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Record Store Day 2023 celebrates all things vinyl

Courtesy/Wooden Nickel Records

The 16th annual Record Store Day takes place this Saturday and Bob Roets, co-owner of Fort Wayne’s Wooden Nickel Records with his wife Cindy, is happy to report that local celebrations are back to normal in full force at all three store locations.

Even more satisfying, he notes, so are those traditions that make it great: bands, food, community and, most of all, plenty of those exclusive Record Store Day releases.

Now in their 41st year of operation, Roets continues to rejoice in the platform he has built here in Fort Wayne, and is elated to report that vinyl sales are growing at record speed! (no pun intended, he insists)

Here WBOI’s Julia Meek sits down with Bob to discuss the magic of music, the rebirth of vinyl and what’s in store this year at his iconic establishments.

Event Information:

16th Annual Record Store Day
@ Wooden Nickel Records, Fort Wayne
Saturday, April 22, 2023
8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Admission is free and open to the public

For a full listing of events and store locations visit the Wooden Nickel Records website.

Typical Record Store Day, waiting for Roets to give the signal for the fun to begin!
Courtesy/Wooden Nickel Records
Typical Record Store Day in Fort Wayne, waiting for Roets to give the signal for the fun to begin!

Below is a transcript of our conversation: Julia Meek: Bob Roets, welcome.

Bob Roets: Hi, Julia. It's great to be here.

Julia Meek: Now there's a lot to celebrate this weekend. In a word how is this year's Record Store Day going to rock your world?

Bob Roets: Christmas! (laughs) It's Christmas for me.

Julia Meek: I forgot--It is Christmas for you--Why tell the world that this is Christmas in April?

Bob Roets: Well, it's the one day each year that I get the chance with my little megaphone to go out and announce, "Hey, we're an independent record store. We're still out here."

I can wave my hands and say, you know, we're still around doing this. And with vinyl going through the roof and sales, obviously people are responding.

Julia Meek: You're saying: Celebrate us celebrate us!

Bob Roets: Yeah!

Julia Meek: Good for you. Now, okay, wouldn't Nicole did hit its 40th anniversary last summer so that we're looking at year 41? How do you manage to keep your iconic reputation at the very same time fresh and exciting, Bob?

Bob Roets: Well, with me, I think I call it work ethic. I work seven days a week, you can catch me at the Clinton store every single morning, seven days a week. Why am I there?

Because I love talking to people. I love talking music. I love talking about local events, and what's all going on here in Fort Wayne. And after doing that for 40 years, you know it, that's my favorite part of my job.

You know, I'm not that excited to go in the back of the store and price a record or you don't necessarily file stuff away anymore. But it's the people that make it interesting for me. And I'm fortunate most of the major record buyers in Fort Wayne are now friends of mine.

Now, obviously, I'm running a business and it has to be profitable. But you know, it's still exciting to get that rare record in now and then that I can go on Facebook and say, "hey, look what we got," you know, (chuckles) you get three calls in 15 minutes. Oh, sorry, I already sold it.

There's fun things about that. But you know, new releases coming out each week probably is--you were talking about keeping it fresh.

The freshest stuff we get are obviously every Friday, we get new releases, and we play them in the store and we try to sell them and it's always fun when there's something that comes in that you like and you start playing and other people come and say, "Oh, I'm gonna buy that I really liked that."

That's fun, you know, just sharing your musical experiences with other people.

Julia Meek: It is exciting, of course. And as you mentioned, the vinyl and the crazy good work that vinyl sales are doing for you all. With all of this impact in the music industry--Vinyl! Vinyl! Vinyl!--would, you crunch those vinyl numbers for us to let us know how it's changed?

Bob Roets: Yeah, well, (chuckles) the vinyl business was under $100,000 back in 2006 before we started a record store day.

Julia Meek: Okay.

Bob Roets: It is now a billion dollar business for the first time since 1987. And as you may have heard this last year, vinyl finally outsold CDs after CDs were king for nearly 30 years. That's pretty amazing.

