This Friday, we’ll see the opening of a brand new record shop specializing in new and vintage vinyl records on Nørregade in downtown Aarhus. I, for one, am very excited, as I’m a lifelong record enthusiast and hunter – and I have something of a soft spot for anyone who would be either insane enough or filled with passion enough to open a ‘brick and mortar’ music store in a small city, with already a handful of record shops doing pretty much the same thing – some for 25 years or more. Vinyl is well and truly back – sales have been steadily rising for the better part of a decade now, and with every big chain store in Denmark going out of business and closing within the last 2 years alone, there is certainly a niche for independently owned and operated boutiques in an increasingly artisan friendly boom-town, Aarhus.
I met with Mads Nordestgaard, an energetic and optimistic music lover and soon-to-be record shop landlord, a few days before the store’s opening day – a building in complete disarray (“we’ve had a few setbacks at the last minute with the building, but everyone involved assures me it will be ready for the opening”) with workers hammering and sawing, his phone(s) ringing off the hook, and several types of carpenters toiling away in clouds of dust and rubble. He showed me around the surprisingly big location (formerly a clothing merchant), and among the chaos I saw stacks of thousands of new and vintage records ready to be shelved as soon as the dust settles. “We’ve got over 1500 titles, new, ready to be put out…literally tens of thousands good used records ready” – I was immediately confident that Reverb was going to be a good record shop – ready to play with the other “colleagues” locally and worldwide with online sales. Mads took me back to his remarkably quiet office in the rear of the shop and we managed to get a solid chat in – in between putting out all the figurative fires that any new shop owner would be facing less than 48 hours from the grand opening.
Where did you get the inspiration to open up a record shop here in Aarhus – is this something you’ve tried before?
I’ve no experience with it except collecting – way back from childhood up until like most people, the 90s. I went abroad for 15 years and sold all my records in London – complete collections of artists. I think I got like 2 pounds each…regretted it ever since…but moved around a lot with my family – something like 8 places in 15 years both in London and Berlin. It was when we were in Berlin, going to a lot of concerts and starting to see bands selling vinyl (again) – that kicked it off. It wasn’t necessarily going into record shops, I’d kind of gone away from all that – but still thinking – ugh – that album is not nice on CD or Spotify, you gotta buy that particular record on Vinyl. I started buying records again, a hundred or so here and there in Berlin, came back here, now trying to re-buy my old collection and that went kind of overboard! There’s always another one you want…and another one…then it was auctions and trade fairs. I got to know a whole lot of new people through the vinyl trade and finding it was fun to buy, sell and keep a few for myself while building up a big network of people that can track down those good collections to purchase. I was just in the Copenhagen area yesterday buying a great collection…
The shop came about because I’ve had a company in England for 10 years, a job where I travel often – that became less and less and I could begin to stand back from the company and focus on what I really want to do – going back to my childhood dream!
And you chose to do that in Aarhus? Why Aarhus?
I know Copenhagen might be bigger – there might be more collectors or ‘arts minded’ people there, but Aarhus has the bigger student population – and I can still only find maybe a handful of places in the whole country that really do new vinyl.
What is your idea of a good record shop though – like one of those magical places you walk in and just go – WOW – this is going to be a good one?
Well, one thing is of course what you like, there are some great record shops in Berlin – there was this one around the corner from where I lived that did only electronic stuff for example – for me it’s a place that really specializes in the genres I’m into (Alternative, Indie – some electronic). They also have to have a friendly attitude, and I find that last part quite difficult to find in some places… where the person(s) in the shop have the time to talk to the customers – to talk about music, recommend something so I can get to know some new music. That was how I bought records – I didn’t like going into Fona or Stereo Studio (ed: big chain stores here in DK) – I’d go into the old Route 66 here and just hang out there – or just pop in and say hi, see what came in. I think the atmospheres is the most important part. Many of the places I go into – anywhere – they’re too busy, on their laptops and selling on Discogs (ed: online marketplace for music and cataloguing). I need to feel like their deep commitment to music is there. Myself and my staff are going to make sure we provide that.
It’s Record Store Day’s 10th anniversary this Saturday, the day after you open. What are your thoughts on RSD – because it seems like over the years as I’ve been speaking to other independent shop owners, they might be feeling like RSD is more like a drain, or a pain in the ass rather than a positive initiative to get people out to the smaller boutiques.
I’ve just started here, and of course you have to apply or sign up (as an independent) – which isn’t a problem – but now with so much ordinary stuff coming out on RSD, the expectations are immense for small record shops. I’m looking forward to the day and seeing people here, but the whole thing has become so over-commercialized. It’s become very hard on the shops. In many cases, you’re receiving stuff the day before and you don’t know the prices or what you’re definitely getting in… some of which are just normal titles (not RSD exclusives) that they’re pushing on you. The concept is of course fantastic – but there is the hassle of having to take so much in at once without really knowing what you’re even receiving! The shop owners I know don’t make money off RSD.
Like, do we really need a Record Store Day release of a Supertramp re-issue when some bands now are having to wait 6-8 months to get their vinyl made at the factories because the plants are backed up with orders…
Exactly – and I know some shops are beginning not to participate – still doing something nice on the day for their customers, but just not bothering with the RSD titles. I’ll see how it goes – but I almost regret it this year with the grand opening being the day before!
Now that all the big corporate chains have closed – there seems to be a lot more independent shops opening – what do you think is crucial for an independent shop to stay open in 2017 – what do you hope to bring to the table here in Aarhus?
A diverse selection and excellent customer service. Having the time to help them out – order stuff and have that personal interaction so it doesn’t become ‘just another business’.
Do you think that’s why folks are going back to these indie shops – that kind of service?
That’s a big part of it, but it’s also vinyl itself. It’s the physical thing – to go to a shop. You find it, you talk to someone, you buy it. It’s a tangible experience that’s the complete opposite of these big electronic shops or online.
Mads gave me a great sense of what it’s like to start up a record shop – to be able to live out your childhood dream. It seems he’s totally in the game for the right reason too – not to get rich (which is virtually impossible in this racket!) but to bring one more ray of light to folks that are either lifelong music enthusiasts, or maybe just starting to collect and figure out what they like. It’s also one more independently operated quirky shop in Aarhus – on a street that less than a decade ago, frankly was not really doing so well. I personally think the world will never have enough good record stores, places that in my youth, were so important to shaping me as who I am today through music. I’m really happy to introduce our readers to this new place – and we wish Reverb and their staff the best of luck on their endeavors. Whether you come by this Friday for the grand opening or any other time – remember one thing:
Everyday Is Record Store Day if you love vinyl.