Today, Yelp revealed the Top 25 Record Stores in Canada and in the US in recognition of Record Store Day. In further celebration of these local hubs and music hustlers we’re also dropping a spotlight on the people who keep record stores vibrant: musicians and biz owners. We chatted with Bob Nastanovich of Pavement and Silver Jews, an icon of the indie music scene and former record store owner himself, check that interview out here.
And since 2018 has been a year of upheaval in the Canadian record store industry – with our oldest independent store closing, while sales for vinyl LPs broke records across the country – we also wanted to get a local, Canadian record store owner’s insights.
Jordan Robson Cramer plays in Holy Data, has been in Magic Weapon, Miracle Fortress, and Sunset Rubdown, and is now owner of Phonopolis, a record store located in the Mile-End of Montreal that ranked 15 on Yelp’s Best Record Stores in Canada list, and specialises in carrying forgotten gems, solid classics and the adventurous and offbeat. Robson Cramer indulged us with some insights, and some excellent recommendations for the next time you are out digging in crates.
What made you want to run a record store, and how’s it going?
I dropped out of University in 2004 and moved to Montreal to become a musician/loafer. I met fellow musician/loafer Nathan Gage and started working at Phonopolis’ old location. After almost a decade he decided to sell the place and I realized this was probably the only job that I had been trained to do properly while still maintaining my musician/loafer ambition.
How do you keep a record store open and active these days? Does Record Store Day help?
The main thing is that you have to have a passion for the music you bring into a store because enthusiasm is contagious and can’t be faked. Used records are key. Focusing on local artists and community is very important, too.
Record Store Day is like a layover in Vegas when your initial plan was to go to California.
It should be fun and you must to play your cards right if you wanna get back home.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of opening a record store, or advice you wish someone had told you?
Visit other record stores if you’re in other cities. Find music that excites you but keep your ears open. Curmudgeons are a drag.
What’s the most memorable instore performance you’ve hosted?
Probably when Andy from Tonstartssbandht played a set in near darkness perched 10 feet off the ground on a couch flipped onto its side as feedback built to an intolerable pitch.
You’re based in the Mile End, what are some of your favourite things about this spot? Have you seen the neighbourhood change and how has it affected you, if at all?
Mile-End is a unique blend of new and old. I like all the cats, the alleyways and the characters who I’ve seen everyday for the past 10 years. Changes are happening more quickly than ever before and it seems that Bernard is becoming a destination for Vinyl Lovers as there are now 3 record stores on our street – check out La Rama and Sonorama!
Do you have regular customers, how do they shape what you order for the store?
Our regular customer are individuals who have been coming into our store since the beginning. My music brain has a footnote section for the tastes and wants of our regular clientele (I couldn’t get rid of it even if I wanted to.)
How else do you get inspired and make decisions on what records to carry?
If it sounds good and hits the sweet spot. If staff are all equally stoked about a particular item. If the cover art evokes the music within.
What was the first record you ever bought and where did you buy it?
When you were touring did you have time to do much record shopping?
As much as I loved music and would check out shops on the road, I couldn’t compete with Warren Hill (ex-Montreal’s Backroom records) who was the real crate digger out of all of us. I learned a lot from him.
What’s your favorite record ever?
The Voyager Golden Record(available this month at Phonopolis). I wonder if Earth’s music is unintelligible noise to Alien life.