It says it right there on the side of the Seattle store: “Fiercely independent.” That’s pretty much all you need to know about this small chain. It is yet another of the awesome record fortresses of the Pacific Northwest. For this edition of our surely-immortal blog series, I spoke with Silver Guru Mike Batt.
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
Silver Platters is a locally owned independent music and movie chain with three stores based in the greater Seattle area. Silver Platters carries the largest selection of new and used CDs, DVDs & vinyl in the Northwest. We pride ourselves on our staff knowledge, customer service, and selection. We started out in 1985 only carrying CDs, but have expanded over the years to have great vinyl sections in all the stores now and have a really nice book section in our largest store. We have large selections in back catalog, jazz, folk and blues. We also have one of the best classical music sections in the U.S.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
I started as a part time employee with Silver Platters because of my love of music and wanting to learn even more. Silver Platters was locally owned and I was drawn to that rather than working at Tower, Peaches or any of the other national chains around at that time. Through the years I became a manager, buyer, part owner and am now the sole owner of the business.
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
I still have a great passion for music, but I really don’t have the time to go into record stores and peruse them for enjoyment/product any more. Of the one’s I’ve been in, I admire Bull Moose Records, Twist & Shout, Music Millennium and Amoeba for what they have done and become.
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
We are doing better this year than any year since 2006. New catalog sales have doing really well and our used business just keeps growing.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
The same things that always has spelled the survival for independent record stores – service & selection. Customer base and location are also very important. The one thing that has that has become much tougher for not just independent record stores, but for any small, independent business, is that land owners and property managers have made it much tougher for independent businesses to survive. Landlords are looking more for the bigger corporate business as a tenant or redevelopment out of retail in order to make more money. This makes it hard to keep a small, independent business in good retail locations for any length of time.
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
Any in-store around a new release by an act is great. Well thought out added values always helps to make the customers happy, help sell new product, and at the same time make us and the labels cool. The special cassette version of the new Sword album has been very successful recently for us. Aggressive sales on good back catalog titles really helps. Any promotion where the store, the label/act and radio can work together is still very successful. Facebook & Twitter are great for getting people in the store for an event, but radio still works better for getting people in the stores to buy music. Last and most important, all the help the music industry has put into making Record Store Day and all that revolves around that a great success has been wonderful!
7. Why do we need record stores?
For people to still come in, look around, learn, enjoy, hold the product, buy and discuss the culture that is the ever growing history of music, movies, and whatever else the store may carry. Record stores help establish and maintain local neighborhood communities, which is good for everyone.
8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
Any good pork taco.
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
What a limiting question for a music lover. I will go with currant acts that have a release this year to pare down the possible selections – Chris Smither, Tame Impala, & Pond.
10. What is your favorite thing about your store? And you can’t say the customers.
Working in them with the employees and customers. Also, being able listen & look at all the music, whenever I want.
11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
Keep on trying to be a music & movie store that offers everything to everyone. I would like to provide better service by improving reference and organizational tools so that customers & employees can explore, easily find and enjoy the music and movies we sell. I have always said, “If we can’t make it being the store we currently are then I don’t want to be in this business anymore.”