15 Questions For… Tom Butchart

Sound It Out, Tom Butchart

Tom Butchart, owner of Sound It Out Records in Stockton On Tees, UK

When did you open Sound It Out?

Sound It Out opened in March 1996 and I became the owner in August 1998.

Can you tell us a bit about the documentary Sound It Out – The very last record shop in Teesside, UK? How did it start? What effect did it have on your business?

The idea for the documentary started when I was DJing at Jeanie’s (Finlay, the director) wedding I asked her how she had paid for everything and she told me she had sold her record collection. I told her she shouldn’t have done that and that’s when she said she was going to make the film. The film has been shown all over the world and has had a really good effect on the business. People come from all over the place to visit the shop, all parts of the UK, Europe and even America.

How good are chances that record stores eventually return to your area one day?

I hope they will return, people just need to take a chance.

What genres do you specialise in?

We sell all kinds of music from Metal, Country via Dance and Jazz. But we mainly specialise in new & classic Indie and Rock.

Do you feel positive about the music industry and records sales at present?

Yes and no. As always the independent label generally support independent record shops, the major labels that’s a different story.

How do you feel about digital downloads?

Digital downloads are convenient, but nothing more. The physical experience of buying a record, playing the record and holding the record is something a digital download will never replace. At the end of the day you never really own a MP3.

At a guess, what is the demographic of customers coming to your store? Do you notice an increase in younger customers visiting your shop due the new popularity of vinyl?

We have customers of all ages coming into the shop. There has been an increase in younger customers with the new popularity of vinyl, our youngest customer is 5 years old. But we also have seen a lot of older customers re-buying records to replace the CDs they bought when they got rid of their vinyl originally.

What’s the most important thing that a good record shop can provide their customers (especially when compared to online shops or download platforms like iTunes)?

A good record shop can provide the personal touch than online shops can’t offer. We offer a good customer service with true recommendations not ‘customer’s who bought this also bought this’ online recommendations. Online shops can’t give you that High Fidelity moment when The Beta Band is played.

What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of opening a record store?

Diversify and don’t stock just the music that you like. Don’t be a snob and stick with it. You won’t be an overnight success.

What’s the one record that you know will always sell?

Fleetwood Mac ‘Rumours’

What is the first record you ever bought?

Spitting Image ‘The Chicken Song’

What is the one record on the shelf that makes you cringe every time you see it?

Anything by Mumford & Sons

What is the most annoying thing that customers continually ask you?

I didn’t know there was a record shop here (the shop has been here since 1996)

Obviously Sound It Out is your favourite record store, but do you have another? Why?

Alan Fearnley’s in Middlesbrough (unfortunately it closed in 2007). Alan would play you any record you wanted and wouldn’t judge you on it.

What record are you listening to at the moment?

Goat ‘World Music’ (Rocket Recordings)

Watch the Sound It Out – The very last record shop in Teesside, UK trailer here:

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