In Vinyl Lives we spotlight and profile record stores around the country who offer music lovers an experience that goes beyond an iTunes purchase or a Spotify playlist. Vinyl has found a new resurgence and the good folks behind independent record stores are on the front line, directly responsible for curating a unique collection of music. Here at Glide Magazine we feel that record stores are a valuable part of the community and to music as a whole, and are therefore worth celebrating.
It may seem nearly irrelevant now, but Madison, Wisconsin’s Strictly Discs was the first retailer of CDs when it was opened by Ron Roloff in 1988. Anyone old enough to remember just how popular compact discs were before the industry was sent into a spiral by downloads and streaming music can imagine that Strictly Discs must have been the place the be in Madison when it came to scooping up new music. But those days are long gone, and, like any smart business, the folks at Strictly Discs have adapted with the times and managed to keep their loyal customers throughout their existence. These days the store has embraced the resurgence of vinyl and even tapes, offering an eclectic array of tunes for music lovers of all kinds in this laid back college town. To give you an idea why Strictly Discs is worth a visit, we asked owners Angie and Ron Roloff to give us a brief background on the store’s history and the day to day operations and musical tastes that make this such a cool spot!
How did Strictly Discs come about?
Since launching in 1988 on Madison’s near west side, Strictly Discs has brought independent music retail to the eclectic Monroe Street shopping district. Evolving from an initial focus on CDs and rare imports, the store has increasingly shifted its emphasis to new and used vinyl. We have a really incredibly diverse clientele at the store. Owing to a location nestled between the University of Wisconsin and Edgewood college campuses, we see a lot of student and faculty customers, plus a mix of neighborhood eccentrics and an assortment of folks flocking in from less populated, musically underserved hamlets. On any given day we’ve got jazzheads looking for old Jackie McLean records, party kids buying dance 12 inches, and graybeards hunting down a classical piece they heard on NPR. We strive to cater to all these people, and they see us as their one-stop store. We hear a lot of “you’re gonna laugh at this one” before someone makes a request, but we’re serious in our efforts to track down even the most desperate of wishes. We’re convinced that if it exists, we’ll get it.
In the past few years, we have enthusiastically upped our used vinyl inventory, so the ratio of new to used definitely tips towards the used. However, we do still do a significant chunk (around 50%) selling new CDs/LPs, lots of current releases and special orders.
Top sellers of the past two weeks (in no order)
-Tallest Man on Earth – Dark Bird is Home
-Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
-Charlie Parr – Stumpjumper
-Jamie XX – in Colour
-Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
-Various Artists – Dont Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rocknroll
-Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart
-Vito Ricci – I Was Crossing A Bridge
-Oddisee – The Good Fight
-Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-love
Like everyone else, we’re waiting for that Kendrick Lamar LP. Tame Impala has a lot of expectations. Aphex Twin has been incredibly productive lately and were hoping to see even more of his stuff this year. The next Steve Gunn album. The posthumously completed “lost” Broadcast album.
You’d be surprised but we sell a lot of…
For a store that sells a little bit of just about everything, we see few surprises in the day to day. It’s perfectly common to be helping someone find Jelly Roll Morton CDs while pointing another customer to the new Meshuggah. We’ve started offering up a pretty cool selection of old tapes, and we’re surprised how many young people buy cassettes. They have great taste, but we’re not totally sure what they’re using to play them.
The staff at the shop all have wide-ranging tastes, but we do consider it a special moment of magic when one record comes along that we can all agree on. It usually turns into a top seller for us, since we can all bear listening to it repeatedly (until, of course, none of us can ever listen to it again). Some recent examples:
-Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather
-Various Artists – Native North American, Vol. 1
-Mike Cooper – Trout Steel
-Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again
-Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
-Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back
-Various Artists – Haiti Direct
-Gigi Masin – Talk To The Sea
-Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
-Tobias Jesso – Goon
Strictly Discs is located at 1900 Monroe Street in Madison, WI. For more info check out strictlydiscs.com.
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