In a city that is known for its music, surely there has to be some absolutely amazing places to find some great records. Well in Seattle there are many of those places but the only one who responded to our query about being profiled in our epic webseries about record stores was Easy Street Records. I spoke with owner Matt Vaughan about his love of discovering new records and getting drunk in bars.
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
2 stores, 1st store opened in ‘87 when I was 19 yrs old, moved it to bigger location in ‘89. With Seattle music booming, we opened our doors the same year as Sub Pop, if that gives you an idea of what was in the air. By ‘97 we took over space next door, held after-hour shows/instores (Mudhoney, Rocket From Crypt, Luna). In ‘99 we converted it to a full service café and diner. Three years later we opened 2nd store, our downtown location (6,000) sq feet, 3 blocks away from Tower Records. Grand Opening Week featured instores by Paul Westerberg, Elvis Costello, Jack Johnson. We’ve gone on to host over 500 instores at this location. We were recognized for some cool award winning displays and our huge 20 foot hand-painted murals outside and the 10 foot billboards inside the stores. We like to help break and develop new bands, that’s what we do. For 10 years we’ve been the onsite retailer at the annual Sasquatch Festival.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
My mother was an independent radio promoter in late 70’s-80’s, working with labels such as Casablanca, Arista, MCA. Also, my mom’s husband at the time had 12,000 records (out of order). I took it upon myself one summer when I was 12 years old to alphabetize them. I became a record junkie at a young age, worked at two different stores, from age 13-18. Both stores went out of business around same time, I put the owners together, I assumed the debt and consolidated the two stores into one.
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
We can’t go deep into new catalog anymore, something we once prided ourselves on. The titles are either unavailable, one way, or they sit for too long. Margins are getting better, but the volume of sales are down. On huge titles, what once would’ve sold 3,000 copies in a year, now sells 1,000.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
Small, niche, community involvement, store design/aesthetic, quick used turns, more than fair prices, tech savvy and progressive, buying power.
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
Street date instores; Cave Singers, Shins, Band of Horses, Head and the Heart, Brandi Carlisle.
7. Why do we need record stores?
Gathering place for like minded people, instinct, awareness, community support. We need healthy places like this, otherwise we’ll all be getting drunk at bars talking about the good ol’ days of when a record store was in this space.
8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
Real Estate, Viva Voce, Pickwick
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…”
Riding my bike in, grabbing a coffee from our coffee bar, looking at new release wall, pricing some used vinyl, being surprised by a new record.
11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
More collaboration with like minded businesses. More vinyl bins.