Record Shops: Stepping into Rounder’s Breach
Rounder Records closed on July 29th after 46 years at the centre of our local music scene. Brighton’s oldest independent record shop just couldn’t make the numbers work as the music industry feels the pinch of not just the recession but also the move to digital formats.
Primarily Rounder has become another victim of the iTunes/Beatport/Pirate Bay axis. People who previously spent £8 on an imported vinyl 12” – Rounder’s bread and butter customers – either didn’t have that money or had moved to playing 99p digital files from CDJs or off their laptop. Added to that, it’s become so easy to download for free that it’s frequently, but perhaps hyperbolically, reported that many of the newest generation of music lovers never even think to pay for it.
“We are closing because we can’t make it add up any more,” said Rounder in a written statement. “We are a business that has been decimated by downloads (both legal and illegal), VAT avoidance by the big online retailers, a double dip recession, and the decline of the high street. Our lease has ended and we have nowhere to go.”
Rounder played a part in the city’s time in the musical spotlight. In the mid 90s, Norman Cook and Damian Harris both worked behind the counter before finding fame as Fatboy Slim and the head of Skint records respectively. They were just two of a huge range of people working in Brighton’s music business who did counter time in the shop. Most recently, dubstep DJ Riskotheque and The Agitator’s Derek Meins could be found serving up CDs and vinyl.
Owner Phil Barton says, “The shop and the staff have always striven to be the best. We are not able to deliver the best anymore and with the deepest regret I have to close the doors at the end of July. Rounder has been a part of my life, and my loyal staff’s lives for so long that having to close is a very bitter pill to swallow. We tried everything to stay open, but the basic economics were killing us.”
“It’s a massive blow to Brighton,” says Nat of Resident Records. “One of the great things about Brighton has always been not only independent shops, but also independent record shops. People really need to think about the consequences of their choices when they’re shopping around to save money. Everyone’s saying how tragic it is that Rounder’s gone, but if you were shopping there then they’d still be here.”
“The more record shops there are, the more people come shopping,” adds her partner Derry, who promises Resident are safe for now. “Like the more gigs are on, the more people go to gigs. People come here for the music scene, so the more of it there is, the better for everybody.”
On a personal note, it’s possible that SOURCE would not be around now if it wasn’t for Rounder. I was working there when I heard about the editor’s job and certainly I have never been so clued up about music as I was in that year. We’re sure that the shop has weaved its way into the lives of every other music obsessive in Brighton too. (JK)
Fortunately for the city’s music fans, there is still a strong concentration of new and second hand record stores scattered around Brighton and Hove. Here we have selected a few of the city’s finest.
Borderline Gardner St
One of Brighton’s longest serving, most knowledgeable record stores, Borderline leans towards specialist CD and vinyl issues, across genres including jazz, psychedelia, Americana and soul. The staff really love their music, and are happy to share their knowledge if you’ve time for a chat.
Cult Hero North St
Starting out in a tiny shop on Duke Street, the shop formerly known as Ape’s move to a more spacious North Street store means less jostling elbows in the ribs, and more passing trade. New and bargain CDs and DVDs are Cult Hero’s bread and butter, but there’s a strong cult book section, and decent racks of vinyl.
Dance 2 Western Rd
More than a record shop, Dance 2 is a lifeline to DJs. They hire out equipment like the otherwise unaffordable CDJs, PA speakers and lasers. They’ll also mend your gear when you bash it around too much. The music they sell crosses battlebreaks, d’n’b and hard dance, plus it’s also a great place to pick up flyers and tickets.
Endless Kensington Gdns, above Loaded
Born out of the ashes of Edgeworld – who now do a monthly pop up shop in The Blind Tiger – Endless also provide sounds for those off the beaten track. Carefully curated, the shop has a split personality – one half devoted to punk, garage and psych, the other half focused on bass, house and techno. They also manage to squeeze in free in-stores on Mondays too.
Fine Records George St, Hove
Hove’s only dedicated music store, Fine Records is also the city’s only dedicated classical outlet. There’s a huge range of new and used classical recordings on CD and vinyl, with strong selections of jazz, MOR, soundtracks and nostalgia.
One Stop Records Sydney St, above Wolf & Gypsy
Recently voted one of the five best vintage record shops in the UK in a Telegraph article by Wayne Hemingway, One Stop has the benefit of being run by Chris from the highly regarded neo-disco outfit Soft Rocks. He’ll knowledgably sell you deep house, techno, post dubstep and, of course, disco edits. The second hand section goes right back to the 60s.
Punker Bunker Sydney St, below Immediate
Situated in the basement, down some very narrow stairs, Punker Bunker has a unique selection of punk sounds, second hand and new. Punker Bunker promote regular shows from the international punk underground too. Just don’t waste their time asking for “you know, that one in the Rimmel advert. Kate Moss rocks.”
Rarekind Trafalgar St
Now as famous for records as the graffiti crew are for their art, Rarekind specialise in funk, soul and hip hop in their main shop, while RK Bass deals with modern dance music from d’n’b to dubstep and anything fixated on the bassline. The main floor has plenty of quality second hand vinyl, plus a handful of CDs from the UK hip hop scene.
The Record Album Terminus Rd
The granddaddy of Brighton’s record stores, The Record Album has been trading in the city since 1948. Its focus on film soundtracks has brought the shop an international reputation among DJs and collectors, with a jaw-dropping amount of vinyl pressings, both mint originals and reissues.
Resident Kensington Gdns
In Rounder’s absence, award-winning Resident is now unarguably Brighton’s premier independent record store, with the widest selection of alternative music in the city, on CD and vinyl. Resident does a strong trade in gig tickets too, and hosts plenty of in-store shows after hours.
Sometimes new releases aren’t enough and only an afternoon of deep crate digging can satisfy that record buying itch. Wax Factor on Trafalgar Street has the biggest range of second hand sounds (and an excellent book section too), but both Across The Tracks on Sydney Street and Monkey Music on Baker Street regularly turn up gems. The mixed boxes of Snoopers Paradise, opposite Resident, also reward investigation. If you can’t find your desired disc at any of those, the massive, bi-monthly Vinylman Music Fairs at the Brighton Centre shouldn’t let you down.
Words by James Kendall and Stuart Huggett