Vinyl Lives: Knoxville’s Magnolia Records Keeps On Selling ‘Rumours’ & No Thanks To ‘Ok Computer’

Despite multiple bumps in the road and a long history of decreasing sales, physical music has risen like a phoenix to newfound popularity. The wave of nostalgia that has been drowning the world actually does have a silver lining to it, vinyl is back and better than ever. Indie labels are pressing up multiple colorways for their vinyl releases and even ordering cassettes and CDs for the biggest audio purist. 

Over the past decade you have seen physical music begin to play a huge role in album rollouts, everyone from indie rock bands to hip-hop’s biggest stars are reaching out to vinyl manufactures in order to cash in on this newly replenished medium. Stores like Urban Outfitters and Target are getting exclusive colors of vinyl, but the small selection at big box chain stores don’t hold a candle to the reliability of your local mom-and-pop record shop. These independent stores never gave up on physical music, they have been slinging vinyl to the masses despite the irresistible convenience of digital music. 

Local record stores act as a watering hole for pure collectors and music superfans alike, a safe space where phrases like “audiophile” don’t turn any heads. These stores are the backbone to physical music’s new spotlight and should be treated as such.

Vinyl Lives is a column hellbent on giving these diehard vinyl dealers a moment in a spotlight of their own. In this edition, we highlight Magnolia Records, a newly opened shop in Knoxville, Tennessee. The shop has a wide selection of new and used records and prides itself on delivering the people of Knoxville any vinyl they may be on the hunt for. 

Read the full interview with Magnolia Records below: 

Can you please provide a short history of the store and what kind of music you specialize in? How much of your stock is new vs old?

Magnolia Records opened in March of 2017 on Big Ears weekend. Our focus is mainly on new releases (60/40 new vs. used), largely driven by our amazing customers’ requests. On the used side we have a mighty jazz selection that isn’t to be missed.

Other than your own store, what and where is the greatest record store shopping experience you ever had?

We at Magnolia all had the privilege of working at a (regionally, at least) legendary spot called the Disc Exchange at various points in the 90’s/00’s… the shopping, the in-stores… it seems impossible to compete with all the quality experiences that spot provided, pre, during and post-employment. The DE was the first place around that provided a reliable special order service, and that’s the thing that pushed them over the top.

What is your greatest $1 bin find?

It was a $3 find technically, but an O.G. copy of Samhain’s “November Coming Fire” in more than reasonable shape at Myopic Books in Chicago. Still stunned 20-plus years later.

Do you have a cheap bin and what do you typically find in there?

We do indeed, and there’s really no telling what’s lurking in there at any given point. Someone found a relatively extensive Smurfs collection in there that we didn’t know we had, for example.

What used record do you hope to never have to see or listen to again?

This is kind of blasphemous and I seriously mean no disrespect, like absolutely none, but… O.K. Computer. When I started at the above-mentioned Disc Exchange, O.K. Computer had just been released and YOWZA if it didn’t get played like two or three times a shift for what felt like a year. It’s a great album, no question, but I’ve no need to hear it ever again. Kinda like when you repeat a word too many times and it sounds weird, that’s O.K. Computer for me. Definitely glad to get in people’s hands though.

How has the backup at pressing plants affected what release day means and has there been any sort of backlash about this? 

It definitely caused some strain at the onset (and maybe a little beyond), but it also provided a great opportunity to build trust and communication with our customers, who have adapted their buying habits and stuck around in the most amazing way. It’s not lost on us, that’s for sure.

Thoughts on CDs making a small comeback in the last year?

It’s incredible and we sincerely hope it continues. Long live the CD!

You’d be surprised to know but we sell a lot of ____  (name the bands and records)

Bathory and Alice Coltrane.

What has been your top-selling record this year so far?

It’s always Rumours. Every year.

What labels do you find consistently put out the best product in terms of packaging?

20 Buck Spin, hands down. Locally, gotta give big ups to Park 70.

As a store, what record labels do you feel best represents what you try to curate?

Our customers drive the curation here way more than any particular labels or genres, honestly. Those conversations allow the lights to stay on.

Have you had any in-store signings or performances? What are some of the more memorable ones you’ve had?

Indeed! Michael Hurley (thanks Regina) played our opening weekend, obviously, that was surreal. Black Twig Pickers were great. A few years back, homey Seth Mahern (Apache Dropout/John Wilkes Booze/Magnetic South Records) pulled off an absolutely amazing Marcel Marceau silent DJ set that had to be seen to be believed. Can’t even put that one into words. Damon/Dorji/Lopez trio was bonkers.

For beginner collectors, what is your recommended turntable, and for seasoned listeners what do you most recommend? 

For most of the people we encounter looking for a new table, it seems like U-Turn is hitting the spot across the board/at all levels.

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