It’s an exciting and challenging time for me to start working at The Orchard as Sales and Marketing Manager for the company’s Physical Retail department. Music consumers continue to purchase CDs and vinyl for their music consumption. In 2016 CD sales were down but still dominated the business for configuration purchases. Vinyl album sales continued to grow to their best year in the past 25 years, increasing 10% over 2015 sales.
Since The Orchard distributes the music of independent labels and artists, our physical releases sell best at indie stores. This store type has historically been an integral part of the business supporting developing artists and record labels along with pioneering a myriad of sounds and styles. The account base has become more of a force over the last 10 years with the introduction of Record Store Day. This event was conceived at a gathering of indie store owners and employees to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding over 1,500 indie U.S. stores and thousands more internationally. The event is an annual date occurring in April. Due to its success, it now has a second date on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Starting with this post, we will start featuring various independent retailers we work with. This month we go to Portland, Oregon to Music Millennium. The store is a local fixture which opened its doors 48 years ago on March 15th, 1969. The shop became a music underground for fans of the counter culture selling Frank Zappa, The Fugs, John Fahey, the Holy Modal Rounders and countless other acts heard on the underground rock radio station KINK.FM. 40 years later, Music Millennium is the oldest record store in existence in the Pacific Northwest with a deep selection of more than 80,000 decade-defying records.
Music Millennium has hosted an array of in-store performances and autograph appearances over the years, including local area artists Elliot Smith, The Decemberists, Quarterflash and Everclear and countless music luminaries like Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, Soundgarden, Sheryl Crow, Joe Strummer, Keith Emerson, Randy Newman, Little Feat, Cheap Trick and The Orchard’s Fruit Bats, The Dears, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Black Angels. They average 150 in-house events annually, so no act is too big or small to stop in and sign or perform.
The store is also very involved with its local community. Owner and music aficionado, Terry Currier, is the president of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, a non-profit that raises money and implements music programs in schools in the state of Oregon, where music programs are few and far between. They do a “Bring Your Kids to Music Millennium Day” every February and give kids under 18 a gift bag with music and items from the community, including admission to the Oregon Zoo, local food and beverage items and other gifts. Several live artists play over the course of the day. The program was started to engage the younger generation growing up in the digital era, bringing them into a record store for maybe the first time to experience what it is all about.
In addition, Music Millennium has supported the local Cascade Blues Association for 30 years and gives away music door prizes to their monthly meetings. They support the Portland Jazz Festival, a non-profit that not only puts on a marquee jazz festival and brings in 3-5 live jazz artists into Portland each month, but also organizes a jazz art program in elementary, middle and high schools each year. Terry is the program committee chairman and has served on the board, and Music Millennium is the festival’s exclusive vendor.
In May, Terry will be receiving the Independent Spirit Award at the annual Music Biz convention in Nashville. He’s now using “Keep Portland Weird” as the city motto and Music Millennium is officially known as the home of that weirdness.
This store is more than a record shop; it’s an iconic and cultural independent retail experience. If you ever find yourself in Portland, do yourself a favor and visit one of the greatest music institutions our business has ever produced and supported.