What do you specialize in:
ATMV inventory is a reflection of our local regional marketplace. In general, we stock all the recognized chart artists from the last 60 years, that is: Classic Rock, Country, Vocalists, Jazz, World, Hip-Hop, DJ Dance & Electronica, Indie-modern, Hard Rock & Metal. Our particular strength is in Oldies & oldie compilations on CD from the 1940s through the present. Because of our geographic location on the border, we also stock the region’s best Spanish-language music department. That area is categorized by Rock-en-Español, Baladas, Nostalgia, Tejano, Norteño, Banda, Tropical, and Ranchera.
What was your first job?
I was the neighborhood lawn-boy from 10-14. When I was 15 I got a job sanding and prepping cabinets for painting at a local kitchen-cabinet shop. Those two jobs combined with the discipline and values given to me by my parents, instilled in me the work-ethic that’s allowed me to succeed in almost every entrepreneurial project I’ve undertaken.
What was the first record you ever bought?
I don’t remember exactly, but it must have been one of these 3 45 RPM records from 1964-1965: Ronnie & The Daytona’s “Little GTO,” Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” or Del Shannon’s “Keep Searchin’.”
When did the idea of owning your own record store first occur to you?
I was a successful radio DJ & Television reporter by the time I was 21. Somehow, I was always able to talk management into allowing me to produce stories on pop-culture or host Oldies shows on Sunday nights, so in the 70’s I became known as the local “music guy.” By the time I was 26 I became disillusioned with the prospects for a future in the broadcast business, so owning a music store seemed logical. People were always coming up to me and asking me, “Where can I get that song?” Years later I would read the book, “Hit Men” by Fredric Dannen. It was a book about power-brokers & fast money inside the music business. I learned the genesis & insider structure of our industry. Apparently, avarice and missteps by the record industry from the disco era led to an industry-wide crash in 1980, the very year I opened my store. Had I known or done a little market research, I may have opted not to open. Talk about being naive!
Has the neighborhood where your store is located changed?
I started the store as Nostalgia Records with 700 square feet in a small strip center in 1980. By 1987, I increased our square footage to 3,000 square feet on the city’s eastside. In 1994, I changed our name to All That Music, to counter the perception that we were the store with all the old stuff. In 1998, we moved to a new 5700 square foot location up the street and in 2007, I adapted our name to All That Music & Video. It’s 2010 now, so I’m considering a restructuring and relocation that reflects the changes in our industry. Stay tuned! We’re excited about our new reincarnation.
How has the music retail market changed over the years?
In 1980 I stocked primarily LPs. By 1983, it was LPs and cassettes. We were stocking LP’s, cassettes and CDs in 1990. As LPs and cassettes disappeared in the 90’s, new and used CDs & DVDs became our primary inventory.
The future music store will be all about service and collectibles for serious music enthusiasts. The impulse or casual-buyer-market has slowly eroded in the last 10 years and will continue to do so. Local operators like ourselves know the nuances of the market and survive by knowing and stocking the regional and local favorites. Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target all sell what I call the “no-brainer easy business,” that is, mostly the Top 50 Billboard chart CDs. Although we also stock these chart hits, we conceded the easy business to the giants years ago. Now, as the giants are allocating less space to deep catalog and the big chain stores are all but gone, we’re realizing the increased traffic of consumers who require and enjoy a good record store. Serious music buyers are left with the “last-man-standing,” which is usually the local independent. That works for me!
Have you noticed resurgence in vinyl record sales?
Absolutely! In 1999, I remember we did a “Goodbye to LPs” promotion. Basically, we cleared-out all LPs for cheap. Fast-forward 10 years, and LPs are now a growing part of our business model. However, we never quit buying and selling LPs. Over the years, we removed LPs from the sales floor, but built a hefty collection of nearly 10,000 quality collectible LPs that were sold mainly on the internet. We’re now reconfiguring the store to accommodate our deep catalog of LPs on the sales floor. In part, credit today’s 15 to 30 year-olds for spearheading the return of the LP. They grew up knowing music by file trading, computers, and ear buds. Eventually, these consumers mature and realize that you can’t beat first-edition, physical, hands-on product. In the end, whether for full complete liner notes and a high-quality (non-mp3) sound, physical product will be sought out by the true hard-core fans. Sure, the volume of product sold is less, but remaining copies in the marketplace are worth more, especially if the condition of the LP or CD is like-new. We sell lots of product in the $20 to $75 range. This is our new marketplace. We’ve spent the last 30 years learning what’s-in and what’s not, and use that knowledge to buy and sell fairly and strategically.
What does your store offer that few, if any, others do?
We offer next-day delivery of most CDs & DVDs at no extra cost. Our network of major distributors allows us to piggy-back special orders onto our daily deliveries.
What was the biggest day the store ever had?
Our biggest day was probably in 1995, with the posthumous release of Selena’s “Dreaming of You” CD. I did a press release for a midnight on-sale. We had all three major TV affiliates broadcast their 10 PM newscasts from our parking lot, which was attended by an estimated 5,000 people. We sold nearly 3000 units of the CD that night.
Ever had anybody famous come in and shop at your store?
Sherman Hemsley, a.k.a. George Jefferson from the “The Jeffersons” 70s sitcom is a regular customer. We have handled many of his special orders and media transfers. By the way, this is another growing revenue stream for us. We transfer LPs, cassettes, and VHS to CD-R and DVD-R at an affordable price. I’m really excited about this growing business opportunity. We aren’t presently advertising the service, but not one day passes that another media transfer project lands on our lap.
What is the future of record stores like yours?
Like I said, the future will be service and collectibles for serious music enthusiasts. Today’s record store employee must bring something to the table. Young clerks fulfilling cash register duties and generally hanging-out and acting cool are gone. Thank God!
With today’s bleak economy, we are all doing more with less. So slackers quickly find themselves unemployed. Today’s employee needs to bring a depth-of-knowledge in any particular genre of music. Strong retail, marketing and merchandising skills are a must. Computer, database, and website expertise is a bonus. In general, with google, you tube, and hundreds of website resources, I tell prospective employees that logic, common sense, and a desire to provide service to a customer is all that’s necessary. We can teach the new-hires the resources and steps for great customer service. Finding employees with charisma, values, good attitude, and a strong work ethic is the challenge.
What’s the best part about being the owner of a record store and what’s the wors
The worst part is the retail grind and the rude, unappreciative types that any retail business attracts. I can think of three categories of people who will absolutely put you in a foul mood. One, the mother of four bratty kids (usually all under 10 years old), who tells them to “go play” while Momma shops. Result: rearranged inventory, broken fixtures and a trashed store. Two, the customer with 20 questions who takes 30 minutes of your time and walks out because they think they’ll find it cheaper at Wal-Mart or the internet. And three, here lately it’s the customer who cleans out the closet or garage and brings us their used junk because they heard LPs were worth a lot of money now. We spend a lot of time educating people about the collectability of records. Most are good sports, but some don’t understand and get offended when we reject common, low-demand items in poor condition. With advance notice, I’ll direct sellers to allthatmusic.com to read our guidelines for selling CDs, LPs, & DVDs. Despite these three profiles, most of our customers are great. We owe them our jobs. It is always a pleasure to serve someone who is willing to pay us for the expertise of finding their song or hard-to-find item.
What’s the rarest record you’ve ever had in your store?
In 30 years, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering three variations of the famous Beatles “Butcher Cover” LP. I presently have one on display in our collectors showcase.
Do you collect anything else besides records?
I collect old gadgets, memorabilia, paper, and especially old radios, clocks, post cards, posters, photos, and documents. I’m fascinated and intrigued by the process and evolution of mankind, technology and pop-culture in general. To acquire a well-preserved object from the past is to own a part of history and the evolutionary process.
What advice would you have for people who want to own a record store?
Don’t give up your regular job. I’ve been lucky because this is my passion and I’m too stubborn to fail. But in 30 years, I’ve seen most of my competitors come and go because they were poorly capitalized, mismanaged, or otherwise naïve. This is a fast, cut-throat, and rapidly changing industry. People are attracted to the glamour of music and entertainment. But in reality, we are living in the midst of a technological, computer-based revolution. The world is now a virtual marketplace of digital files. Do your homework before you jump into this industry.