To reach Death of Vinyl in Little Italy, you have to enter a narrow doorway bedecked with awesome art by local artist Chris Dyer, mount a set of stairs extolling positive virtues, pass numerous eclectic decorations, come around a corner, and then finally you’ll find yourself in a huge room with warm, low lighting and an atmosphere not unlike an embrace. If you are a music fan or a fan of vinyl for any number of reasons, you could not find a more welcoming shop. “With this place, we tried to combine all our favourite experiences of being in a record store,” explains owner Steve Ludvik. “Generally when people are unhappy in a store, it’s either because they’re not happy in the space or because they’re not being treated well.”
Steve works at the record store with co-owner Daniel Hadley, and says they consciously reject the snobbery often associated with specialty music stores. “We make it a point to be welcoming to everyone and we wouldn’t hire anyone that is superior towards people,” he says. “We all know that we don’t know everything. Music is very important to me and Dan; it’s sacred to us. If a customer knows more than we do, we’re happy to listen and learn from them about bands and records.”
Steve and Daniel met 20 years ago in a record distribution company called Cargo. Dan went on to start a dance music distribution company, but when MP3s started up, the company had to fold. So in 2007, Dan decided to “go used” and opened Death of Vinyl. Steve joined in 2010.
The start of the vinyl revival came around 2009 and 2010, and that combined with new clientele gave the shop new life. “People say records are coming back,” Steve laughs. “But I say, ‘Actually, you’re coming back.’ Records have always been here – always being dealt and produced. There are a few independent record stores around Montreal that all started at the same time unbeknownst to each other.”
The renewed interest brought along a need to provide a new service. “At that time, people coming into the store would often mention how unfortunate it was that they didn’t have a turntable, so I started bringing in old, broken turntables to fix them up,” says Steve. “I got in a bit over my head, so around 2012 we started a repair department. We hired one of the best engineers in town, Ali. If you can plug it in, he can fix it. The two sides of the store support each other.”
Steve says the clientele ranges from 18 to 80, from billionaires to those on welfare. “It’s nice to see more young people, teenagers, embracing the format,” he says. “They’re realizing that they were listening to music in a disposable way. The majority of records aren’t concept albums. Records are like novels while modern formats, CDs and MP3s, are like magazines. You can read them in any direction, start them anywhere, pick it up and put it down. The invention of the skip changed music.” Of course there’s also more information in the experience of a record – the record leaf and album art contain information on who produced the record, who played what instrument, the lyrics and many other details.
“It’s all secondhand here and 20 to 30 percent of what’s in this shop has never been digitized, but we do take records on consignment from local artists interested in the medium,” Steve says. “I listen to music all day and 80 per cent of it is stuff I’ve never heard before. There are three listening stations at the cash and we encourage people to try everything.”
Once a month, Death of Vinyl holds art exhibitions. Artists can put up their art for sale and no commission is taken. The store also hosts record launches, cassette releases and live bands, all signs that says this is a record store with heart.