Meet JC, a friend of mine in the record sales industry in Cincinnati, Ohio. His story demonstrates that with dedication and a flexible mindset it's totally possible to do what you love. JC graciously answered some questions I had for him and made a playlist for us which you can find at the end of this interview.
How did this all begin?
JC: "In 2006, we moved to California from Ohio. I had a shitty job while living in Oakland. and spent every dime that I had on records. I would go to Amoeba and Rasputin in Berkeley, Red Devil in San Raphael. Occasionally I'd go to San Francisco to hit the shops (record) down on Haight street."
Jc shares that he spent every paycheck he had on records and started accumulating vinyl continuously, adding to his already substantial collection he brought with him to California from Ohio.
"My collection grew exponentially after I moved to California."
He described his home as being overrun by his collection to the point of not even knowing what he owned. He shared on the mountains of records taking up real estate in his closets and any extra space.
One Christmas years ago, his in-laws visited him and his wife in Oakland. He shared on how his Mother-in-Law encouraged him to open a record shop after seeing his record stacks that consumed their living space.
"I had no idea how to run a business or even how to start running a business, but the idea was cool."
At that point, JC had made the decision to dive into the record sales industry, yet he and his wife realized quickly that they were getting priced out of the Bay Area. At that point, they decided to leave California.
An old high school friend encouraged JC to head to Georgia, to a town a little north of Atlanta, to live and open his shop.
"There weren't really any record shops out there and it was closer to where I grew up in Ohio. The cost of living was good, so I gave it a shot and I opened up a shop within about a month from moving out of California to Georgia."
JC talked candidly on the struggle he experienced running the shop in that area for about a year and a half, and how he became exhausted by the racism that existed in that area.
He and his wife decided to leave. They packed everything up and headed home to Cincinnati, Ohio to be closer to family.
As of today, JC and his wife have been living in Cincinnati for three years, running his shop, Metamodern Music. "I've got no complaints at this point."
We talked a bit about how Covid has affected JC's business. He shared that he was one of the first businesses to close temporarily compared to other businesses in his area. He and his business neighbor, a wine bar, had been keeping track of the progression and realized that shutting down was the best thing to do in that moment.
"At that time, I was 100% a brick and mortar shop, so I didn't have any income or business for the time that I was shut down. I found out on instagram through a shop I followed, about live instagram sales and thought maybe I should do that and sell records live instead of in the shop. I didn't have an online presence at all. So I did it (IGTV sales), and it worked for the time I was locked up in my house. Those people kept me afloat, which I'm grateful for."
He continued to describe how the IGTV sales were tiring. "I'm not a performer." At that point, he started a website to be able to reach a broader customer base without feeling the pressure of relying solely on Instagram for sales.
We continued to discuss the challenges of trying to operate a retail shop during this time and how getting inventory right now has been a struggle, but necessary in order to continue experiencing success.
"The challenges in the record industry right now are manufacturing. Manufacturing is in the shitter so it's hard to get stuff that I need, stuff that I want, tough to get it on time, and tough to get it sometimes at all."
He shared with me about how the Pandemic has posed challenges to manufacturing, recording and pretty much every aspect of the music industry.
JC remains optimistic that with staying safe and working together, we will get through this difficult time.
As a small business, JC talks about how he ended up having to open his doors to the public again, while following protocols and regulations.
"I've been getting through this and thriving which I'm super grateful for."
Social media seems to have been a helpful tool for people to be able to learn about his shop. Additionally, JC openly shared on how social media can feel too public at times, as that's the nature of the platform.
"It's given me business and maybe it's taken some business from me."
We spoke about this more, and I too can relate. Finding balance on social media as a small business owner is crucial in order to sustain the energy it takes to create and run what you love successfully.
I was interested on what musical inspirations JC has carried with him through his life as someone that has devoted his time to music sales.
"The first artist that I remember blowing my brains out was Prince. I'm a Prince junkie, and people just think that's weird or don't expect it, I guess, out of me. Prince is the first musician and artist that I totally lost my mind over and I'm still like that about him today."
JC describes how his musical taste grew over time. And chatted about our mutual friend and musician, Neal Casal.
"I loved watching him play. He was such a fun dude to watch and so humble about it, which was kinda fun. He taught me a lot about music. I felt like I knew a lot about music before meeting him but afterwards, the amount of music that I've learned about since knowing him has helped me, and I'm super grateful for him."
Frank Zappa turns out to be another of JC's top favorite artists.
"Zappa's music just really grabs me. It's more interesting than anything, but then again, some of the best music is the simplest music. Blues artists are like that. I love the blues. Prince and Zappa though, probably number one and two for me."
Just like JC, Zappa was one of the first musicians that I felt drawn to as well. I'm a massive fan myself, so definitely expect me to make a Zappa Deep Dive playlist for you all very soon.
About the Playlist:
"I haven't made a playlist or mixtape since I was in high school. So this was kinda fun."
I understood JC's description of the playlist to be somewhat of a stream of consciousness, centered around our friend, Neal.
Neal commit suicide in August of 2019. The playlist speaks to songs that Neal loved, and songs that remind JC of Neal. Rock and Roll is the backbone of this list.
If you want to get ahold of JC instagram is the best place at this particular time. JC invites you to message him if you have a special record request (like I did a few months ago when I was on the hunt for a particular Richard Thompson record. He found it within a few hours and I had been under the impression that I scoured the interweb thoroughly. Guess again, Monica.) Just make a request and he'll find it for you.
Follow JC on Instagram @metamodernmusic
A huge thank you to JC for lending his time, expertise and gifting us this playlist.
Stay safe and Happy New Year!