Greetings from the physical sales department! Each month I will be taking you on a trip to some of the greatest records stores around the country. This month we’re going to Austin, Texas to visit Waterloo Records.
Opening April 1, 1982, Waterloo took its name from the original designation of the territory before it was purchased as the capital of the Republic of Texas and renamed “Austin” in 1839. In 1982, Austin wasn’t quite the same town that it is today. The computer industries had arrived in the mid-seventies but had not started to draw people into town by the turn of the decade; nor had Austin’s reputation as a premier arts town, especially in both music and film. Simply put, Austin was a lot smaller before it took off as one the fastest growing cities in the country.
While a good deal more modest, Austin’s music scene was already well established. Texas music had always seemed to be vital and important, not only at home but far beyond the confines of its own fences. From The 13th Floor Elevators to Willie Nelson, Texas artists were known internationally and their music was respected around the world. However, Austin had yet to become recognized on a national, let alone international level as a live music mecca. The birth of the South by Southwest convention in 1987, now one of the largest in the country, was a game changer for the city and surrounding businesses.
Every year when SXSW takes over Austin, Waterloo is a big part of the scene, setting up their parking lot for free concert performances with artists from all over the world. This year, from March 15-18, they will showcase 28 bands over 4 days, including Frenchkiss recording artist Diet Cig on March 18. Waterloo also does on-site sales & artist signings at other local music festivals: Austin City Limits, Sound on Sound and Fun Fun Fun. The store supports all of the town’s local non-profit media including NPR, student and community radio stations along with the local PBS affiliate that’s produces the nationwide TV music series, “Austin City Limits.”
An extensively deep catalog store carrying over 75,000 titles, Waterloo does well with many on The Orchard’s distributed titles including The Local Natives, Brown Sabbath and The Dodos. They’ve hosted countless artist appearances including Nirvana, Norah Jones, Jeff Buckley, the Dixie Chicks and The Orchard’s Black Angels. Blue Corn’s Ruthie Foster, will be back for a performance supporting her new album “Joy Comes Back” on March 24.
From the beginning, Waterloo’s customer policies were a success. Consumers could listen to any album before purchasing. Not unprecedented in the history of music retail sales of course, but since the advent of shrink wrap, a virtually forgotten practice. Even after purchasing a record, taking it home and playing it, customers still have ten days in which to return it for whatever reason they chose! No questions are asked and a full exchange is provided.
These core practices have never changed. Along with a knowledgeable staff and an emphasis on customer service, they form the cornerstone of what Waterloo Records is, has been and always will be about. Add to that an extensive selection of music spanning all styles and a simple, genre free A-Z filing system, and it becomes readily apparent what Austin’s music lovers have been shouting about for over 35 years. So if you’re down in Austin for SXSW or any time of the year go check out what Rolling Stone, USA Today, Buzzfeed, CNN and the BBC have proclaimed one of the greatest record stores in America.