Other Music is like a record store clown car. It’s as small as a Manhattan one-bedroom apartment, yet somehow manages to always have the music you’re looking for. Actually they carry the music you didn’t know you were looking for. They’re probably playing it right now. Or it’s in the Staff Picks section with a handwritten review. Or it’s tucked away among the used CDs.
The point is that it’s there, somewhere, buried right in front of your eyes.
What Other Music lacks in space, it makes up for by making sure it has all the essentials and the rare gems—whether that’s the current hyped album, the latest reissue from Numero Records, a classic house twelve-inch, or a used Merzbow box set.
If Other Music has a reputation for music snobbishness, it’s unfairly earned.The staff is always available with a recommendation and always willing to track down something on the off chance it isn’t in stock. Then again, if you’re the kind of person who is turned off by a little elitism than you probably buy all your music on iTunes anyway (that is if you still buy music at all.)
Other Music has always catered to the music junkie—the kind of fanatic who still cares about liner notes, bonus 7-inches and special etchings on vinyl.
The very reason Other Music has continued to thrive in NYC while competitors struggled during the industry sea change is because Other Music has always catered to the music junkie—the kind of fanatic who still cares about liner notes, bonus 7-inches and special etchings on vinyl.
Case in point, the mega-store chain Tower Records used to be across the street from Other Music and the odds had to be in Tower’s favor that they’d outlast the independent underdog. But in 2006 Tower Records shut its doors and now Other Music is the last record store standing on the block.
“We opened in the winter of '95,” said Other Music employee Josh Madell. “It was a great time for underground music, the heart of the CD era and there was a ton of great indie music coming out in the US, UK and Europe, and in some ways it was relatively easy for us to make a name for ourselves in NYC; nobody at that time was really carrying a broad selection of what was happening in the underground."
More and more, Other Music is looking like the last record store standing in Manhattan. Most of the new music shops that do open choose to do so in Brooklyn. The new batch of stores seem to be following Other Music’s blueprint of small, sleek, locally focused and well-curated. Other Music has also made their presence felt online with digital and mail-order sales.
“We focus a lot on our websites and email newsletter these days,” Josh said, “but in the end we're still about greeting the customers who walk in off the street everyday, and getting them excited about some new records.”
In some ways it was relatively easy for us to make a name for ourselves in NYC; nobody at that time was really carrying a broad selection of what was happening in the underground.
As if to further push the boundaries of what they can fit into its space, Other Music also hosts in-store performance. Up and coming and mainstay acts like Mac DeMarco, Speedy Ortiz and Regina Spector have all played shows at Other Music. The record store's reputation among artists is strong enough where an afternoon stop to perform at Other Music is more of an honor than a hassle.
In addition, there is Other Music Recording Co., the stores record label off-shoot. It’s an imprint of Fat Possum Records featuring artists Nude Beach, Ex Cops and Shintaro Sakamoto among others. Much like the store, Other Music Recording Co. focuses on new and diverse artists.
This Saturday being Record Store Day, Other Music will be open early at 10 a.m. and host DJ sets from Com Truise, Xeno and Oaklander and Tito Deler, all spinning vinyl as the line of record buying die hards snakes through the store. You’ll be amazed by how many people can fit in there.
Written by Drew Avery ( @d_avery)