Sunday, March 15, 2009

What Road Records should do:

1. Get the stock right - I understand that it's a problem for a small shop to have a large amount of new stock, but to maintain regular interest in a shop that small, it needs to happen. I buy most of my CDs in Tower, not because of price or any other reason, but because they have more CDs I want. No amount of goodwill can get around that. The standard here is Rough Trade. That shop in Portobello in London is smallish, but their stock is unreal. I wouldn't trust myself to go in there and come out without something, ever.

2. Ditch the dusty stuff - Secondhand vinyl takes up quite a lot of space in the shop and - desperate as I was to find SOMETHING worth hearing - I couldn't find one record I wanted when I was in right at the start of the closing-down period. From my experience as in the bookshop near my house, I have some idea of what you buy in and what you sell in terms of secondhand stuff, and the stuff there has been stripped out already to the point where most of it will be there in twenty years.

3. Use the space for something else - like... more new vinyl? I don't know. Tower has got a new vinyl section that is very much the standard to aim at, and I'm not sure how Road will compete with this.

4. Ditch the dusty Irish stuff - I have nothing but praise for the fact that Road will stock almost anything independent and Irish, but there comes a time when a CD-R in a clear plastic sleeve that hasn't sold in five years has to be binned to stop it cramping the style of the Jape album or even the Ambience Affair EP. It brings the tone down.

5. Brighter lights - Is this reasonable? Dark and dusty shops are uninviting.

6. Let more people know it's there - One of Road's main complaints was that their old customers weren't being replaced by new, young customers. While point 1 (the stock thing) impacts on this, the fact that people don't know it exists has got to impact on it. I knew it was around somewhere, but it took going out of my way to find a Mumblin' Deaf Ro instore, I think, to actually figure out where it was. People have got to know. At LEAST put the logo on the bag. Even if people don't know where to find it, let people know that it's there to be found.

7. More reasons to go - Instores, compilations, something. To get people to make the leap between knowing it exists and actually finding it. To get people to go more often, once they do know it's there. Tower is in the kind of place where I can barely avoid going in once a day to at least browse. Road is not. So get me there somehow.

8. Modernise - That isn't a great title for this one, but what I mean is that Road is associated with a generation of Irish musicians that isn't exactly on the cutting edge. The benefit was played by Jape, The Jimmy Cake, Si Schroeder, Adrian Crowley and some members of the Dudley Corporation and Large Mound. Not that a lot of those bands aren't great. But that line-up could have been Jape, Fight Like Apes, Grand Pocket Orchestra, Katie Kim and Children Under Hoof. No need to cut associations with older musicians, but forge associations with younger musicians too.

9. Redesign the website - Just make it look a bit nicer. Surely in the current atmosphere of goodwill, someone will do this for free or at least cheap.

10. Have gigs - why not? Everybody seemed to have fun at the One For The Road thing, from reports. This is another way of keeping Road in people's consciousness after they're satisfied that they've done their civic duty and saved it.


I write this as somebody who shopped in Road reasonably often - say, second most of any record store in Dublin. I don't have any of the sentimental connections that a lot of people seem to have of halcyon days past or of a first break by stocking a homemade record. I'm just a consumer. Your average 20 year old who for one reason or another likes to buy a CD or a 7" every now and then. I'm just thinking out loud here, so don't wade in and tell me to shut up. I fail to see how any of the suggestions could hurt, anyway, and if Road is planning on continuing, it's clear that it's going to have to do SOMETHING, because it can't rely on the goodwill boom continuing indefinitely.

Photo by Naomi McArdle, sorry if it's not cool to nick it.

24 comments:

Ian said...

Everybody seemed to have fun at the One For The Road thing, from reports.

Everyone who counts loves Ned Flanders.

- How cryptic.

LoLo said...

1. They will order anything you want in, via the order form on their website or if you go into them and ask. If you know something is coming out in a few weeks get them to pre order it, thats what I do, so I get it on time.
2. Agree with you on the second hand vinyl, although I have found some interesting records in there, but I also like rummaging for stuff.
3. Road have a new vinyl section, the first row when you walk in the door. Also what they do is put nice little info stickers on the corner so you can read either a press release or their opinion on the record which is great, I've often gone in looking for something in particular and come home with 2 extra records after reading the description. That definitely has the edge over Tower.
4. I 100% agree with you there.
5. I never found the lighting to be a problem in there? Then again its not something I'd really give a shite about in any shop.
6. They have bright yellow plastic bags with the logo on it and the address.
7. They used to have a lot of instores from the likes of Glen Hansard and Josh Ritter etc but seemed to wind down with the last one being Calvin Johnson so maybe they will start back up again.
8. The benefit gig was organized by Vinnie from The Jimmy Cake and he basically got what musicians were available for that date, Fight Like Apes and GPO and whoever else being out of the country for touring commitments. Leagues O'Toole also sorted out the venue for that night, possible it was the only Saturday available that soon. It was mainly done through thumped.com and those bands are regulars on the forum.
9. I agree with you here, the website definitely needs to be more user friendly. There's plenty of templates out there, just a case of something better being put together.
10. It would be class if they reopened the basement and had gigs down there. Also, Road is tiny compared to Tower so there no real space for anything more than an acoustic guitar!