And I like to credit a lot of that as coming out of the beginnings of Record Store Day back in 2007, when we got together and said, Hey, we're in trouble here.

Julia Meek: You had to do something!

Bob Roets: Yeah, we had to do something, you know, and we kind of followed the Comic Book Day thing of let's have a special day. Let's release some special products.

And then of course, double digit sales really every year--growth for 16 years. But it's funny because I still get people that come in that are regular CD buyers. They'll walk in they go, Oh, are you starting to sell vinyl again? I'm seeing it all over the store.

Julia Meek: (laughs) But vinyl is going crazy? That means record players are going fairly well too?

Bob Roets: Yeah, really the number one thing that's driving what we're doing right now, believe it or not, is the fact that the Amazons of the world and the Best Buys of the world and Sweetwater's everywhere--they're selling turntables.

And we do too, of course. Every time a turntable's sold that's like ringing a little bell for Bob, right? (laughs) Because I'm going to sell some more vinyl!

Julia Meek: And the job security that vinyl records mean? (chuckles)

Bob Roets: Yeah, exactly! Yeah, because we were really in trouble. You know, we lost three of our stores back 15-then.20 years ago, and things weren't looking too good in the industry.

So this really has been a savior for us. And it's really much more exciting now than it was then. (chuckles)

Julia Meek: That's wonderful to have new life being constantly pumped into your business and then a great big new revolution in your business, indeed.

Bob Roets: Exactly.

Julia Meek: Now going forward, locally you're full bore back to normal--that's your big message this year.

Bob Roets: Yes.

Julia Meek: What does that mean for the shoppers and the celebrants in your world then?

Bob Roets: Well, it means we can bring back all the fun things we were doing before. Like my wife has been baking cookies now for about six or seven nights so our house smells really nice. (laughs) Smells like chocolate chip cookies every night.

But she's going to have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cookies ready. We'll have those at the stores Saturday of course. Old Crown, my good friend Mike over there I've known for many many years, we're going to feature his coffees at our Anthony store those will be available right when we open at eight o'clock.

We've got goodie bags that we're going to be giving away a course and we have $1,000 in giveaways that you can sign up for including a turntable, Wooden Nickel gift certificates, on and on.

Sign up for those, you can register once at each of the stores. But what really is helping us this year that's really back as the live music. We really downplayed that. 2019 is the last time we had a full slate of brands.

Julia Meek: Pre-COVID.

Bob Roets: Yes. And we're finally back and we have a full slate of bands this year.

Julia Meek: Does that make the musicians as well as the anticipated crowd that's gonna come happy? Are you hearing good things already?

Bob Roets: So far, yeah! I'm getting a lot of calls saying, hey, what time is this band playing? What time is that band playing?

Julia Meek: Great, great.

Bob Roets:  And we're doing it a little bit different this year. We have a new collaborator for Record Store Day. It's called The Garden. It is a performance venue that is in our parking lot at Anthony, how convenient, right?

South end of our lot, and we're going to have the bands play, fortunately, depending on the weather, we can have them indoors or outdoors. They have both available if the weather goes downhill or if it's a really cold day, still, we will do rain or shine.

Julia Meek: Great!

Bob Roets: Yeah, it really is. We'd like to do outside and that's our intention. If it gets really too cold, we can go indoors. So we will have music.

It's all free. It's going to start at 11am. Austin Marsh is going to open. Adam Baker is going to play at noon. This one's really interesting, at one o'clock we have a band called The Ultramagnetics. Do you remember Skavossas or Heavy Step, Julia?

Julia Meek: (laughs) Yes!

Bob Roets: Okay. This is members of those two bands--they are bringing Ska back. This is their 1st performance!

Bob Roets: I'm really excited about that!

Julia Meek: What an appropriate occasion, Record Store Day? .

Julia Meek: Oh MY!

Bob Roets: Yes! Yeah. So that one really excites me. At two o'clock we have the Last Plane Home, three o'clock To Breathe Again.

And we've got some metal at four o'clock with Withered Veins. So it's gonna get a little louder as the day goes on. (chuckles)

Julia Meek: All great groups!

