A decade ago, opening a brick-and-mortar book and record store was as dicey an investment as it still sounds today. That didn't stop Dan Drummond and Melanie Cade from opening such a shop near the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Today, Mojo Books and Records is coasting right along, thanks in part to another institution marking its 10th edition in 2017: Record Store Day. The annual celebration of independent record store culture helped build a generation of millennials who are as into new vinyl as their parents and grandparents.
Vinyl record sales, which have risen each year for the past decade, are expected to hit 40 million units and $1 billion overall in 2017, according to financial analysts Deloitte. That benefits shops like Mojo, which now rely on the sales of new vinyl to help their bottom line.
"I used to sell vinyl at record collector shows before we opened the store," Drummond said. "It was just a bunch of older men going there, the kind that supported us when we first opened. But (Record Store Day) really has brought it back to people between 20 and 30. It's a popular thing to be into."
Record Store Day returns Saturday, the same day Mojo marks its 10th anniversary with a day of music and giveaways at their store. To mark the occasion, Drummond and Cade talked about how Record Store Day spurred the vinyl resurgence, and how that impacted their store.
In 10 years of operating a record store, what have you learned about music retail and the industry in general?
Drummond: When we first started, a lot of our customers were more the collector types. Then maybe three years down the road, we started seeing more and more younger people who were getting into vinyl. Now it's a mix. And a lot of the people that are younger customers are growing older, and a lot of them are staying with it. I thought maybe it was just a fad, but a lot of them are still coming back, and they've gotten more sophisticated in their buying tastes.
Has Record Store Day been a part of that?
Drummond: Absolutely. When it started out, there was not much too it. But year after year it grew exponentially, and it definitely impacted the sale of vinyl.
Cade: You started seeing more diversity in terms of age. I've seen people from all walks of life. We have way more women, and young women, collecting records now than we used to at all.
Is Record Store Day a significant piece of your bottom line at Mojo these days?
Drummond: It's Christmas in one weekend, I would say.
Cade: It definitely impacts April, hugely. We'll do more sales, or as many sales, in one day as we'll do the rest of the month added up.
I've heard that it wasn't always a slam-dunk benefit — the profit margins weren't great, sometime you would get stuck with undersold overstock, and you had no way of predicting what inventory you'd get on a year-to-year basis anyway. So often it was a bit of a financial gamble. Was that the case at Mojo?
Cade: In the earlier years, that was definitely the case. Even now, it's a high-risk day.
Drummond: Vinyl in general is a high risk. Because as compared to the old days, you cannot return unsold stock. You can return something if it's damaged. But even when you do that, you have to send pictures with it. So it is a risk.
Cade: In the early years, there were a couple of years where we did not come out ahead.
Drummond: The more that we put out to sell, the better we usually do. Even though we do get stuck with stuff, we mark that stuff down later in the year, even if it's just (sold) for cost.
Cade: We order a lot, and we try to order at least one of everything. On Record Store Day, people have to make a choice about what's going to be their first stop in order to get the hardest-to-find stuff, or the things that are going to go the quickest. You're competing for that customer. And the more people have confidence you're going to have everything they're looking for, the better you're going to do overall. You have to be all-in and take that huge risk
Over the past 10 years, what's been the biggest change in your roles as physical music retailers?
Cade: It used to be we were primarily a used store that had some new product, whereas now ... our customers expect us to have all the major new releases on vinyl, because we're a new release store. We have to carry anything significant.
So many people are shifting how they consume music to streaming services; that's happened entirely over the last decade. How did that impact you?
Drummond: There's always people that go for the physical stuff. We're a bookstore, too, and for a while there, we thought, "Oh my god, the Kindle's gonna kill us." But there's people who actually like to go back to books now. Our store is a little bit of a hangout, so we get people that come in and socialize. I'd say a lot of the kids aren't even playing the albums they're getting; they just like to have them.
People might think owning a physical book and music store is a ghost industry in 2017. Has that been the case?
Drummond: It's funny, because Amazon's starting to open physical bookstores, which I found ironic, since they helped kill a lot of bookstores. I don't know what the future holds; all I know is that we do okay. We basically bought ourselves a job. But it's an enjoyable job.
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.