Greenville based Earshot has opened a new record store across the street from Early Bird Cafe. Amazingly, they opened it in just three weeks after grabbing the space.
They've seeded their collection with a small but well-curated set of vinyl and CDs — focusing on metal, R&B, old school hip-hop, and a wide range of independent music. They also have a solid rack of DVDs.
It's a bold move to open a record store now. iTunes dominates the music market and brick and mortar stores have been under attack by a deluge of streaming services like Pandora, Rhapsody, turntable.fm, and Spotify. National chain Tower Records was liquidated in 2006 and local favorite 52.5 closed its door back in 2010.
Earshot Vice President of Operations Christopher Ashley responds by noting that their store in Greenville is thriving and last year they expanded to Winston-Salem, which is also doing well. Vinyl sales have been doubling each year for the past few years at Earshot. "They're probably 20% of our sales now", said Ashley.
Store manager Frank Whiteside, who used to work at 52.5, emphasized the tactile experience of going to a record store, "Right now people want actual physical copies. People are downloading stuff, but that's just laziness. It's fun to come and look for a CD or a record. You never know what you're going to find. Every time I've ever gone record shopping, it wasn't was I was looking for that really excited me, it's what I wasn't looking for. That's what everybody gets when they go to a record store, it's a suprise. Who doesn't like surprises?"
The focus of the store will be niche genres like metal and hip-hop, as well as invented categories like Freakout. Freakout gathers an eclectic swath of music drawing from older international psychedelic albums and African funk.
Their vinyl collection looks like an even mix of used LPs and new re-issues. That will get beefed up soon as they start buying and trading more. Whiteside said they don't have anything specific they're looking for, but are willing to check out whatever people bring in. Also, they don't have any listening stations yet, but he said they'd play anything buyers want to hear over the sound system.
Located at 1663 Savannah Hwy. Unit 5 (a small strip mall across from Jimbo's and Early Bird Cafe) they will be open Monday through Saturday 10-7 p.m. and on Sunday 12-6 p.m. They don't have their own website yet, but you can keep up with them on their Facebook Page.