In February, we proudly announced the return of the collaborative video series, Behind The Counter, presented with Record Store Day and Classic Album Sundays. A new episode dropped every week for 12 weeks leading up to this year’s Record Store Day, spotlighting some of the amazing record shops (and people that run them) from across the UK. Now, the entire series, comprising all 12 episodes, is available for your viewing pleasure.
If you’re new to Behind The Counter, it’s a unique content series that celebrates the fascinating culture and heritage of independent record stores across the UK and other countries around the world. Each episode takes viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of these much-loved shops, allowing you to meet the passionate, music-loving owners and staff who are embedded in their local communities and dedicated to bringing music fans together and helping them discover their next favourite artists and albums.
Glasgow's Music From Big Blue is one of the creative cornerstones of the Glaswegian community. As the owner, Ian Smith, says, "I don't think a community exists unless it's got a record shop in it." Music From Big Blue is owned by the record label Last Night From Glasgow and opened primarily to expand from the flat where it was previously based. The beauty of this record label-run shop is that you'll often be treated to guest appearances at the store from the artists on the label – as well as being able to buy an excellent record or 10.
Speaking about the importance of having a record store in your local community, Sinead Green, owner of Starr Records, explains: "It's such a connector, and it's such a way to make friends for life. You can bond with people over the music that they like. People that I know who collect records are fanatical about it. It means everything to them; it's their life." Sinead has always been interested in how things sound, especially in the highest quality, and that's why she spends each day helping the music lovers of Belfast find their new favourites.
The aptly named Vinyl Whistle is owned by former Premier League referee John Moss who opened the store following his retirement from the pitch. It's currently managed by Freddie Noonan, a vinyl lover who champions the City of Leeds for its abundance of opportunities for up-and-coming musicians, such as events and music colleges. During his time working in the record store, he's gained a newfound love for multiple genres – especially afrobeat, he says.
If you're an Oasis fan, you'll likely recognise the street in Soho that the record shop lives on as it appears on the cover of the band's album, What's The Story Morning Glory?. A former gig promoter, DJ, and journalist, Steven Sexton, the owner of Sister Ray, has a well-fitting history in the music industry to run such a renowned London-based record hub. He believes that record shops have a certain mystique about them, and that's why each one is unique in its own special way.
With a passion for stocking records that you're unlikely to find anywhere else, Louisa and Tom are the music enthusiasts behind Stroud's Sound Records. With a soft spot for African music, Latin music and spiritual jazz, the owners have records shipped over from across the world to ensure the authenticity and exclusivity of their stock. They recently kicked off a new record label, Sound Records, with the first release created to spotlight local electronic music artists and raise money for a hometown venue that had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
81 Renshaw is run by Al, a breakfast chef turned shop manager, who continued to work at the building when it converted from a café to a record store. Based in Liverpool, the store shares its roots with the City’s most famous band, The Beatles, but, as well as stocking classic records, uses its platform to promote new rising artists from the city. The celebration of music isn't just contained to the inside of the store; the front is decorated with a mural that spotlights four local debut albums from The La's, The Zutons, Yachts, and Elvis Costello.
Based in the historic city of Oxford, Truck Store caters to those who love great coffee and even better music. The owner, Gary Smith, is an advocate for the buzzing community that inhabits this cherished record shop, explaining that "it's an oft-used word, community, but it really, really is. Musicians meet each other, artists meet each other… and it really is a real, proper community". As well as working at the record store, Gary is an avid music enthusiast who loves delving into the shop's new arrivals, jumping between genres and artists daily.
An old post office turned into an arts organisation, Ventnor Exchange houses a bar, a theatre, and, of course, a record shop. Based on the Isle of Wight, the store is run by Marty and Mhairi, who, due to their love of attending gigs – and the need for more on the island – started their own festival, Ventnor Fringe. A fun fact about Ventnor Exchange is that the logo is directly influenced by the radar tower that's located on the highest point of the island. The tower acts as a symbol of their passion for communicating homegrown musical talent to the rest of the world.
In the lead-up to this year’s Record Store Day, which took place on 22nd April 2023, we regularly shared an instalment from the video series featuring a different indie record store every week. It's safe to say that this latest offering of Behind The Counter is equally as special as the last and truly showcases the irresistible charm of independent record stores and why they're so crucial for building and upholding the creative communities surrounding them.
All episodes of Behind The Counter are available to watch now, so if you like what you've seen in the select episodes above, be sure to check out the remaining videos on our YouTube channel from the past three series. Stay tuned for more Behind The Counter, as it will return early next year as we continue to celebrate the magic of independent record stores and Record Store Day.
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