viable and the market could increase with a unified effort. Vinyl is a bright spot as new consumers get into it everyday. Had vinyl stayed around instead of the CD in the late 80’s, the industry would have not been effected as much by digital. Everything about vinyl is great; the sound, the covers, the jackets.
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
We pinch ourselves every once in a while over the instores we have hosted. Joe Strummer, Randy Newman, Soundgarden, Steve Earle, Paul Westerberg, Sleater-Kinney and Keith Emerson!
7. Why do we need record stores?
Record stores use to be community centers. Many still are but to a lesser extent. When you go to a good record store, you are going to get turned on to music you did not even know existed. You browse on the internet, you read magazines, but record store employees that you connect with can make your day. Browsing in a good store you will discover so many things. And for shopping vinyl, especially used, you have a chance to find those coveted pieces you have been looking for for years or just a fun piece like a “How To Bowl” record or “Music For Your Plants’ record. Sure, you can search online but takes the fun out it.
8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
Shrimp. With a real good and flavorful hot sauce. You don’t want to hide the flavor of the shrimp, you want to enhance it.
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
My favorite albums of 2011 are Unfazed by Delorean and Sky Full of Holes by Fountains of Wayne. You can’t go wrong with the new album Viva Voce The Future Will Destroy Us. If i had to name my favorite bands of all-time – The Kinks, Spirit and Mott The Hoople.
10. What is your favorite thing about your store? And you can’t say the customers. That’s like saying Einstein or Ghandi when asked “If you could meet one person, living or dead…”
The favorite thing about the store is the feel. The store has character. It still has the feel it did 40 years ago. We have tried to preserve that as we have made changes over the years. You can feel the passion of the music as you walk through the store.
11. What are your goals for the future of your store?
The goal is be able to continue to be a great full catalog store.