Rocky Horror Show

Jim Cooke

10 April 11 words: Paul Klotschkow
"The last few years at Selectadisc were awful, staff morale was crap...it was clear we had had it."
  Jim Cooke, former Manager of Selectadisc - photo by Dom Henry
 Jim Cooke, former Manager of Selectadisc - photo by Dom Henry

How long did you work at Selectadisc?
Roughly thirty years. I started at the bottom and worked my way to the top. I used to go there as a kid when the shop was on Arkwright Street. When I started working there they’d moved to Goldsmith Street.

What are your favourite memories of working there?
All of it! I always looked forward to going to work in the mornings.

How did people’s buying habits change during your time at the shop?
When I first started shopping there it was a haven for young people. By the end, the hardcore supporters were in their forties and fifties. Younger people would sooner spend their money on a new pair of trainers than on music they can download for free.

How difficult was trading in the last few years at the shop?
It was awful, staff morale was crap, it was clear we had had it. If we had downsized and really thought about it we could have made it work. The closure of the shop did come at a good time for me though as it freed up my Saturdays just as Notts County marched on to glory.

What were the reasons for the shops downturn in fortune?
Music downloads, shopping online, us not developing a website and mail order system earlier, Fopp opening and the introduction of the tram. Before the tram you used to be able to walk from the Market Square to the university, which is one of the reasons why we chose the unit. The construction of the tram made Market Street a no go area for a long time. Once it was up and running customers would go sailing past rather than walking by and going in.

How supportive did you find the record labels?
All of the record labels were extremely supportive of the shop, I don’t have a bad word to say about them. The shop won Independent Record Store of the Year a few times and we were always in the Top 5 polls each year. Things started to go wrong when the record labels decided to get in to bed with the likes of Amazon and Tesco. Supermarkets can undercut the cost price of a CD as they use them as loss-leaders, because people go in to supermarkets for other stuff too.

What can independent record stores can offer that bigger chains and the internet can’t?
The internet is definitely the first port of call for people buying music now. But record shops are a more personal and inclusive service. However, it used to be that on a Monday morning there were queues of people waiting for the latest Smiths or The Jam release. Then Radio 1 started to play songs six or seven weeks before the actual release date and by the time the song was released people were bored of it. Nowadays if people hear a song on the radio they can download it straight away and often for nothing. All these factors work against record shops.

What role do you think record stores play in the local community?
I think Selectadisc played a large part. We always had people from local bands working in the shop like members of Tindersticks, Bent and The Soundcarriers. We would always stick up posters for local bands gigs and have band adverts, which we did free of charge. We always stocked CDs from local bands too, as we wanted to repay and support local musicians. That’s what a record shop should do.

In your opinion what does the future hold for independent record stores?
I think it is good. The future is to run shops on a smaller scale. I’m tempted to get back into it, I just need to bide my time and wait for the right moment. When Selectadisc first closed I looked at moving the shop to Wollaton Street, but that was too far out, or Hockley, but that was too expensive. The high rents in the city centre are a huge problem. When they come down I might be more inclined. A stall on Victoria Market is another option.

Do you do any record shopping in Nottingham now?
Yeah. I always look in Fopp, but I mainly buy second hand so I go to Good Vibrations, Anarchy Records, the West End Arcade and charity shops or car boots.

Any final words for the LeftLion readers?
Thanks for all the support the people of Nottingham and the East Midlands gave Selectadisc over the years. Plus the support of all of the students who pass through from the university; September used to be nearly as busy as Christmas when the new students hit town. I would also like to say that Neal Bishop is a god!

As well as following the up and downs of his beloved Notts County, Jim is still involved with his other passion in life, music, and continues to sell records through his Amazon shop.