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How to run a successful classical CD store

July 17, 2014 by norman lebrecht

7 comments.


Month by month we are losing the great classical emporia – London, Paris, New York – now Moscow. But one classical store is still thriving. Danacord is now the biggest in the whole of northern Europe. So we asked its proprietor for the secret of his success. Read on:

 

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A classical record store in 2014

By Jesper Buhl, Owner, Danacord Records

 

Believe it or not, there exists a record store where happy music lovers browse around a comprehensive selection of music on CD and DVD, guided by knowledgeable friendly staff, in a spacious environment, and in an easy-to-find central location.

 

No, this is not New York or London, but charming Copenhagen in cosy little Denmark, the city in which hosts Europe’s second largest classical-music-only record store. Its nearest competitor is halfway down Europe, Duusmann Kulturkaufhaus in Berlin. With a population of less than a million compared to more than ten times the number in London, how can a store in Copenhagen (in fact, the only store in all the Nordic countries) be the destination for those who love to buy classical music?

 

Entering the store in the very centre of Copenhagen, just close to the romantic Rosenborg Castle, and housed in the impressive Egmont publishers building, you are overwhelmed by the sheer size of the shop. Seven gigantic windows line the street. Stare at the wealth of product on display, and you’re dreaming of the bygone days of Tower Records Piccadilly Circus or HMV Oxford Street, not to mention the impressive Virgin Store at Times Square. Inside the Danacord store a big TV screen greets you, showing the latest DVD release, then you’ll see row after row of CDs and DVDs including the latest Blu Ray operas, all meticulously sorted with clear signs and airy space to browse. A quick glance around and you notice practically all record labels represented, and around the counter there are several stacks of box sets. Just to round things off nicely, and most surprising these days, knowledgeable staff ready to help the novice yet not intrusive to the collector who wants his time to flick through 30 plus versions of the Beethoven sonatas.

 

That the décor is stylish and the racks professionally manufactured and even the carpets spotless just ads to the mystery why there are no such shops any more north, west and east of Denmark. Questions pile up. Top of the list is the standard concern: are there enough paying customers in order just to pay the rent (with over 200 square meters it must be substantial), the skilled staff, the insurance and the electricity to power over 50 spotlights? The shop has a website, sure, but prices aren’t any lower than on Amazon. It offers a postal service to those who phone in to the shop, but again the prices can’t compete with other online companies.

 

Why, then, will a classical buyer not just point his mouse to an Internet site, click and roll his thumbs until the postman delivers the CDs and, on top of that, save the trip through the rain and wind to the store (Copenhagen boasts some freezing, wet and windy winters). The answer is surprisingly obvious: because nothing on the Internet can compete with the physical experience of this record store. Let’s take it point by point. A competitive parameter on most websites is the price – however, Danacord has many attractive offers cheaper than what one often sees on those price-cutting websites. More important is the chance to ask the staff for recommendations. On the Internet you can see what other customers bought, but that says nothing of the actual recording. A special offer to go with your purchase can result in the item reaching top recommendation, simply because many bought it, but that is not the same as that offer goes with the music you selected. Love the Chopin Piano Concertos, maybe? Then a member of staff can inform you about composers similar to Chopin, and as a novice you feel you are in good hands. Have a young nephew whose growing up and wants to discover classical music? Where to start? Ask the staff. Try Googling ‘young nephew want to listen to classical music’ and you’ll be lost. Maybe you want a last-minute gift and can’t afford to wait for the postal service to bring you the Amazon gift a day or so later. At the Danacord store, you take it away with you there and then.

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There is no magic answer as to why there should not be a record store as long as there are customers who like to have the physical CD. To go and select what you want, study a cover or two, get some recommendations – that’s still the ultimate freedom, and one of the few ways where the customer can feel they are in control.

Yes, the media got it wrong again, with their doomsday predictions of the end of the classical record store. We are thriving.

(c) Jesper Buhl/www.slippedisc.com

 


Comments (7)

  1. Anssi says:

    It is not quite exact that there are no other specialist classical CD shops in the Nordic countries. In Helsinki there is a thriving shop called Fuga in the new Music Centre. There you can find quite an astonishing selection of CDs, the staff is very knowledgeable and keen to give advice. You can see pictures on their web-site (in Finnish): http://www.fuga.fi/myymalamme.html
    AK

  2. mb says:

    What about the wonderful ‘Ludwig Beck’ in Munich…

    http://kaufhaus.ludwigbeck.de/kaufhaus/musik/

  3. bratschegirl says:

    Not that those who listen to their music via smartphones and earbuds will be likely to notice, but one reason to continue owning actual CDs is that an actual CD has orders of magnitude more data than an mp3 file downloaded from iTunes etc., and that makes a noticeable difference to those of us who listen to classical music on a good home stereo system. Those who are even more Luddite than I believe that vinyl offers still more sonic richness. I even have a colleague who has an ancient system with tubes in the amplifier, which he uses when he plays his prized 78s.

  4. LIZ LEATHERDALE says:

    Great feature. Thanks for sharing.

    All true for CD stores and I believe can be adapted to CD mail order services. We need to provide a service for those starting their love affair with classical music or those delving into unjustly neglected composers.

    Customers need to know the person on the end of the phone or in the store are important and the staff listen and provide guidance where appropriate and needed.

  5. Mike Schachter says:

    Duusman is really good, indeed a kultur kaufhaus. But also on the positive side the larger branches of FNAC often have a good classical section.

  6. Neil Thompson Shade says:

    I believe the shop is owned by the Danacord record company.
    I have purchased many of their Danish music CDs, albeit by internet sales, since I am in the US.
    One of the past pleasures was to spend a Saturday afternoon pawing through the record, then, CD bins in search of new releases.
    Good to know there is a real record shop in Copenhagen as I go there on business infrequently.

  7. John Holland says:

    Grigorian music store in Toronto Canada is one of the best in North America, if not the world. http://www.grigorian.com


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