Bob Roets: Yeah, yeah!

Julia Meek: Now how are this year's Record Store Day Ambassadors making their presence felt?

Bob Roets: Yeah, Jason Isbell who used to be in a band called Drive By Truckers. He went solo quite a few years ago, and he's been very, very successful. Some of my employees have been going to see him live and say his performances are astonishing.

He married Amanda Shires, who is a country artist and our ambassadors are those two this year. And they are releasing an album that I've got, matter of fact I've got it right here. That's coming out for Record Store Day.

And Amanda Shires actually is also releasing a title on her own. So we have actually two country titles from Amanda.

Julia Meek: That's exciting!

Bob Roets: Yeah! And one from Jason. So they are really, really involved with it this year. And they're really spending a lot of time promoting the day.

Julia Meek: And then last year's Record Store Ambassador actually has some of the biggest release this year, if I understand correctly?

Bob Roets:  Yeah, Taylor Swift was our Ambassador last year. She released a single, they made 7500. We were able to get ahold of 28 and they lasted about half an hour and they were gone. (laughs)

They didn't make near as many as they should have. This year, she has our number 1 requested album which is called "Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions." It's a double record and the amount of requests we're getting is phenomenal.

As a matter of fact, I'm going to predict that this is going to be the best selling Record Store Day item we've ever had.

Julia Meek: Okay, we'll check back with you after the celebration. (laughs) And it sounds wonderful, a nice variety. And speaking of varieties, you've got more than just rock and roll being promoted this year.

Bob Roets: Well, when I look at the list of products this year, it's quite varied. There's a heavy emphasis on a couple of things I've noticed this year one is jazz records.

There are literally 14 or 15 very solid jazz titles, everybody from Miles Davis, Coleman, just tons of them are coming out. And that's really good. I'm glad to see the jazz, that Jazz is being represented.

Julia Meek: That's very exciting!

Bob Roets: Yes! The other thing I really noticed that was really interesting, a lot of live records this year from all different genres. And I my thought on that is those might be easier for them to make because the artist doesn't have to physically go back to the studio and make an album.

They can have a prior live performance in any genre and put it on vinyl for the first time. And that's what we have many, many of this year.

Julia Meek: That's very curious.

Bob Roets: Yeah. A lot of these are going back in the archives and they're reaching for previously recorded, you know, they might go back to 70s 80s 90s and they're finding these great recordings.

Some of them are overkill, I mean, like Grateful Dead. I've got a Grateful Dead boxset live in Boston in 1977 here; it's five LP set of their entire show, (laughs) you know, and that will do very well for us, I'm sure.

But yeah, some of the younger acts are putting out their first live albums too--for Record Store Day, which is great.

Julia Meek: And then everything can be heard on vinyl.

Bob Roets: Yes.

Julia Meek: And that sounds to be the key.

Bob Roets: That IS the key because in many cases, because vinyl wasn't available for so long, some of these recordings were on CD butr were never put on vinyl album.

I can't tell you how many of these I'm running into, it says "first time on vinyl, first time on vinyl," which I love of course. So for the vinyl fanatics out there, this is a great day! (laughs)

Julia Meek: And you know Bob, really, looking back at the rich legacy that you've built locally, but also as part of the original Record Store Day brainstorming team because you were a part of that, exactly what would you say this movement (I think we have to call it a movement) means for the state of music, 2023?

Bob Roets: I think it means everything. We have been losing our industry to streaming. The vast majority of people especially younger people, streaming is where it's at for them. The artists themselves make just about nothing.

I mean, there's articles all the time about how little artists get from streaming. It's really bad. The best way for them to make money now is selling physical product, selling merchandise and doing concerts. Streaming is not paying the bills, you might say. (chuckles)

So from a practical standpoint, two things: one is the artists love the fact that on Record Store Day, they can make 10,000 albums, they're all gonna go out the door, they're all gonna get paid for it and they're gonna get a nice check, which I think is awesome for all of the artists.

But also, I think just younger people being able to play the artists music the way the artist intended, it is very, very important. When I hear a lot of people listen to music now it's on an iPhone with two speakers, you can't really even see.

