More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost

Holy crap, someone is opening a new record store? Who in their right mind would open a record store? And in New York of all places, with its exorbitant rents! Didn't these guys see what happened those who came before them? Well, this is different.

Advertisement

All photos by Michael Hession

Yesterday, Rough Trade NYC opened its doors on North 9th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just blocks from rows of expensive condominiums that have sprung up on the East River, overlooking the Manhattan skyline. The store and concert venue is an offshoot of the legendary London record stores, which have been around since the 1970s. Rough Trade's record label was sold to BMG a decade ago amidst financial problems, and is now part of indie conglomerate Beggar's Group.

Music industry naysayers are right to question why you'd open a massive record store in one of New York's most expensive neighborhoods. So how does Rough Trade plan to compete with the technological forces that brought down both music stores and a bulk of the underlying industry?

First of all, Rough Trade is more than a Records Shoppe—it's a music outpost, housed in a 15,000-square foot warehouse that once stored film props. Inside, the store is compartmentalized, like a market, into smaller individual shops. The composite revenues from each of the businesses could be enough to sustain a thriving physical space for music to live. We visited on opening day, and here's what we found.


Record collectors who used to frequent the cavernous record stores of yore are going to feel right at home as soon a they walk in to Rough Trade's huge space.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

Aisles upon aisles of CDs and vinyl records for sale. Not as many as you'd see in a music mega mart like a Virgin Megastore or in legendary independent chain Amoeba Music, but a respectable amount.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

Rough Trade has a solid selection, including a combination on old favorites, as well as some well-curated, deeper cuts.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

The store's layout is divided into two floors, with circulation spaces made from old shipping containers. Many of them are still rusty and rough to the touch.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

The containers reinforce the idea that the store is actually made up of many separate spaces, which all add up to a giant barge of tunes.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement
Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost

Back behind the retail store front, there's a 250-person capacity music venue with a full bar. Lots of hot bands have signed on to play, including legendary New York City impressionist punks Television. Tickets to many shows are already sold out. More than just an add-on gimmick, the venue—and especially the bar—could help keep the retail operation in the black.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

In one corner of the retail store, there's a little instrument showroom curated by Main Drag Music, a Williamsburg staple located about 10 blocks south of the new Rough Trade store.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

The corner's got some of the coolest new boutique stuff out there—including hot new products from the likes of Moog, Electro-Harmonix, and Keith McMillen Musical Instruments.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement
Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost

Upstairs, Rough Trade stocks a selection of music, design, and pop culture books. It's a bit of an Urban Outfitters array— except maybe a little smarter. So, so many copies of Morrissey's autobiography.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

Rough Trade is also selling dope Bowers & Wilkins headphones, which you can test out while you shop for music.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

Located up a flight of steel and concrete stairs on the second floor, the "Guardian Green Room" is a container curated by the UK newspaper.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

The room is outfitted with touchscreen displays that visitors can use to read Guardian music coverage, as well as to communicate with the outside world. It's, you know, a kitschy social and interactive experiment because that's what the cool kids do.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

So what are we to make of this all? It sure is lovely to see aisles upon aisles of records curated by a legendary team of tastemakers.

Illustration for article titled More Than a Record Shop: Inside Brooklyn's Massive New Music Outpost
Advertisement

But will it be enough?

DISCUSSION

Blubya
Blubya

In the late 70’s early 80’s I would go to a place called Bleaker Bobs somewhere in Manhattan, this was THE place to discover new stuff, they had an amazing assortment of imports and indy stuff. Every month or so I would visit and spend an hour or so just flipping through all the albums and singles, most bands I had never heard of. I would then buy the records based on the album art. Each time I did that I discovered band after band that was fantastic and no one I knew had ever heard of any of them. I never heard any of the songs or bands on the alt radio station in NYC, it was as if I had this privet selection of great music that no one was even allowed to know about.

Serendipity and an odd plan to picking records needs to be part of everyones music buying experience. I might go to this new place, now I have more money but my stereo is long boxed up, what to do… I know take a phone that can take pictures, photograph the albums and artists names and buy them on online, FUCK ME!