Vinyl drove Homer’s sales increases in 2016; Closeness new EP on Graveface 2/24…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:40 pm January 12, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Homer’s General Manager Mike Fratt sent out his annual sales letter to the media a few days ago, and it’s good news: Homer’s business was up 4.5 percent in 2016.

“Vinyl drove the increase, though lifestyle helped,” Fratt said, referencing so-called lifestyle products — i.e., non-recorded products (i.e., trinkets).

Vinyl sales boomed by a robust 18 percent, and new vinyl sales overtook new CD sales in gross dollars. That’s because vinyl costs about $25 per unit, while CDs cost on average around $11.  In fact, CD sales slumped 2 percent last year at Homer’s partially due to retail price declines, Fratt said. Overall CD unit sales were basically flat, off by only 110 units.

“But unit sales in new CDs were were well over two times that of new vinyl,” Fratt said.

Despite that impressive 4.5 percent year-over-year business increase, Fratt says Homer’s has no plans for expansion in 2017. “Running one great store matters more than a handful of average stores,” he said.

Fratt also had some thoughts on my “vision of 2017” that said vinyl sales will plateau in 2017 nationally. He said that peak won’t be reached until 2019 or 2020.

“While the increase (in vinyl sales) is not as great as the last couple years, it’s still significant,” Fratt said. “Add the fact that boomers are now digging out their turntables and playing records again. It’s really quite stunning how wide the demographic is buying vinyl now. So lots of gas still in the tank on vinyl.”

And, Fratt added, Homer’s sold 150 8-track tapes in 2016. Somehow I can’t see that medium making a return.

Top vinyl sellers for Homer’s in 2016: Twenty One Pilots: Vessel and Blurryface; David Bowie, Blackstar; Adele, 25; Radiohead, Moon Shaped Pool; and Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago.

Top CD sellers for Homer’s: Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface; Rolling Stones, Blue & Lonesome; Melanie Martinez, Cry Baby; Chris Stapleton, Traveller; Kevin Gates, Islah; and David Bowie, Blackstar.

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Todd and Orenda Fink as seen in negativeland…

Closeness, the dreamy electronic duo of Orenda and Todd Fink, will release their debut EP, Personality Therapy, Feb. 24 on Graveface Records. The Savannah label counts Xiu, Xiu, Whirr, Dosh, The Appleseed Cast and Black Moth Super Rainbow among its roster.

Check out the first single below. BTW, the Finks will be performing at SXSW this year….

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Wolf Alice, Slaves (UK); Homer’s announces Record Store Day plans…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:42 pm April 13, 2016
Wolf Alice at The Waiting Room, April 12, 2016.

Wolf Alice at The Waiting Room, April 12, 2016.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

We see bands on their upward trajectory; we see them when they’ve reached their apex and we see them headed downward in a steep dive with the rocks coming up fast from below.

Last night Wolf Alice was a band headed skyward. They were high enough where you could still see the engines clearly without binoculars, before the second-stage rockets kick in and take them above the blue sky, a band on the rise. Maybe they’re the next Garbage or Cranberries or, if they’re lucky, the first Wolf Alice marking their own territory as they go.

The four-piece took The Waiting Room stage at around 10 p.m. and proceeded to rip through most (if not all) of the tracks off their 2015 breakthrough album My Love Is Cool (Dirty Hit/Sony) starting with “Your Loves Whore” with its sensuous, perfect breaks, and ending with a three-song encore kicked off with album opener “Turn to Dust.” In between, the band played 75 minutes of perfect, tuneful indie rock that sounded more than a little influenced by some of my favorite bands from the ’90s, updated with modern grit and a vintage snarl by way of bass player Theo Ellis, who was the life of the party.

In fact it was bleach-blond Ellis that kept things visually interesting on stage. While the rest of the band focused on their respective parts, Ellis played the Brit madman, leading the clapping, pointing out cell phone users, applauding spectators who danced/pogo-ed in the pit. Meanwhile. frontwoman Ellie Rowsell did her thing with reserved panache, eventually getting into it enough to toss her guitar to the stage and walk into the outreached hands of the crowd during the encore.

The band’s secret weapons were guitarist Joff Oddie, who forced your attention with quickfire fretboard gymnastics, and drummer Joel Amey, whose siren voice was the perfect harmony throughout and the perfect lead for dreamy setpiece ‘Swallowtail.”

If there’s a nit to be picked it’s that Wolf Alice could use a bit more stage theatrics, though it’s hard not to get sucked into their set once they get on a roll, which they did last night in front of a packed-though-not-sold-out crowd populated by a surprisingly older audience (I wasn’t the oldest one there, for a change).

The next time you see them live likely will be at a festival somewhere, or in a much larger venue. Wolf Alice is still headed skyward. To what heights they’ll climb, well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Slaves (UK) at The Waiting Room, April 12, 2016.

Slaves (UK) at The Waiting Room, April 12, 2016.

