Every two weeks Marc Weinstein, co-founder of Amoeba Music, departs on a multi-city journey up and down the California coast making stops along the way at each of his three record stores. He'll begin in Los Angeles on Sunset Blvd., home of the chain's newest and largest shop, before jetting off up north to San Francisco. Upon landing, he'll head over to the Amoeba Music Haight Street location and maybe pick up an extremely rare Sun Ra jazz record—if he's lucky. "I've collected him my whole life. I probably own about 225 Sun Ra records out of about 300 that you can find in the world. Those are my holy grail records," he says proudly. Then it's back to nearby Berkeley, where he first opened Amoeba Music's doors 23 years ago.
In the two-plus decades since Amoeba Music started, lots of things have happened to music. iTunes and Napster hit the market, streaming services like Spotify and Pandora entered the music consumption culture, and Tower Records and Virgin closed up shop. But it's still business as usual for Weinstein and his growing staff at all three shops. Not only has Amoeba Music managed to avoid being crippled by the country's economic struggles and systematic changes to the music business, the stores have thrived through it all seeing an increase in revenue for several areas of inventory. Each location regularly features in-store performances, most recently from artists like Best Coast, Talib Kweli, and AlunaGeorge, as well as holds community-friendly events like sidewalk sales. What allows Amoeba to survive even in frigid industry climates comes from the store founders' lifelong dedication to sharing the music they love. There's a clear face behind the big neon store-front name. "Nowadays the only stores that are gonna do well are run by people who are really deeply into the subject of music and records," Weinstein says. "It can’t be something you just sort of pick up and go do, you gotta be that person from the day you were born: someone who just loves records and music."
In the past few weeks, Pigeons & Planes has taught you how to get your music on blogs, how to start an indie record label, and how to be an effective music manager. This time we got Weinstein on the phone after an afternoon full of non-stop meetings at his Hollywood location to discuss what it takes to run a successful independent record store like Amoeba Music in 2013. Read on his for his advice.Continue Reading