- Associated Press - Monday, November 24, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - As a musician, owner of a live music venue and overall music junkie, the idea of owning a record store always appealed to Fayetteville’s Wade Ogle.

With a music shop right next door to JRs Lightbulb Club, the venue Ogle co-owns, the dream seemed a bit far-fetched. He’d always wanted to try something like this but honestly figured that it would remain an item on his bucket list for years, if not forever, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/11zBgEd ) reported.

When that shop, at 17 N. Block Ave. No. 12, was shuttered in September by the Washington County sheriff’s office for failure to pay taxes and rent, Ogle got his chance. He began lobbying the landlords of the space and ultimately won them over with his vision for what will be known as Block Street Records.

Block Street Records is a combination of vanity project and labor of love for Ogle, who is targeting the last week of November for the opening. That isn’t to suggest this is an idea without merit or moneymaking potential.

Old-school albums are making a comeback nationwide and selling at a rate not seen since the early 1990s. This is a good time for Ogle to get into the business.

Vinyl sales are projected this year to be in the neighborhood of 8.3 million LPs, up 38 percent from 2013. That bump comes after record sales increased more than 30 percent from 2012-13, according to Digitalmusicnews.com.

Slate.com, citing numbers published by Billboard, reported in January that digital track and album sales declined in 2013, the first time the format has seen a dip since the iTunes Store launched in 2003. Overall music sales dropped 7 percent last year.

Granted, vinyl sales are still a tiny part of the overall music sales market. More than 117 million digital albums were sold last year, and more than 290 billion total albums in all forms were purchased.

Even at such a small percentage of overall sales, the jump in vinyl’s popularity has caught the music industry’s attention. And it makes owning a record store a safer bet than it might initially sound.

There are a couple of possible explanations for why the old-school format is making a comeback.

Listening to an album requires some level of commitment from the listener, who has to pull the record from its sleeve, place it on the player, fire up the turntable and then once side one is complete, flip the album and start it up again. That process, Ogle theorizes, makes the listener even more of a part of the experience.

Audiophiles will also tell you that sonically, nothing comes close to albums for the richest listening experience.

“I love music, and I’ll listen to any format,” Ogle said. “Vinyl, though, is better. I like to look at it. I like the sound of it. It’s the format I prefer. If you’ve got 1,000 downloads, who cares? If you’ve got 1,000 albums that you’ve hand-picked? There’s value to that.”

Ogle’s search for vinyl valuable enough to stock the shelves at Block Street Records has taken him throughout the region. In one neighboring state he perused a 30,000-record collection, each one sleeved and alphabetized. “Breathtaking” is how Ogle describes the experience on Block Street Records’ Facebook page.

Even Ogle’s personal collection has been raided. What once totaled 500 records in his Fayetteville home is now down to about 100. Ogle credits friend Kevin Blagg for helping him identify must-have titles for the shop. Currently, there are about 5,000 albums in the Block Street Records collection.

Ogle purchased some racks from the previous store owner and used materials from the old Sound Warehouse to build other shelves, but did not buy any of the records the former vendor had in stock. Sound Warehouse opened in 1984 and occupied a number of locations under a number of owners.

Because things unfolded so quickly and the operation is on such a tight budget, Ogle said he has worked up some consignment and trade deals with some local collectors. In addition to the vinyl, there will be a section of used CDs, plus vintage hi-fi gear and other stereo equipment.

In his dream scenario Block Street Records will connect via an interior door with JRs. Patrons who come for live music at the club, which turned 25 in September, can enter the record store late at night to make purchases of the band they just heard. All of that, though, is pending Alcohol Beverage Control approval.

While he’s always dreamed of owning a record store, Ogle never actually set aside any capital specifically for the store. Much of the work to update the interior of Block Street Records is do-it-yourself or have-your-friends-and-family-do-it.

Everything, Ogle said, is happening on a shoestring budget. How shoestring?

“Well, we didn’t actually have any money saved up for this,” Ogle said. “It happened pretty quickly. When I say shoestring, I mean shoestring. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished. I’m kind of amazed.”


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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