By Cat Schaupp
April 18, 2013
Vox Box is the new kid on the block in Edinburgh’s record store scene, having only opened in May 2011. Nestled in the quirky treasure trove that is St. Stephen’s Street in the city’s Stockbridge district, they’ll be celebrating Record Store Day 2013 in style with a 9.30am opening time that’s kind to those who can’t quite get out of bed on Saturdays, and a great line up of live music to keep the punters entertained. Muso’s had a wee chat with co-owner Darren Yeats about Vox Box’s place in the musical world, and all the joys of Record Store Day.
What made you and George decide to open a record store, and how have you been settling in?
George is officially retired but he’s always dealt in used records through market stalls and record fairs. It made sense for him to keep stock in one place and wind down the number of stalls and fairs he does through the year – although that’s yet to happen! I had been collecting records for 10 years, had developed a lot of overspill, and George had been my favourite record dealer. We did our sums and a shop seemed like a good starting place. Our goal was to be listed in the Top 5 record shops in Edinburgh, and I think we’re up there. We helped set up a Traders Association on our street, and many of the other traders have become firm friends.
For the uninitiated thinking of ambling on down to Vox Box for the first time, what has your store on offer got to tantalise folk with?
All of our pre-owned front shop records are near mint. We also have a back room of budget records that are on the whole underpriced. Apart from selling some really nice classic vinyl, VoxBox is in the best part of Edinburgh: Stockbridge is full of independent boutique shops and cafés. It’s my favourite part of town. Anyone coming into our shop is always in for a cheery welcome.
What do you make of the current vinyl revival? Since opening, have you noticed a significant increase in demand for the format?
Vinyl is cool again! People like new things. Remember that records are a new technology for young people, some are amazed you can play both sides! Our sales are growing consistently but it’s hard to know how much is natural growth as we become better known to the old school record buyers, and how much is due to the revival. Vinyl is still a very niche market but there are definitely a lot of young people coming in after getting their first record player. It’s great to see someone whose ears are yet to be opened.
What makes vinyl so particularly fab?
Records are yours to keep, frame, pass on, turn into a fruit bowl, frisbee or listen to. George is an audiophile and really believes in the superior sound quality. Personally, I like the artwork. I really feel that it gives a band an extra layer of expression. Many album covers are better known than the music on them, and I’ve bought countless albums because of the sleeve alone and have rarely been disappointed. Then there’s the ritual of taking a new record home, and the tea room ritual of actually playing it. Yes, they attract dust and you need to clean your records and stylus a lot, but they belong to you and they carry some history with them. They soak up smells, and can get some scratches. You remember who gave a record to you and even if a record becomes unplayable, you will still have a work of art album sleeve which could be considered a limited edition print.
Where do you see shops like yours fitting into the future of music retail, now that the high street’s dying a death and the internet’s ruling the world?
The future is a huge virtual Amazon warehouse that has everything, and the internet side of things will keep getting bigger!
It’s difficult for a small shop like us as there’s very little profit in selling new records from a shop our size. We don’t stock new records where we can’t compete with online sellers. I’m concerned that new-co HMV will have better terms from suppliers.The most sustainable medium-sized shops will have to offer something else. Mono is Glasgow is good as it’s a bar, café, venue, and record shop rolled into one.
Are you guys involved with the local music scene, and promoting smaller labels and acts?
We sought out some local labels and I was surprised by the amount of sheer talent on our doorstep. We work with Song by Toad, which luckily is based around the corner, and with Gerry Loves Records,who’ve been a great help in arranging live music. This year both labels have released items to coincide with RSD.
Record Store Day: is it worth the hyperbole laden on it by music fans and the press?
Every day for me is record store day, and I think RSD is a brilliant thing! It has its detractors and they are almost all right, as every criticism leveled against it is true. Inflated prices, yes. Big labels taking advantage of fans, yes. The early-bird ebay chancers and records that are too limited or not limited enough, yes. It’s all true. But for me, and lots of the people I talk to, it’s not about the exclusive releases at all. As a collector myself, I agree that some of the releases do seem too dear or too limited, but the exclusive records and long queues on Record Store Day create the vinyl fever which is hard for the press to miss. Without a doubt, record shops would be worse off without Record Store Day.
What’s the preparation process for Record Store Day like?
I thought you could just sign up to RSD and they’d send you a list! I found out that to get access to the bulk of the records you have to open accounts with ten record companies and then three or four distribution companies. Older shops will tend to have the accounts set up already, and it’s difficult as a newcomer to find out who supplies what or to find the contact details you need for a big company. Thanks to Record Store Day though, this year, EMI got in touch with us.
Though we won’t make a great deal of money on RSD products as we keep the prices down, we’ll get some new customers in and the publicity generated is fantastic for our shop and our street. The day will also be a great showcase for our favourite Edinburgh labels and bands.
What are your plans for the day?
We’ll open a bit earlier and get a cup of tea or coffee for any waiting punters from Rosie’s Tea Shop across the road, and anyone queuing will get to see a list of what we have in stock. We’ll put on some food at noon or so and if it’s a nice day, the live music will start around then with Wounded Knee on the steps of the shop to kick off the performances.
Song by Toad, Gerry Loves Records and Fence are great friends of the shop so it made sense to showcase the talent on their books and we’ve managed to get a truly mouthwatering selection of artists representing old and new music which is hard to beat. Representing the new on local labels we have Adam Stafford, eagleowl, Kid Canaveral, Rob St. John, Magic Eye, Wounded Knee and Honeyblood. However, Mike Heron of Edinburgh’s Incredible String Band is the highlight for me. He is a true music legend but usually known only to older fans and record collectors. He’s now 70 years old and was a contemporary of, and influence on, Dylan and The Beatles. Few people in Edinburgh even know of The Incredible String Band or that they played at Woodstock in 1969. Mike Heron is from Edinburgh and his father taught the shop’s George English at school! Mike Hastings of Trembling Bells, John Frog Pocket Wilson and Georgia Seddon perform with him and will perform some fantastic songs of their own. I feel really lucky and honoured to have so much talent support us on the day.
Are there any releases on this year’s list that you’re particularly excited about and would like to nab for your own turntable?
‘Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die’: Willie Nelson‘s Record Store Day single and as perfect a title as you can get.