Opener Slaves (UK, I assume a necessity due to the fact that there’s a U.S. version of Slaves) kicked off the night with a very British sounding set of rough-hewn rock, like listening to a rage-filled Mike Skinner (The Streets) voxed against power chord riffs instead of hip-hop beats. Slaves is a duo featuring drummer/vocalist Isaac Holman yelling more than singing while guitarist Laurie Vincent wailed away on his ax. Sort of punk, but not quite.

Between songs Holman told stories and painted pictures of life in the UK, describing the dreadful riders on public transport who look upset about their dreary careers. “If you don’t like your job, mate, do something else,” he sneered before the duo ripped into “Cheer Up London.” By set’s end, Holman asked everyone to hug the person standing next to them, and then berated those who were too cool to follow his orders.

Sidenote: I appreciate the fact that One Percent Productions is limiting some of its shows to just two bands, especially during the week. Those of us who have regular day jobs enjoy getting home by midnight (11:30 last night), allowing us to function coherently the following morning.

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Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 12.37.27 PMRecord Store Day 2016 is this Saturday and the shops are getting ready for the annual onslaught. Yesterday Homer’s outlined their plans, which will include lots of exclusives. According to their press release:

“Among the limited edition music releases being unveiled for Record Store Day 2016 are titles by David Bowie, Deftones, Alt-J, Cheap Trick, The Doors, Johnny Cash, Joan Jett, The Talking Heads and Twenty-One Pilots.
 
“Nebraska native and current Omaha resident Matthew Sweet will be releasing Goodfriend, featuring alternate takes of his iconic 1991 album Girlfriend. Omaha native Adam DeVine will also release his comedy rap album by the Wizards, which features DeVine and the other two members of the Workaholics’ TV show cast.”

BTW, Metallica is 2016’s Record Store Day Ambassador, which seems odd when you consider only a few years ago the only bands still supporting vinyl were indies and not major-label monsters. Looks like the monsters won again.

While Homer’s doors open at 10 a.m., the line generally forms at around dawn. Homer’s will be serving coffee and donuts to line-sitters starting at 8 a.m. Psychobilly rock trio The Rev. Horton Heat will be on hand at 4 p.m. for a meet-and-greet and autograph-signing session to celebrate the band’s RSD single, “Hardscrabble Woman.”

It’s probably a good idea to go to http://www.recordstoreday.com/SpecialReleases to see what may be available at Homer’s as well as the other RSD participants including Almost Music and Drastic Plastic.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Column 338: Homer’s GM talks Orchard Plaza closure, future; Watching the Train Wreck tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:45 pm August 25, 2011

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Homer's logo

It all comes down to one question: Why should people buy recorded music at Homer’s Records or any other independent record store rather than order it online?

“In 2011, it’s a 50-50 split between digital and physical,” said Homer’s General Manager Mike Fratt, referring to a music market split between digital music files and physical CDs and vinyl. “If people choose to buy a full album, almost 75 percent of the time they choose to buy a physical version. Fidelity has something to do with it; also, it’s the ultimate backup.”

Then Fratt gave what I believe is the real reason to shop at record stores: “I think going to a record store is an enjoyable experience, like going to a book store or a comic book store,” he said. “There’s a type of discovery that occurs in a record store that cannot be replicated online.”

No number of reasons, however, was enough to save Homer’s Orchard Plaza location at 2457 South 132nd St. Originally opened at Bel Air Plaza in 1975, the store moved to Orchard Plaza in 1980. Fratt, who began his Homer’s career in the warehouse in 1978, managed the Orchard Plaza store for five years before transferring to the Old Market location, and eventually into the head office in ’91. In its heyday, Homer’s boasted a worldwide chain of six stores. Today Fratt finds himself working out of a small office tucked away off the sales floor of the Old Market store, soon to be the chain’s sole survivor.

Last Friday Fratt sent out an announcement that the Orchard Plaza store will close Sept. 10. “Quite frankly, we’re surprised we made it this long with two locations in Omaha,” he said in the press release. “When we surveyed the future landscape in 2006 we assumed we would be at one location per city by 2010. Most of our indie record store brethren in the Coalition of Independent Music Stores are down to one solid location per city.” He added that the 132nd & Center area is “losing its oomph as a strong retail sector, and Homer’s was not willing to risk moving the store with the hopes of finding an audience.”

Fratt confirmed the obvious reason for the closure via a phone call Sunday. The store was losing money. “The store’s long-term lease ran out at the beginning of 2010,” he said. “We looked at the numbers and it wasn’t quite under break even. We did a one-year lease, and as we neared the end of 2010, we were still right on the edge. So we did a 90-day lease, then another 90 then a 60. Now the store is below break even.”

He said some but not all of the Orchard Plaza staff will go to work at the Old Market Homer’s, where sales are actually up for the year. “And we’re very optimistic about the next 10 years.”

Next 10 years?

