Interview: Clarity Records

Clarity Records on Pulteney Street in the city of Adelaide gives a little glimmer of hope for the local artistic community of Adelaide. For a while now our town has seen the demise of wonderful, dedicated record stores caving to the bigger retailers in and around town. Clarity Records presents the music lover with a fresh, re-invigorated perspective of music distribution in Adelaide, and it gets me excited. Co-owner Matt was kind enough to answer some questions for WTYF about how Clarity came about, it’s progression and its ultimate goals as an independent record store in the heart of the city.

How did the idea of Clarity records come about?

Opening a record store has been something I have always wanted to do. I have always been actively involved in the music scene by playing in bands, running a record label, booking shows and promotional work. I was working at a record store and I received word it was going to close down, leaving no independent stores in Adelaide, so I decided if I was ever going to open a shop it would be now, so both myself and my wife Laura did it.

Adelaide’s record store presence has slowly dwindled over the last few years (the slow downfall of Big Star, B-Sharp records shipping out), what do you think the main reasons for this are?

A number of reasons. I can’t speak for the reason for each individual shop, but I believe it is a mix of downloading, people choosing to shop at bigger retail shops, some shops losing touch with their customers and what they want, shops not moving forward with the times and some certain technologies, poor shop management and other reasons. Having said that, I am not saying I have worked out the formula as to how to run a successful independent record store, but I am a firm believer of if you love what you are doing and you want to make it work, then it will work.

You stock a wide range of music from punk to post-rock to dubstep, how important is it for you to maintain a store with a wide range of genre’s?

At first we were going to be a punk / hardcore only shop, because that is my specialty and I already know that market. However after a lot of thinking and planning I decided I wanted to incorporate a range of genre’s. I had the knowledge of what to stock from previous work and I love other music besides punk / hardcore, and I am very glad I do have a range because we would not be able to survive without it. Although we have an extensive range of punk / hardcore music related products and it is by far our main seller, it is just as important for me to maintain the other sections because we have people who come into the store looking for all kinds of music. Given our location as well, we have a good position to be able to do that.

The hardest thing for us is that we chose to not deal with any of the major labels, besides for customer orders, otherwise we are competing with JB HIFI and other stores. Therefore about 99% of our music is distributed by smaller independent companies and it is these companies that we choose to support because they find it harder to get their stuff into bigger retail shops compared to the major labels.

Clarity has a large focus on vinyl, do you think vinyl is making a comeback?

I am personally a big vinyl lover, so having a good vinyl selection in the shop is a must. Vinyl is definitely making a comeback, but also having said that, I don’t think it ever died. It always had its long time lovers, but I think today it also appeals a lot more to a younger generation. Music lovers have been given more options to purchase music on vinyl with more new releases being released on vinyl, and a lot more older classics being reissued. We can’t get enough of vinyl in the store and it is a section in the shop we are going to look at possibly expanding

You’re growing a nice online presence through Facebook etc, how important is it to keep in contact with your customers?

Having a website, Facebook, MySpace, twitter and all those social networking pages is very important for your business. We like to keep our customers up to date with everything we are doing, all the stuff we are getting in and make everything a lot more accessible for our customers. We also like having a solid communication level with our customers. It is an easy, free way to promote the shop and our stock and we have gained a lot of regular customers from it. As lame as these social networking pages people think they are (I certainly am one who thinks this), it is ridiculous for any business to think they can do without one. As I mentioned above, sometimes businesses fail because they choose not to move forward with certain technologies, and social networking is one of them

Visually the store is appealing, it’s clean, well organised, well presented – was this intentional? It seems the concept is completely different to the record stores Adelaide has seen in the past.

Thank you. I am glad you noticed and it is something that a lot of our customers have noticed as well. The answer straight up is yes, it is completely intentional. We want the shop to be different to every other music shop and appeal to everyone. Sure, a dirty daggy, unorganised record store has its appeal as well, and I enjoy going into places like that, but I know for a fact that not everyone does. Like I say to everyone who comments about the way the shop looks, that it is Laura who makes the shop look good and I put the stock in the shelves. Laura has a great eye for visual merchandising and making things look good, so that is her hard work. There are a couple things we were aiming for when we were discussing how the shop should look. These were that it is clean, inviting, a vintage feel, everything is accessible and most importantly that it is welcoming for everyone especially sex type. We found a lot of record stores are sometimes very male orientated, especially ones that specialise in heavier music. We wanted to make sure there is stuff for everyone.

Clarity Records is much more than just a record store, and there is a large focus on all creative arts, is it your goal to promote the independent market as much as you can?

There is definitely a large focus on creative arts in Clarity Records. From music, jewelry and other hand-made crafts. Adelaide has always had a small, but great independent market and it is something that we like to try and promote. We also have a few friends who are really gifted and this is a good opportunity to expose their art to a wider audience. Therefore we stock music from all sorts of Adelaide artists, jewelry, sugar skull pillows, bags, zines, paintings, badges, toys, cards and other stuff that suits the feel of the shop. Basically everything that we sell that isn’t a standard music orientated CD, record, DVD, Book and merchandise is hand-made here in Adelaide by a local artist. We do also stock some stuff from interstate as well that has a similar DIY aspect to it.
Certainly a refreshing take on the humble record store. If you are in the area head down to Clarity Records at 60 Pulteney St in the city. They’re open everyday so drop in and support your local arts scene!

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