Judging by the reaction I read online and from friends I wasn’t the only one to feel gutted about The Music Exchange announcing its closure
and it’s obvious that the shop will be sorely missed. Not only was it a great place for discovering and buying music, and for me, a go-to place to treat myself after most pay days, but the shop played an invaluable role in both supporting and being a hub for the Nottingham music community – they put bands on, hosted events, let people stick up their gig posters, stocked a wide range of music from local artists and labels, and was a place where promoters could sell their gig tickets among many other things.
It was a big loss to Nottingham when the iconic Selectadisc
closed down in 2009, but The Music Exchange filled the void that they left behind, even more so in some ways, especially the way in which the shop supported and enabled the community around it.
One of the great things about The Music Exchange was how inclusive and community minded it was. This included various ‘store-takeovers’ usually by a local record label or collective of some sort. One of my favourites was when the record label Hello Thor took over the store. As part of their take-over they asked the then just signed to Hello Thor Cantaloupe to perform an in-store, but due to the limited space within the store they had to do it outside. The sight of this disco-centric kraut-funk being performed in the public walkway of a shabby sixties shopping arcade is one of my favourite things to experience. It eventually got shut down by a dour gent who owned a store across the way, presumably because he didn’t like people enjoying themselves.
LeftLion Takeover at West End Arcade - Maniere de Bohemiens
The Music Exchange were crazy enough to even ask me to DJ for them on multiple occasions, including a bitterly cold Christmas party that was held in the walkway of the West End Arcade as well as at various Record Store Day events. The Music Exchange came about during the rise of Record Store Day in the UK and took the lead on arranging many RSD events in the city, which lead to me playing records for them in the arcade outside the original shop to very tired looking and extremely patient customers in the queue, a RSD party at Nottingham Contemporary, and in a disused café for RSD 2015 when the store’s plans to have an outdoor stage were shot down at the very last minute by the fun police known as Nottingham City Council.
In fact, one of my favourite ever things to be involved in for LeftLion was when we put on Kagoule, Cantaloupe, and Fists at Nottingham Contemporary for a Record Store Day party
in 2012. The place was rammed and all the acts played blistering sets. I hate organising gigs so it takes a lot for me to actually enjoy the gig I’ve put on, but this was a truly fun night. Maybe the rider the good folk at Contemporary sorted us all out with contributed to that feeling just a little bit.
At the end of 2012 the shop moved to new premises in Hockley down the road from the LeftLion office in an area dubbed ‘The Creative Quarter’. Not only did a larger store mean more stock, it also meant more opportunities for things like in-stores as long as the acts didn’t mind being squeezed between ‘Krautrock’ and ‘Local Releases’.
A few memorable ones that I saw included the Pere Ubu leader David Thomas
performing a spoken word set to a heaving Music Exchange with people squeezed in as tightly as possible and spilling out of the doorway and on to Stoney Street; Kogumaza shaking the plaster from the ceiling with a tinnitus inducing set; and bands like Bus Stop Madonnas being allowed to play far too loudly as part of the Hockley Hustle. This is the sort of thing the Music Exchange was good at; bringing people together and giving a platform for musicians and artists to be able to do their thing with minimal interference.
Bus Stop Madonnas at Hockley Hustle 2014. photo: Shaun Gordon
Because The Music Exchange was so good at being a record store it is easy to forget that at its heart it was a charitable concern. A social enterprise set-up by the Nottingham-based charity Framework to raise money for their work with homeless and vulnerable adults, it was as a place where people could gain valuable skills and find a route in to employment. Since 2009 over 300 volunteers have helped out in the shop contributing 66000 hours of volunteering, while 45 people have gained employment since becoming a volunteer.
I will miss popping in on a Saturday
after pay day, shooting the breeze with whoever was working there that day, and treating myself to something. Much thanks to Joey, Tara and everyone that worked and volunteered there for their hard work and dedication in making the shop what it was. It’s extremely rare to say that a record store was warm and welcoming place to go, but The Music Exchange was.
Goodbye from The Music Exchange, The Bodega, Saturday 19 March 2016.