The annual Music Biz convention rocked the town of Nashville just a few short weeks ago. Overall the vibe was positive as many physical retailers report increased sales, primarily due to music consumer’s appetite for vinyl releases. In response many stores are devoting more shelf and floor space to 12 inch records. Retailers like Newbury Comics are experiencing increased business due to sales on lifestyle items like fidget spinners. These trendsetting topical toys are bringing in customers that haven’t ever visited music stores before.
While in town I visited three record stores. My first stop was Third Man Records, a shop that is part of Jack White’s musical empire. The facility includes a label office, performance space and recording studio. The location is an eclectic mix of music and merchandise meticulously curated down to the décor consisting of tin metal ceilings and vintage floor rugs. Third Man Records is a museum-like experience displaying the musicologist’s fanatical devotion.
Speaking of museums there are more institutions devoted to music history in Nashville then anywhere else. The ultimate example is the Country Music Hall of Fame. There are six exhibits including an exhaustive display of rock and roll in Music City in the ‘60s and ‘70s entitled Nashville Cats. It’s primarily built around Bob Dylan’s influence on the country music scene and how his recordings with Johnny Cash transformed the sound of album rock. The gift store includes a rather extensive record store that reaches beyond country music with titles from roots artists and singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello and many more. The location is high trafficked with tourists from all over the world shopping the bins.
My last music retail stop was to a store that’s been named among the best record stores in the USA from Rolling Stone, Grimey’s New & Preloved Music. The store opened in December 1999 primarily as a used shop with inventory personally selected by owner Mike Grimes. In 2004, the store expanded and moved into its current location, a three story 1919 brick house on 8th Avenue. The structure was dormant for many years and was restored in the 1990s. Before they moved in, an art gallery and crystal shop resided in the space. In 2006, The Basement club opened in the cellar becoming a must stop for touring bands. With a deep catalog of diverse genres the store expanded again in 2011 opening next-door as Grimey’s Too. The neighboring store includes soundtracks, comedy and children’s music as well as other offbeat genres, books, videos and merchandise. Both stores combined are jam packed with over 10,000 titles of LPs and CDs; there are even some cassettes and 8-tracks! While browsing, you can get your caffeine fix at the Frothy Monkey coffee shop and pick up some good reads at the Howlin’ Books store.
Over the years Grimey’s has hosted a number of in-store appearances including Metallica, Sharon Jones, Black Keys, Jason Isbell, Dr. Dog, Mumford & Sons, Ty Segall, Yo La Tengo, Black Angels, Phoenix and a myriad of others.
The store has become a local institution and is heavily involved in various community events including the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp, Toys for Tots, canned food collections for area food banks, voter registration drives and a fundraiser for the city’s mayor Megan Barry. Mayor Barry actually performed a DJ set at the last two Record Store Day events!
The building houses Nashville’s only listener supported community radio station WXNA. The station went on the air in June of 2016 and took a closer step to reflect the exciting musical and cultural diversity of Nashville. There are over 100 specialty shows hosted by various local music enthusiasts including Grimey’s owner Doyle Davis and manager/buyer Anna Lundy along with local personalities from Sundazed Records owner Bob Irwin, Jonathan Marx from Lambchop, Bill Lloyd of Foster & Lloyd fame and graphic artist Sam Smith. Check out the station and stream online here.
Nashville has evolved into more than just a country music town. If you haven’t been there lately or haven’t visited yet, do yourself a favor and experience the wide-ranging sounds and styles that truly make Nashville the Music City!