As part of our ongoing blog series profiling extraordinary audio visual experiences in the local community surrounding our Oregon headquarters. In this installment, we continue our conversation with Terry Currier, owner of Music Millennium.
Caitlin Lilly: Can you tell me about the history of Record Store Day and how it factors into buyers’ renewed interest in vinyl?
Terry Currier: Record Store Day is really responsible for the vinyl resurgence. In 1995, I started this group called the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. It was designed to be a support group for independent stores during a time when big box retailers had started selling music and independent record stores were at risk of going out of business. Out of that initial coalition, two other coalitions formed. Then in 2007, just when the industry was at its lowest level, the three coalitions came up with the idea of Record Store Day. We asked the industry to give us compelling music on vinyl, mostly titles that weren’t well known, so we could give these titles to our customers.
On that first Record Store Day, there were 50 titles. By Record Store Day 2018 there were 410 official titles and probably another 150 unofficial titles. There were some unexpected titles that came out in those records. Some titles had been out before, but some of the cooler titles are recordings that had never been released. They’re mostly recordings from the 50s, 60s, or 70s, and on Record Store day, people got to hear them for the first time.
For example, there’s a jazz label called Resonance, and they have been collecting old jazz performances that were recorded, usually live in a club, and they put them out on a really heavy vinyl, in really heavy jackets, with beautiful liner notes. This last spring there were a couple of pieces: a three LP live set and a two LP live set of jazz guitarist Grant Green. These are performances nobody’s ever had the chance to hear and this jazz label was able make them available to music fans.
CL: It’s a level of care and personalization that you can’t get anywhere else.
TC: The reason those 1,800 record stores were still in business in 2007 was because they were very passionate about the music. Of course, they had to have some business sense and make a lot of changes to stay relevant. The coolest independent labels are still around for the same reason. They’re passionate about the music, and put a lot of care into making a unique package for the titles they release on Record Store day. It’s absolutely amazing to see.
CL: I think it’s so important to hang on and try to continue to evolve, like the way Record Store Day got developed, and give people what they’re looking for while still providing a home base. That’s a really cool mission.
TC: Every day as I head into work, I think, “how can I make the experience exciting for the music fans who come into my store?” We’re always trying to offer unique, relevant things in addition to just having a great selection of CDs and vinyl, or even cassette tapes, in the store.
We host a lot of live music events. There’s nothing better than live music. Vinyl is the closest thing you’re going to get to that live music experience. We’ve done about four and a half to five thousand live performances in the store since 1989. We’ve had Joe Strummer from The Clash; Randy Newman; Keith Emerson from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer; and Weezer play in our store. It’s been incredible. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this is a real.
The best thing about those live music experiences is being able to put fans in touch with these artists. There’s an interaction that happens; it becomes a lot more personal once fans have been here for a live performance and talked to the artist.
My goal has always been to have the best record store I possibly could have. Here we are 49 years later, and that’s still our goal. We’re constantly thinking of new things that will make our customers happy.
CL: So, it’s more of a lifelong pursuit vs. a tangible goal?
TC: Well, we’re happy that music fans exist to come here, because it’s really the people in the community who help keep us alive and make it possible for all us to do what we love. That’s why experiences like Record Store Day are so important. It gives fans a chance to interact more directly with the music, either by hearing a live performance or picking up an album and interacting with it.
I think fewer vinyl fans buy music online. They’d rather go into a record store, look at the cover, take out the record, and make sure it doesn’t have any scratches or dings in it. That’s especially important when you are looking at used albums. You can’t always assess the quality online. If you go to the local record store, you can see the condition of the album for yourself and talk to the staff about what you are buying. If you’re not happy with your purchase, you can come on back. They’ll take care of you, it’s all part of the record store experience.
*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity