Your local record store is dying...
the murder suspect might be a bit of a surprise.
A Little About the Film
It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that mentioning “Record Stores” or “Buying Records” in conversation was the equivalent of speaking an alien language. Though independent record shops were closing left and right in the late 90’s, most folks didn’t seem to take notice except for the die-hard vinyl fans, and they certainly didn’t miss them when they were gone; especially when the inferior format of digital downloads came along to make everything much easier. Coupled with the simplicity of obtaining entire catalogues in a matter of minutes was the power of the Google search, creating “instant experts” of bands and genres. And while there were definitely more people out there who could recite the track lists of every Dead Milkmen album, one could safely bet that very few of them had ever walked into a record store and asked for Mojo Nixon.
In 2008, however, a change emerged on the horizon. The first Record Store Day signified a rebirth of vinyl and the independent record shop with 10 exclusive releases and a major push from Metallica; by the time Record Store Day 2013 hit, thousands of stores were taking part, with over 400 exclusive releases by noted artists. RSD 2013 also threw a few films into the mix; Last Shop Standing, which focuses on the market in the UK, and Brick and Mortar Love, which concentrates on the stores in the US.
Specifically, Brick and Mortar Love chronicles the rise and fall of Lousiville, Kentucky’s ear X-tacy, an independent record shop that fought to stay open during music’s digital revolution, when similar businesses were closing their doors. Run by John Timmons, the store started from a record mail-order business that he ran from his apartment, which eventually moved into a small store opened with his own records and a cash advance on his mastercard. Throughout the running time, Timmons tells a story that many vinyl fans will recognize; of chain store employees who know nothing about music, corporate giants who care about the bottom dollar rather than promoting local artists, and the use of music as a loss leader, sold below cost to generate more customers who may purchase big ticket items from other departments. The film also showcases Timmons putting his money where his mouth is, by promoting local bands through in-store appearances, and hiring a number of staff who are knowledgeable about the music that their customers are looking for, while also offering special orders…a benefit that many chain stores have never heard of.
With comments from other successful music stores across the country, such as personal favourite Music Millenium in Portland, who talk openly about how important ear X-tacy is, one wonders why Timmons was finally forced to close his doors in 2011, when vinyl and independent stores seemed to be making a comeback. While he was clearly willing to adapt to change, moving the store a number of times and downsizing while still holding true to the ideals of local music promotion through in-store appearances, was it too little too late, or just a number of wrong decisions? Was ear X-tacy really “too expensive” as some have said, or were they just following a flawed business model as others have suggested? Or could it be that Timmons’ press conferences and web videos asking for people’s help to keep his store open rubbed too many people the wrong way?
A Note From Scott Schuffitt
On February 13, 2010, John Timmons (owner of ear X-tacy Records in Louisville, Kentucky) held a press conference to inform the local community that his business was in financial trouble and would potentially have to close its doors after nearly twenty-five years of service. How could this happen? How could this cultural center within my community close? What would my city look like without its influence? All these questions started running through my mind and a few days after the press conference, I decided I had to look deeper into this story.
Ear X-tacy is a landmark within Louisville. It has hosted scores of in-store performances by a growing list of artists that include the Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket and John Mayer. Jim James, lead singer of My Morning Jacket, says that there would be no My Morning Jacket if it were not for ear X-tacy. The store has consistently been ranked at the top of its industry by magazines including Playboy, Rolling Stone, Paste, and Spin. Timmons, who worked in record stores for over thirty-five years, has been a mentor and vital influence in the local community and was instrumental in the organization of Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA).
The goal of my film, Brick and Mortar, and Love, is to inform or remind the audience how necessary independent record stores are to the communities that they serve. What they provide exceeds a simple financial transaction. Independent record stores are inspirational, they teach and foster the arts, and are a hotbed for budding entertainers and entrepreneurs.