The last few years have not been kind to Know-Name Records.
Internet music piracy and large competitors selling CDs below cost have made it hard for the small, eclectic record store to stay afloat.
“It’s a nightmare,” co-owner Bruce Benson said. “They sell CDs for less than we pay for them.”
The lack of business has affected staffing.
One employee, Mike Wilson, said he used to work with several students at the store but hard times forced the management to lay off nonessential staff members.
“Now it’s just one of us usually,” Wilson said. “It’s been pretty slow.”
Wilson played Jimmy Smith’s “Damn” as one customer rifled through a stack of used CDs. He explained why he works for Know-Name Records and why he’s worried about the future for stores like it.
Benson said that because the larger retailers can make up for losses through the sales of other products, they can sell CDs well below their cost.
Chris Valenty, a Know-Name Records manager, said he doesn’t see how the mom-and-pop shops such as Know-Name Records can compete.
“I just feel like local stores look to help one another,” Valenty said. “But the big corporations consider everyone competition – they won’t be happy until they’re the only store left.”
Wilson said he was afraid that one day the world would wake up and not have the choice of going to an independent store.
“Look at First (Avenue) trying to compete with the Clear Channel clubs,” he said. “If you don’t support them, one day they’ll just be gone.”
The big vendors such as Best Buy and Target are not the only competition small record stores such as Know-Name Records face.
“The Internet piracy has definitely affected us,” he said. “It has had a serious impact on all the mom-and-pops, even on the Best Buys and Targets.”
Benson said the effect of Internet music downloading would probably continue until the labels decrease the cost of new CDs.
The store is using different devices to bring in new customers and make sure the ones they have stick around, Valenty said.
“We have in-store shows, and we try to offer a collection that you can’t find at the bigger retailers,” Valenty said. “We also try to do a lot of special orders.”
Know-Name Records will order any CD a customer wants, Valenty said.
The store has always sold smoking implements to pick up some slack, but recently, the random merchandise, from incense to disc golf flying discs has made up almost 50 percent of its sales, he said.
Know-Name Records customers go there for many reasons; Nicole Kuntz and Jordan Thiewes, students at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, said they were there to buy incense and hang out.
Valenty said he was afraid that one day the free ride for Internet music would be over, but only after it was too late for stores such as Know-Name Records.
“They’re trying to make people think music comes from a computer,” Valenty said. “Then one day when there are no record stores left, suddenly it’ll be $5 a song. And you’ll have to pay it, because there’s no other option.”