Rough Trade record store has an unlikely new home: 30 Rock
When the Rough Trade record store housed in a 10,000 square foot warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, ad it was closing and moving in January, few people would have imagined that his new home would be adjacent to the glittering neon lights of NBC studios and the towering marquee of Radio City Music Hall.
But starting June 1, commuters (if they return) and tourists exiting the 49th Street and Sixth Avenue subway in Manhattan will find stacks of vinyl behind the latter’s window. Rough Trade Record Store, at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
“Midtown was definitely not in the script,” Stephen Godfroy, one of the owners of Rough Trade, said in a video interview from his home in Oxford, England last week. “That’s what makes us so exciting: standing up for emerging artists in a place where people wouldn’t expect it.”
As of Tuesday, Sheetrock bins, power tools and a small dumpster still occupied the 2,100 square foot space – a former shoe store just under a quarter the size of the former location of Rough Trade in Williamsburg – soon to be home to 10,000 new vinyl records. . Windows facing the Avenue of the Americas were covered in posts from its new owners, real estate giant Tishman Speyer, announcing an app called Zo, which a company representative described as its ” tenants ”.
Rockefeller Center may seem like a curious place for Rough Trade, a boutique born out of mid-1970s London counterculture that evolved into a record company of the same name in 1978. But the Rough Trade stores of 2021 are now a far cry from their rambling beginnings, having parted ways with the label in 1982.
“Not being obvious bedfellows, we had to look at the details,” said Godfroy, who has worked with Rough Trade since 2003. This included the location details, sandwiched just at street level between the tube station and ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “
As with their other four stores, all located in the UK, the new Rough Trade will continue to host live events, but its partner will no longer be the Bowery Presents concert promoter. Instead, Rough Trade will be part of the Rockefeller Center lineup, and its concerts in Midtown will take place on the building’s 65th floor in the upscale neighborhood. Rainbow roomand in the surrounding areas such as the square and, in summer, the ice rink.
Godfroy said Rough Trade has been planning to cross the East River since the summer of 2019, in order to better access the ever-growing number of people who want to buy new versions and reissue favorites on the wax. Weekday pedestrian traffic has never been great in Williamsburg. (Not that Midtown is doing much better right now.) And although Rough Trade has maintained its online sales figures through 2020, that move was “really rushed by the pandemic,” Godfroy said, which required to stay busy every day. in sharp relief. “
While Midtown is primarily synonymous with Broadway office towers and theaters, it also has a rich and varied record store history – like the former Colony Records album and sheet music emporium in the Brill Building, the Eclectic DJ hub. Rock and Soul near Penn Station and chains such as Disc-O-Mat. The hostile nature of real estate in Manhattan has contributed to many closings over the past decade.
Tishman Speyer and Rough Trade declined to comment on the details of Rough Trade’s lease. (His Brooklyn location, which he occupied for seven years, is currently available for rent for around $ 50,000 a month.) But Ben Van Leeuwen, owner of the store’s next neighbor at 30 Rock, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, has said his business received a generous deal even before the pandemic, allowing it to open there in 2019 at lower risk.
“Tishman gets a lot of his money from the office space above,” Van Leeuwen said, which creates flexibility for downstairs stores. “I imagine there are a lot of big brands that would have taken this space in the blink of an eye and paid a lot more than what we pay,” he said, but added that he understood that the real estate company wanted to have showcases. which were “local and more artisanal”.
Godfroy said the significant reduction in the store’s square footage, coupled with its status as a tourist destination, would mean that “the cost-benefit analysis is about the same.” To bolster its small size, the store will use Vestaboard mechanical displays to share concert ticket information, sales charts and music news in real time – “They do that.” chk-chk-chk the sound you sometimes get at airports and train stations, ”Godfroy said – and he will also hold records at a new online distribution center in Greenpoint.
30 Rock was first called the RCA Building when it opened in 1933, and lost New York musical traditions linger in the neighborhood. In the 1970s, engineer Don Hünerberg rented a studio above Radio City – previously used by the NBC Symphony Orchestra – and Blondie and Ramones’ first albums were followed there. Avant-garde edits John Zorn and Glenn Branca also worked on it, as did Sonic Youth for their 1982 debut EP. “The Rockettes would rehearse in the hallway, which always gave the place a certain ‘kick’.” , Sonic Youth singer and guitarist Thurston Moore recalled in an email.
Most recently, the National Sawdust arts space presented an “immersive, site-specific movement and choir piece” titled “The Gauntlet” at Rockefeller Center in 2019. Internet station NTS Radio broadcast live there this year – the; it also programs, with full creative control, the background music played inside buildings.
Back in Brooklyn, the largest record store in the borough is now Academy Records, which is currently located in Greenpoint. Its owner, Mike Davis, said Rough Trade’s departure from the neighborhood had so far not affected its sales figures. “We’re both record stores on the surface, but we’re kind of in a different business,” he said, noting Rough Trade’s focus on new releases and his own focus. store on used vinyl. “They’re sort of targeting a slightly different market.”
Josh Madell, former co-owner of the beloved and now closed East Village store, Other Music, and current head of artist and label strategy at Secretly Distribution, proposed that this could be a “rebranding” for Rough Trade, which could be looking to “attract music fans to their online store as much as to their new physical store.” (This is no different from what happened when Sub Pop opened their Sea-Tac Airport Store in 2014, according to the director of retail.)
Madell sees Rough Trade’s decision as a positive for the independent music industry, although he finds it hard to imagine local record managers going to 30 Rock to browse the stacks. “I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to attract,” Madell said, noting that he had only been to Rockefeller Center in the past decade to visit the Lego store with his daughter. “They reach a different audience.”
“Vinyl is no longer really an underground medium,” he added.