Often overlooked as an epicenter for music, Florida rarely enters the conversation as a sonic hotbed. But the reality is that the Sunshine State has long incubated a strong musical sense, especially when it comes to record stores. You could argue that Florida counts some of the best and most important record stores (Park Avenue, Radio-Active, Revolver, Retrofit, Sweat, Vinyl Richie’s Wiggly World, et al) as its residents. Hear Again is one of the names that should be a constant in that conversation.
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
Hear Again has been a staple to the Gainesville music scene since 1994. In 2006, the shop changed ownership and began working toward a different goal – NEW VINYL. Since it’s relocation to downtown Gainesville in 2009, the store has succeeded in procuring an inventory of new vinyl and has hosted a few in-store performances including Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Cheap Girls & Heartless Bastards.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
I started working at Hear Again fresh out of high school in 1995. After a few years of full-time employment, I took the opportunity to decrease my hours (just a little) and get my butt into the University of Florida. After graduating with a BA in English and watching business decline considerably, I decided that I wanted to own the shop and make some drastic changes to help steer her through the declining wave of record stores across the country. When it comes to my music collection, I’ve always preferred the physical medium to digital storage.
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
It’s been a while since I’ve visited other shops (I’ve got kids now), but I love AKA Records and Repo Records in Philadelphia. Of course, Vinyl Fever, Revolver & Radio-Active are near the top of my Florida list. The first thing I do when I go to another city is put my stuff down and immediately head to the local record shops. It’s always been that way for me and it always will be.
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
They could always be better. Gainesville was just highlighted as being number one in illegal downloading. I’m obsessed with changing that by promoting a higher quality in sound. The move downtown and shift to new vinyl in 2009 definitely helped.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
Simple. We are at the mercy of our distributors. Used vinyl is everywhere and can often be obtained and “flipped” at low cost, but a lot of people prefer new vinyl because they prefer a perfectly clean record. One of my biggest satisfactions in life is playing a record for the first time and then adding it to my collection. If all distributors (including one-stops) offer the product at a good price, that good price can be extended to the customer with the shop retaining a respectable profit that will undoubtedly be applied to the next order (as well as payroll, rent, utilities . . . you know, shop stuff).
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
We’ve done promotions with Merge, Matador, Fat Possum, Drag City, Sub Pop and more. In-stores have included (but have not been limited to) Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Cheap Girls & Heartless Bastards. We also partake in Record Store Day each year as well as Black Friday.
7. Why do we need record stores?
We need record stores because we need a source for new music that doesn’t involve the “if you like X, you might like Y” logarithm we have grown accustomed to online. Most of those choices are lumped together by what people buy or what label the band is on rather than what the music actually sounds like. For instance, I just typed “Pavement” into Amazon and the recommendations included more Pavement, Yo La Tengo & The Shins “Oh, Inverted World”. There is a social dynamic that exists in listening to records and it is exclusive to the vinyl format, which is why listening to vinyl is actually a past-time for a whole lotta people. You know, a couple of new records, a six-pack of beer and you’ve got yourself an evening. Who gets together at someone’s house to check out their hard drive collection?
8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
I prefer the burrito kind.
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
Only 3? Shit . . . . The Men, The Kinks (always) & Titus Andronicus.
10. What is your favorite thing about your store?
My customers. That’s an easy one.
11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
My goals include constantly changing the layout and adding new inventory on a weekly basis so people always find something new when they return. Oh, and staying in business is a BIG one – hope that happens!