***STOP PRESS! We’re open! Come and visit us at 16 Bromell’s Road, London SW4 0BG or give us a call on 0207 622 7912. Click here for full details of our new London premises.***
It’s almost 50 years ago that Bob Dylan released his seminal track “The Times They Are a-Changin'” but you know what? They’re still a’ changin’, and not least in our little world of musical equipment retail. I’ve outlined the challenges for music shops in a previous post, but today I want to let you know what we at Red Dog Music plan to do next, and why.
It’s all very well buying music gear online – there’s an almost infinite choice and within a few clicks you can find what you want at the lowest possible price. But there are downsides.
The major one is that you can’t touch, strum, tinkle or – perhaps most importantly – listen to the product you’re buying. Yes, some sites have audio samples, but try demoing a set of studio monitors by listening to an MP3 played back through your laptop’s speakers and you’ll struggle.
Another issue is that you have to wait at least a day before you get your hands on your new gear. No good if you need it (or, be honest, just really want it) now.
It’s difficult to talk to anyone about features that are specific to you; need a mic and pre-amp that’ll suit thrash-jazz nose-flute? An online catalogue can’t help with this. Need a guitar and amp for performing finger-style dubstep covers? Even the most advanced feature-comparison engine won’t get you any closer to your dream. Yes, there are forums and review sites, but it’s difficult to have confidence that the advice you are receiving is actually helpful or indeed accurate.
The answer is of course to visit your local music shop. However, the problem is that rents and rates are painfully high at the moment, meaning most music shops either have to charge more for their products, or they have to situate themselves in cheap, out-of-town locations that are hard to get to. Neither of these are particularly conducive to an efficient and enjoyable shopping experience.
Our Edinburgh music shop may be central but, in all honesty, we would not have survived the last 5 years if it weren’t for the fact that we also sell a fair amount online through our website, and we pro-actively match the lowest internet prices wherever possible.
All that said, I started my career on the shop floor at Turnkey on Charing Cross Road in London (now closed), so I’ve always wanted to expand down south and give Londoners the kind of music shop experience they need and deserve. The problem is, if the rent and rates seem extreme in Edinburgh, they’re just obscene in London. Hence some of the best “London” music shops are actually not really in London, but a short 2 hour struggle through wrist-slitting traffic to a unit in the middle of nowhere (or in a completely different county).
So, we had to think things through a bit.
While thinking things through, a huge opportunity fell into our lap: a large competitor closed all but one of their branches and left a load of great locations and incredible staff bereft of purpose. Having started Red Dog Music from similar ashes (Sound Control went bust in 2008 and we took over the Edinburgh store with a management buy-out), this was pretty familiar territory for me. Furthermore, I knew some of the key guys at the competitor in question, having worked with them back at Turnkey, and I knew that they were good, decent people who were capable of offering the kind of service we endeavour to offer in Edinburgh. Having looked at the pros and cons of each location, we made a strange choice: Clapham.
This was not the largest of the closed competitor’s outlets by any means, and, being tucked away above the ace London School of Sound, is in no way prominent, but we’ve decided this doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is pretty much as central as you can get without having to pay the congestion charge and is big enough to be able to demonstrate all the products we think still need demonstrating in this age of eCommerce: studio monitors, high end guitars and amps, microphones, V-drums, professional keyboards, pre-amps, DJ equipment etc.
It’s also located just next to the delightfully named “Cock Pond” on Clapham Common.
London Pro Audio
This is not a shop in the traditional sense; it is a halfway house between the immediacy of a shop and the convenience of the internet:
It is a high-end demo facility for people who are not prepared to rely on the questionable recommendations of forum “gurus” and need to hear or play the equipment themselves. It is a central hub from which to ship same-day to the whole of London (that’s right: same day!). It is a place to get personal advice from some of the most experienced music equipment sales professionals in the industry, cherry-picked from the cream of the ex-competitor staff:
- Mike Fletcher (previously UK Sales & Marketing Manager)
- Roy Brockington (previously Acton Store Manager)
- Raamiz St. Hill (previously competitor’s leading DJ and Pro Audio consultant)
It is a place to meet and be wowed by the top product demonstrators from the world’s leading audio equipment companies.
The benefits of a real-life music shop? We’ll offer them:
- Friendly staff to talk to about product features that matter to you
- The best pro audio and music gear available to audition / strum / tinkle / twiddle to your hearts content
- The ability to take something away with you immediately
- The sense of community you can only get by hanging out with like-minded people
- Regular workshops and clinics from industry professionals and top manufacturers
- Accessibility: we’re 2 minutes walk from a zone 2 tube station (Clapham Common) on the Northern Line, 10 minutes from the slap-bang centre of the big smoke, and outside the congestion charge zone
And the benefits of shopping online? We’ll offer them and more:
- Guaranteed lowest prices
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Same day shipping to London post codes
- Masses of gear available to pick up immediately or be delivered at your convenience
- Unlimited technical support
It’s perhaps not quite the future of retail, but it’s getting there. We think it’s going to be amazing.
We’re planning to have a big launch at the end of August / beginning of September. Keep an eye on our website if you want to be kept up-to-date with progress.
We look forward to seeing you there!
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