That is not what the artist ever intended anyone to hear their music on. The richness, the warmth of a vinyl to sit down and actually deep dive into it and listen, especially like jazz records and a lot of that, I mean, you really gotta listen, and you get that the best, I think with vinyl. It's the experience.

Julia Meek: It has withstood the test of time and emotion and heartstrings and everything.

Bob Roets: Absolutely. Yes.

Julia Meek: That's certainly a bottom line. Now, if you had a crystal ball, what do you think you'd see gazing into the next 15 years?

Bob Roets: Well? (sighs) That's a really tough question. I mean, you're talking to a guy that the first day I started in a record store was 1978. The number one format that I sold was eight tracks. (laughs)

Okay, so I have been through eight tracks. I've been through cassettes, I've been through CDs. Now I'm back with vinyl that I bought when I was a young man. And boy, 15 years from now, it's hard to say. I actually believe that CDs are going to come back again. You know, we are actually selling more CDs at our stores now than we were a year ago. Now.

Some people will say as well, vinyl prices have been coming up and new releases that come out the CD sometimes are only a third of the cost. So I think price has a little bit to do with it. But hey, vinyl cycled around, didn't it?

Julia Meek: Indeed!

Bob Roets: And you know what's to keep CDs from coming back. So I would not be shocked if CDs gain momentum and 15 years. from now we're having a different conversation again! (laughs)

All I really hope is more people can discover a physical product, because that's what the artists want them to hear. And I hope that that will continue to grow like it has been the last few years.

With vinyl it's been up double digits now for 15 straight years. I hope that continues.

Julia Meek: For the good of all.

Bob Roets: Exactly.

Julia Meek: And certainly for the good of music.

Bob Roets: Right.

Julia Meek: Now a word on Fort Wayne's potential place in the country as the 10th Music City, while I have you here, Bob.

Bob Roets: Yeah.

Julia Meek: Dream out loud. What might it mean? Where could we go with that in the next 15 years?

Bob Roets: Well I credit Sweetwater with a lot of what you're speaking of. I think since Sweetwater has come on the scene and has their own recording studio here in Fort Wayne and now they're getting bigger artists to come in.

They're bringing a lot of Nashville talent up here. I'm only looking positive at what's going to happen here. We have a lot of really good recording studios around town now. And the venues of course, have been just exploding--a lot of great new venues now.

So I, if you use the word dream, I mean, I dream of being a Seattle like it was back in 91 when you had the Nirvana's of the world coming out or, or you know, a New Orleans that has the Cajun music, or obviously Nashville with country or I can go on and on.

Austin's got a fantastic scene. All over the country these cities have developed their own talent, they've developed their own genres, in many cases, you know, why not here in Fort Wayne?

So I'm all for it. I would love to see it, and I will support it.

Julia Meek: And final question, Bob, if you didn't work this crazy hard, obviously, none of this would work at all. So what continues to drive that specific passion, rock your world, you know, really amplify the magic that is music for you?

Bob Roets: Well, that's a really, really deep question. I mean, I have a deep seated love for music. I mean, it all starts there.

And it started when I bought Joy to the world by Three Dog Night on a 45 back in, you know, 1971 and here we are, you know, I don't want to tell you how many years that's been. I guess you could figure it out. (laughs)

But I just love music. I listen to it all day long. I love live performances. I've lost track on how many hundreds of concerts I've gone to. I still go to concerts all the time. I have plans for many more this summer.

And between live performance and you know, obviously in a store when you're there seven days a week you're listening to all different types of genres of music on a daily basis and I just dig deep into everything and I've always loved discovering new sounds that rocked my world. (laughs)

And you know, the thing is, I will say that whenever I've been down the first thing I do is grab a record that I like and it brings me right back up. Music is magic to me. It just always cheers me up.

Julia Meek: Bob Roets is co founder and owner of Wooden Nickel Records along with his wife Cindy.. Thanks so much for making music matter, Bob. Have a great Record Store Day celebration.

Bob Roets: Thank you Julia for all your support.

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.