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Green Light in the City

The Heavy Sounds

10 April 11 interview: Paul Klotschkow
photos: Carla Mundy

 We have a word with Clint Harris, owner of The Heavy Sounds in West End Arcade...

How long has The Heavy Sounds been going and why did you start up?
For three years. I always wanted to own a record store and I like heavy rock and metal. The area lends itself as there is a local scene for this style of music.

What formats do you sell? And what’s the most popular?
Compact discs and vinyl, with very occasional cassette tapes and DVDs. CDs are still the most popular format, but vinyl is getting stronger. In the 90s vinyl was completely dead, but it has come around again. The CD is less of a desirable format; you can get the same files on your computer, whereas vinyl is more of an experience.

What are your biggest sellers?
It changes depending on the release schedule. Electric Wizard have been a big seller recently as they have gone through a series of re-issues as well as a new album. But at any given time, it could be Slayer, especially when they put a new album out.

Who is your typical customer?
Usually male, they range from the young teens to one of my oldest customers who is in his 70s. If you are narrowing it down, I would say 30-40-year-olds who grew up pre-internet. Obviously technology is great to go and find whatever music you want, but you still get the people who come in every Saturday to flick through the racks. If the death of the record store happened, they would be lost – I’m not sure what they would do. There are a few who don’t have computers or trust shopping online.

How difficult is it running a record shop in the current climate?
It is difficult; there are no two ways about that. On the flipside it means it can’t really get much worse. As long as you know what you are doing in terms of the music and the customers, you won’t be beaten by massive competition from supermarkets and all the other factors that cause problems. Nowadays if you go around Nottingham you find lots of little independent record shops specialising in certain genres.

What can a record shop can offer that a chain or the internet can’t?
Essentially it comes down to always dealing with the same customers. If a person has been shopping here since we started, they have always been dealing with me and you build up a relationship. It is a more personal service. In an environment where it isn’t as busy at the counter as Fopp or HMV, you get more time to have a chat as opposed to just taking your items to the counter, having them scanned, paying and leaving.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start up an independent record store?
I’m as new as it comes so I don’t have much sage advice. But I would say that if you are just starting up don’t expect to be making huge amounts of money. Try and do something you enjoy. Everything else is just common sense; customer service, flexibility and helping out where you can.

What would say to someone to encourage them to shop in independent shops?
If you were to walk into Nottingham and there were the same stores as everywhere else it would be sad. You need independent shops to make places more interesting.

Why are you taking part in Record Store Day?
I didn’t want to get involved to start with. Three years ago Selectadisc was still open and I assumed they would be the perfect place to do it. But they didn’t sign up and it turned out they were closing. I thought there would be nowhere in Nottingham for people to get any of the Record Store Day items. The products that come out aren’t the things I would usually sell; it was more that I wanted somewhere local to have the event.

It changed last year where RSD got much bigger. I signed up again expecting it to be similar, but it was phenomenally massive last year which was a bit of a shock. It went well, but I was getting out of my depth doing it. This year there are more of us involved, so we can share the burden.

What does the future hold for The Heavy Sounds?
If you start in the environment that we are in and continue to survive, it might start to level out. I don’t know what will happen in the future – will CDs die out or vinyl sales dry up? Will people still be buying music? I don’t know. We are not all of a sudden going to be floating on the stock market. You just have to be flexible. I hope I can continue doing what I’m doing, but you never know what is around the corner. You can’t get too complacent.

The Heavy Sounds, West End Arcade, Chapel Bar, Unit 15-17, Nottingham. NG1 6JP

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