This post has probably highlighted a lot of the reasons as to why the shop fell out of regard with customers and failure to attract new people. Also the little problem of downloading! I think its important as a record buyer you voice these concerns.
Nothing you'd said is hurtful its all very sensible and considerate. Road really need to pull there socks up if they get a second chance and make themselves the best independent record store in Dublin.
Tower can go and shite. I find some of the staff have not a fucking clue of records if you ask them and will consult the computer. Why put a metaller on the main floor?!! Dave and Julie's knowledge of music is wonderful, and I get them to recommend me stuff and have a listen in the shop. They are ridiculously friendly and very helpful. I think their Irish section is pitiful, and the layout of the shop looks disorganized, but yes they generally do have new stock before Road do.
Nowadays I find I don't get into town as often, so I order a lot of records directly from labels, or I hunt for old stuff on ebay. Road is always the first place I call into because my bus stop is on George's street.

LoLo said...

Sorry for the ridiculously long post Karl! x

gabbagabbahey said...

some of your points I'm uncomfortable with, some I'm inclined to dismiss, and some are really good... so here goes:

1. ordering isn't going to solve that problem, but I'm not sure Road should be competing on the same stock as Tower (even in its more unconventional, not-HMV fare). On the other hand, maybe there is an ideal standard as you say.

2. I think they stopped buying new second-hand stuff a while ago - I used to check the list online (see 9) quite regularly, and there always was some quality stuff - which didn't stay there too long, naturally. Even the stuff they had left over was a lot better than in some other shops - have you seen the amount of Joan Armatrading they have in Freebird?

3. What LoLo said above. Plus, Tower's new vinyl is still a lot more mainstream/indie than the Road selection.

4. hmmm... let me know how that goes. if you're talking about the tone, the black paint probably doesn't help either.

5. It's nice natural light up by that new vinyl section.

6. The logo was on the paper bags (photographic proof here)

7. they had a whole week of instores this year... not that I actually went to any of them.

8. I think you've got a good point there; maybe the younger musicians are by their very nature seeking out the more contemporary outlets for promotion, at the expense of old-fashioned places like Road.

9. websites can always do with an overhaul and new look, but I thought the Road site was generally very impressive. up-to-date stock information (including 2nd-hand records), those excellent mini-reviews (stole quite a few for my blog!) all were a strength of the store. for example, I just signed up for the new Tower vinyl email-list, which is really bringing them up to speed with Road.

10. sounds good. a regular or semi-regular fixture with one or two of Saturday's line-up, or some of the younger bands you mention, would be good for promoting the store as well the artists that it's considered to represent.

Karl said...

I'm glad this is getting a bit of discussion.

1. I don't always know what I want in advance. If I did know, there's a chance I'd pre-order it online off the label and have it delivered to my house, like I did with Skeletal Lamping. The role a shop plays for me is in having a load of CDs I might not know I want until I see them. That's where good standing stock comes in.

3. I know they have a new vinyl section, but it's nothing on Tower's corner in my personal opinion. Maybe Tower's is more indie-mainstream, but sometimes I want to buy the Vampire Weekend album, not something I've never heard of.

5. Lighting wouldn't matter to us, perhaps, but if someone was just, for some inexplicable reason, wandering down Fade St and saw it, a nice bright shop makes a lot of difference to whether you actually drop in.

6. I only noticed the no-logo thing the last time I was in, so maybe they'd just getting new logo bags by then.

7. I know they had a week of instores - but that was for an internationally organised thing, and there are 51 other weeks in the year - why not have instores all the time?

Karl said...

Also I wouldn't say that the Irish section in Tower is pitiful. They have a very prominent bay dedicated to it, with a reasonably broad selection of stuff including self-released stuff like Heritage Centre.

The staff kinda let them down alright - particularly the one person who is plainly responsible for the one terrible CD that comes on in the rotation - but in this day and age, post-last.fm, post-blogs, post-Metacritic, post-Spotify, who relies on recommendations from shop staff?

Al said...

Another suggestion might be something like the Rough Trade Album Club(http://www.thealbumclub.com/)where for a monthly subscription you'll get a new album recommended by Road.

Ian said...

Karl. You've written a post made up of a list of points and suggestions.

You've been linked from On the Record.

Speaking from personal experience, enjoy what will probably be your busiest week ever as a blogger.

Richie said...

One small thing they could do is re-organise their shelves.. the alphabetical listing in the CD racks always seemed to be a bit of a mess, it was hard to find things, which I imagine left less dedicated shoppers frustrated. I did get the feeling when I used to browse there more regularly that the stock turnover was slow, newer items would be hard to track down whereas you'd constantly see the same obscure dusty stuff on the shelves that must've been there for years unsold. Hosting small events in the shop to get people to know it exists (especially those that would appeal to the younger generation of customers they need to try to attract) is a good idea, as is linking the shop somehow to gigs that are going on. The one major advantage they have over other music shops in Dublin is the experienced, friendly staff, they need to make the best use possible of this.. I don't know exactly how they could do this, maybe they could have a blog-type feature on their site where you tell them what you've been listening to and ask for recommendations. One major issue is that CDs are of course a dying format, so they need to target the other physical artifacts linked to music releases, more new vinyl and more music-accessory type stuff would seem to be the way to go..

Nay said...

Heya, dropped out of the world a little bit in recent weeks and didn't see this post. You're welcome for the pic, thanks for using it!

Hollie said...

wow! they look like that angry couple from father ted!!!

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