Hymn for the dead

DIY music shop Dead Media is a hub of the local music scene.

Volunteer Lauren Haun organizes vinyl records for sale at Dead Media, an independently run cassette, record and bookstore in the Seward neighborhood, on Monday June 6.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Volunteer Lauren Haun organizes vinyl records for sale at Dead Media, an independently run cassette, record and bookstore in the Seward neighborhood, on Monday June 6.

by Joe Cristo

While the storefront of Dead Media may be unadorned, the south Minneapolis record store is a thriving artistic enclave. 

Catering to analog-format music aficionados, the store is chock-full of cassette tapes and vinyl records. Dead Media also functions as a venue for various local and touring groups, often hosting pop-up concerts, poetry readings and late-night music benders.

Founded in June of 2014, the ownership of Dead Media has undergone modifications over the past few years. The store was originally established by John Kass of Hi-Fi records and Joey Franklin. However, Kass handed control to Simon Brooks, Colin Wilkinson and Walker Neudorff  virtually free of charge. 

 “Colin, Walker and I were buddies first,” Brooks said. “We just liked collecting tapes and records, and John Kass jumped on it and brought us in.” 

The new owners soon renovated the store and created an almost entirely new library of recordings. Each person manages different aspects of the business, though the group collaboratively decides on which music to feature in the store. 

 “We do our own accounting,” Neudorff said. “Which is handled by Colin; Simon does a lot of scheduling and I book events and shows. All of us help run the day-to-day.” 

The curated space relies on the rich local music scene, emphasizing variety by embracing both the venerated and the unknown. Dead Media is almost exclusively run by volunteers.

Most of these volunteers — as well as the owners — are heavily involved with the music scene, like Jeremy Warden of Ego Death. 

“I’ve always wanted to work in a record store,” Warden said. “Since everyone that works there is a volunteer, everyone is really invested in the store itself. It’s filled with people who want to make the community be more vibrant.” 

Brooks, Neudorff and Wilkinson work together on the band Tree Blood, in addition to various solo projects. 

“Dead Media is something special in that we are so connected to the music scene.” Warden said. “It’s not just a place trying to sell tapes and records. It’s trying to make a space where people feel welcome.” 

Meticulously organized and expansive, the store’s local tape section is Dead Media’s crown jewel. The tapes are responsible for the majority of sales at the store. By purchasing local artists’ recordings and selling them, Dead Media hopes to provide financial support to up-and-coming artists and cater to the Minneapolis community.

“We usually take our cues from volunteers or the community,” Neudorff said. “That’s sort of our mission statement — to be a community-driven resource.” 

The important function of the record store has been heralded by Neudorff.

 “When you’re on tour, the record store is important,” Neudorff said. “It becomes a place where all the ‘weird’ people or artists meet. It’s like a hub that helps artists find each other.” 

While business has been going well and sales are steady, Neudorff said, Dead Media and its owners treasure the store’s role in Minneapolis.

“We were just nerdy music collectors,” Brooks said. “It’s great because we try to build a space where people who are passionate about music and art can come be themselves.”