Stephen Godfroy (Music YCE alumnus 2008) discusses the success of legendary indie music shop, Rough Trade and how it is bucking the trend in the tough music retail environment
Stephen Godfroy (UKYME 08) talked to a packed room of music industry attendees at the William IV in Shoreditch at last night’s OpenMusicMedia. His focus was the success of legendary indie music shop, Rough Trade, where he works. Stephen talked about his success with The Album Club, which ships CDs to its thousands of members each month. But he also focused on the fallacy that the record shop is dead.
“Our sales have increased twenty percent year on year,” Stephen said, “We make money.”
The secret to Rough Trade’s success seems to lie in editing the selection of music offered to the public along with good old fashioned love for the music itself. “It’s easy to sell music because everyone loves it.” Stephen says.
High street retailers suffer because they focus only on pricing – Stephen claims that this is the reason that the music industry is fretting. Rough Trade thrives on the community it creates in the store, and facilitates that community with written descriptions on every one of its 20,000 albums in stock, its targeted intimate instore gigs and the vibe music lovers get when they enter the store. A little coffee helps “grease the browsing” as well, Stephen says, giving customers access to food, coffee and free WiFi helps people to feel as if the store is a second home. And, selling coffee increases profit margins, too.
If you’re looking for a formula, though, check with the high street. Rough Trade gets to know the neighbourhood it’s in, its customers and works off its credibility as an informed music retailer than a one size fits all formula.
“As soon as you standardize, you get closer to the high street,” says Stephen. He maintains that although Rough Trade broke all the rules of retailing (putting a shop away from the high street on a street that's not on maps, a disregard for competitive pricing, et cetera), it continues to do very well with younger people who are used to getting their music digitally. “Don’t listen to industry commentators, it’s suicide.”
Stephen's talk comes on the heels of numbers released today suggesting that three quarters of indie music shops folded in the last decade to make way for the likes of bigger stores like HMV. Experts worry that major labels will take less risk on innovative artists in the future if more traditional channels like indie shops don't exist to help sell new artists.
OpenMusicMedia is a monthly informal chat about the music industry, organised by UKYME Dave Haynes from Soundcloud.com and Stefan Baumschlager of Last.fm. Watch this space for information about June’s meeting.