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The Comedy of Errors

The Music Exchange

21 April 12 interview: Paul Klotschkow
photos: David Baird

Our music editor has a word with Andrew Thompson, manager of The Music Exchange in West End Arcade...

Why did you start up the shop?
We started at the Handel Street Centre primarily with Big Issue vendors who wanted a job. It’s all about giving people the opportunity to work in a supported environment and instill confidence. There has been no end of people go into other employment from here. We’ve been open from June 2009 officially and will be having a birthday party this year. Death By Mono Records are putting together a compilation of local bands and we will have a few play for us.

What music does the shop stock?
We get donations from the public, which can be any vinyl from any period. We have started to stock classic re-issued rock, electronic stuff and we are selling new products too. Garage seems to be a big thing in Nottingham at the minute – we sell a lot of it.

What are the most popular formats?
Vinyl is the most popular, it always has been. When we just stocked second-hand vinyl it always sold more than the CDs. DVDs tend to fly out as they are cheap, but vinyl outsells them all.

We are fortunate to have lots of great record labels in Nottingham at the moment…
I think there is a really healthy music scene and they are all really supportive of each other. If you’re a musician and want to be in a band this is a really great place to be. Fortunately this is what the shop has got caught up in. People like the idea of The Music Exchange and want to get involved, either by volunteering or wanting their records sold there.

Do you get many returning customers?
We are in a thoroughfare, so people come in and ask about the price of something and then come back on pay day. We are looking to introduce a discount card so we can knock a couple of quid off to make it easier for people to purchase new vinyl. It can be quite expensive, so if we can make it more attractive than buying online we are onto a winner.

How difficult is it being a high street retailer in the current climate?
We’re fortunate not to be particularly niche and we’re very cautious about ordering too much, so what we get in will always sell. The customers lead what we get in and that’s why there is a broad spectrum. If people ask for something we will try to get it. Fortunately we have established a good reputation with distributors and record labels, so it is quite easy for us to move into other areas and smaller contracts.

Are record labels supportive of the store?
They all love it. Being a charity we often get a discount on orders. That is some of the basis for introducing a discount card; if we are getting a discount, we want to pass that on to our regular customers.

What advice would you give to other record stores?
I think any record store still existing is probably already doing the right thing. They should be listening to customers and not competing with the bigger shops. It is about finding something that your city wants and rising to that. We are fortunate that people in Nottingham and the surrounding cities want vinyl and to come in to the shop to talk about music. Not only do we sell music, we also put on bands, so people can come to us and feel part of the Nottingham music community.

What does the future hold for the store?
We are going to keep on doing what we are doing. We’ve got really great links with Paul Smith - he came in to the shop at Christmas to buy some vinyl. He’s a big vinyl lover, which is fantastic!

What did he buy?
A Roxy Music and a Pink Floyd album; and two t-shirts – a John Burgerman design and one of our own. He is really supportive and has a great knowledge of what’s going on in Nottingham. One of our volunteers now works in the Paul Smith factory. For a massive organisation they have been really supportive of such a small organisation as us.

Do you have any fond memories of shopping in record stores?
Loads! I still go in to Robs Records – I love hunting through the racks and not knowing what’s there. Reading about something, going to ask someone about it and listening to it. I’ve always loved records, they’re a massive part of my life and always will be.

 

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