“All of our indie brethren all feeling challenged, there’s no question about it,” Fratt said. “For us, the unit sales in CDs has pretty much leveled off at the Old Market location. We’re not giving ground. Part of the reason has to do with the declining price point — we have a huge bin, literally thousands of artists, whose music sells for $7.99. That’s why catalog sales are fairly robust.” Sales of new releases, however, are down slightly, he said.

“The second issue is vinyl,” he added. “It’s been huge, and a large part of our business, and it keeps growing.” Though he’s referring primarily to used vinyl, new-release vinyl sales also have stepped up. Other revenue comes from selling used product on Amazon Marketplace (Homer’s closed its Web store two years ago).

Asked what the music industry needs to do to keep independent stores alive, Fratt said a few trading partners are allowing them to buy at a lower price and hold the product four to six months before paying for it. “Hopefully by that time we’ve turned it and can pay it off,” he said. A new distribution model could involve selling new music on consignment, though there are some accounting challenges to overcome. “It could be something of a game changer.”

Fratt still contends that the biggest threat to independent record stores wasn’t digital downloads, but the giant box stores like Best Buy, Wal Mart and Target. “Target now offers fewer than 1,000 titles,” he said. “Best Buy shuttered its operations and now contracts it out. Borders is exiting the market.”

He said in addition to leaning on its used record sales, the Old Market store is “recommitting to gifts,” offering merchandise other than recorded music to all those folks wandering up and down Howard St. after dinner.

“But overall, it’s about catalog, which is what built this company in the ’70s and ’80s,” Fratt said.

“There’s a quantity of people still purchasing physical. Not everyone has a home computer — 20 percent of people don’t have broadband and never will,” he said. “Physical is not going away, no matter how much people want to bitch about it. It isn’t. I think we’ve got 10 years, easily.”

In the end, it all comes down to that original question: Why should people buy music at a record store instead of online? As long as Fratt continues to have an answer, Homer’s will be around.

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Tonight, Cramps-inspired Lawrence band The Spook Lights returns to O’Leaver’s with Snake Island! and Watching the Train Wreck. $5, 9:30 p.m. What the heck, it’s Thursday.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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And then there was one: Homer’s Music turns 40; Orchard Plaza location to close…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 5:08 pm August 19, 2011

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This press release was just received from Mike Fratt, general manager of Homer’s. It speaks for itself. More later after I get a chance to interview Mike. But for now, here’s the press release in its entirety:

Homer's logoStarting on September 1st, Homer’s Music will begin its 40th anniversary celebration, marking four decades as a locally-owned business and its status as one of the nation’s leading independent record stores.

The celebration will be bittersweet, as Homer’s will also be closing its Orchard Plaza location, 2457 South 132nd St.. Orchard Plaza’s final day of operations will be September 10th, according to Homer’s Music general manager Mike Fratt.

The 40th anniversary celebration marks the opening of the first Homer’s, the downtown Old Market location, which started operations in 1971. Homer’s is one of the two remaining original businesses that started the Old Market in the early 1970s.

“Quite frankly, we’re surprised we made it this long with two locations in Omaha. When we surveyed the future landscape in 2006 we assumed we would be at one location per city by 2010.” Fratt explained. “Most of our indie record store brethren in the Coalition of Independent Music Stores are down to one solid location per city.”

Homer’s started with an Old Market location at 415 S. 11th St, moving around the area over its 40-year-run, before settling back in at 1210 Howard St. in October 2009. The 1210 Howard location was a previously housed Homer’s for several years in the early 1980s.

“The Old Market location is doing well and sales are up for the year.” Fratt said, “And we are very optimistic about the next 10 years. Mass merchant big box retailers have radically ramped down their commitment to music and this has benefitted Homers. Used CD, DVD and LP sales are robust, Record Store Day has been a game changer and physical sales remain strong due to reduced retail prices”

Vanguard Recording artists Viva Voce will perform at Homers Old Market Tuesday,  September 13th at 7pm. This will be the band’s only area appearance in support of their new album, The Future Will Destroy You.

With sales of music split evenly between digital and physical the predicted demise of record stores has been overplayed and recent trends nationally point to a bottoming out of declining sales led by record breaking sales of Adele’s “21”, Lady Gaga, the Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration and upcoming releases from Lady Antebellum, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lil Wayne.

“The 132nd & Center area is losing it’s oomph as a strong retail sector,” Fratt explained, “and Homers was not willing to risk moving the store with the hopes of finding an audience. Our landlord, Slosburg, has been super to work with and it’s a large part of the reason we lasted this long at Orchard.”

There will ongoing sales at the Orchard Plaza store, as it prepares to wrap up its lease at that location. “We have thousands of used CDs at $1 each and thousands of used LPs at half price and more at $1 each.

Homers is a Nebraska owned and operated independent music retail store specializing in buying and selling new and used CDs, DVDs, and LPs. Consistently named Omaha’s best music retailer in any metro-based poll Homers is a member of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores and a founding member of Record Store Day. Homers is loacted in the Old Market at 1210 Howard and online at www.homersmusic.com

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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