I’m stepping in for another international edition of Mike V’s excellent “Getting To Know Your Indie Retailer” column, with some words from Jon Tolley from Banquet Records in Kingston-upon-Thames, London.
The shop’s slogan is “More than your local record shop” and they live up to that in many ways. Last year they put on over 200 shows and instores – a number that would put many a promoter to shame, aside from that there’s the 3 weekly club nights they also hold, their ever-expanding mailorder business and they even sponsor their local football team.
Aptly timed with the Ceremony show they’re putting on TONIGHT, learn a little more about their story below:
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
As well documented, we were formed out of the ashes of the retail arm of Beggars Banquet. They decided they no longer wanted the retail arm of what they do. The shop (there was only one left) got given to the then boss, but after numerous failings we were about to go bust when Mike and I bought the business from the then boss. It became Banquet as we know it today 7 years ago.
We try to be more than your local record shop, with the over the counter business of the shop being about a quarter of what Banquet Records does. The other parts being mail orders, shows and clubs, and our label.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
Some 15 years ago I saw that the then Beggars Banquet was a the heart of a bustling music community. I started working here part time, then full time, then managing, then owning. It was never a life plan to own a record shop, it was way more organic.
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
Are we talking record stores or stores? Record stores, I like what Spillers, Rise and The Rock Box do. Otherwise there’s a lot of parallels between us and skate stores, so I’ve a lot of time for Slam City and Reskue, for example, and proper DIY businesses in Kingston like Natterjacks and The Fighting Cocks.
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
We’ve never been busier. It’s a nightmare sometimes. You have to work harder to make the same amount of money, and you’re never ‘away’ from work. But then, in some ways, you’re never at ‘work’. Wouldn’t change it at all.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
It seems that you have to do way more than just be a shop The stores that seem to be doing that seem to be doing alright. So that might be a coffee shop, being a distro, putting on gigs or whatever. Its all valid, and its all added value for the customer. Cant wait for the VAT loopholes to be closed allowing us to compete with play.com and amazon.com but I’m sure there’ll find a way around it. Having said that the biggest problem we have is high street rent and rates.
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
There’s been loads. We do loads of great shows many of which are tied in with album releases, so stuff like Vampire Weekend, The Mystery Jets and even Rizzle Kicks playing for us have been great! Some of our rogue gigs and instores have been super fun. The 8AM Frank Turner instore will always be remembered. We’ve had some UK exclusives on some releases from some of our fave ever bands. That’s fun.
7. Why do we need record stores?
Music communities need music stores. So many great gigs and great music scenes happen in part because of the central place in the music community to help their growth. Opinion, care, knowledge, quality control, economies of scale, choice are all intrinsically tied in to an indie store. Be it a record shop, a hardware shop or a skate shop.
8. What kind of taco is your favourite?
I love a chomp.
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
The Mezingers, The Wonder Years, Spycatcher.
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…”
Just being that close to so many great bands, great music and great gigs. It’s a buzz.
11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
Just wanna keep doing what we’re doing really. We have plans for a festival in June, the labels picking up, and we do loadsa shows (last year we did over 200) but we are and always will be a record shop, and that’s the thing we always wanna look after most.