New Times: What do you think has been the biggest key to your success in surviving, as a record store? Is it the events?
Lolo: I think we've been pretty good about naturally diversifying, and knowing what our customers want. I think it's so important for your local indie record store to have more personalized service. We ask a lot of questions and try to get feedback about what people are interested in.
I think the biggest key to it is our inclusivity. Parts of Miami have the rep of being exclusive, with a velvet rope, dress code, whatever. Sweat's never been about that. We're an open space. People can submit events to our listings online; we don't charge for that.
Back to the events, you also run Fridays at the Vagabond. What's Sweat's role, specifically, in putting that together?
The Vagabond has four weekly parties, and we work in cahoots with the Vagabond to put on the Friday party. We work with the club to get the bands and set everything up. The bookings are half in-house and half Sweat. Sometimes Carmel [Ophir, of the Vagabond] will do the bookings, sometimes I do them, and we'll meet. It's been going great; it's going on two years now and I've loved so many of the shows we've done, and it's still going strong.
What have been some of the highlights among the shows for you?
Glass Candy was the shit. The last Panic Bomber live show was fun, too, and we've got him playing for the Sweatstock pre-party with his whole horn section and everything. The Rachel Goodrich CD release party last January or something was really just a wild and fun night. Freezepop was fun, Surfer Blood was awesome.... We've had a lot of great bands there.
Like you said before, five years for any independent business here is a huge accomplishment. What's been the most marked change in the music scene here that you've noticed, besides the obvious expansion in size and scope?
Attitude. A lot of people have kind of opened up to Miami, some new cool people from outside, but local people almost finally giving in to the reality that yes, there is a lot of stuff to do. I feel like some people, for a long time, until fairly recently, were all, "Oh, Miami sucks, there's nothing to do." But it's like, nah dude, look at the Sweat Records events listings, there's like three different cool things going on at a time. We're not New York, we never will be, our weather's awesome, go out, have fun, and enjoy your life!
We're getting more national shows for sure, which is awesome, but there's a lot of local stuff. The bike scene is getting huge, and obviously the art scene blowing up has been a great factor in everything. The whole city's on the up and up. I feel like way less people are leaving lately, and more people are moving here. I meet so many people in the story who just came here from other places to do cool stuff.
When you were younger, did you ever want to move away from the city?
In high school I was like, on a plane to London. I was so there; "Britpop, I'm coming, wait for me!"
So at what point did you decide you were going to put down roots and start your business and everything?
I helped start [the now-defunct, long-running indie dance party] Revolver back in the day. And through that, [Revolver founder] Josh and I brought down a lot of awesome acts that otherwise never would have come to Miami. It was a great time, and I met some of my best friends in that era.
You would have been really young back then, a teenager.
Yeah, I was really young. I started sneaking out to things at 15 and I was DJing at Poplife by 17. I don't even think they knew how old I was until it was my birthday and they were like, "How old are you turning? What?" And it was like, "Oops, by the way, I'm in high school!" Then I was working at [the now-closed Miami location of the] Virgin MegaStore from the time I was in high school up until when I opened Sweat.
I had gone to Killian, and then Miami-Dade and FIU, where I studied music business, until I dropped out to start a record store. Eventually my fake homework assignments were getting in the way of my actual career, so I stopped doing my homework and got to my career.
Have you ever regretted that?
Not at all. It was not my bag. In the grand scheme of things, I was leaps ahead of my classmates in terms of getting started with what I wanted to do with my life. And my teacher, who totally got it and was a music industry vet, was like, "Yeah, you'll be fine, do it." So I told my mom I was taking a semester off, and here we are. Maybe one day I'll go back and get my executive MBA or something, but right now I'm fine. I've actually gone back to talk to the graduate music business school at UM and at a lot of other college classes.
What was the biggest surprise to you when it came to the nuts and bolts of actually running a business?
There's just so much stuff to stay on top of. It's hard to say, you know? One of the things that's annoying is the city definitely doesn't make it easy for you. There's nobody to tell you specifically what paperwork you need to have done to just be a business. You can do all the research online, but I wish there was a way the city would be more helpful towards entrepreneurs, because we really are just trying to do good stuff and help the local economy.
The one thing that's unfortunate in our business is that the markup on music sucks. It's about half of what it is on clothing or food. So if we sell a CD for $15, we probably still paid over $10 for it. Whereas if it was clothing, if we bought it for $10 we would sell it for over $20, but we're not going to sell a CD for that much. But I've got 11 years of music retail experience at this point, so I've got a pretty good idea of price points and stuff. I still think it's crazy when I see a new CD come out and its list price is $18.99, it's like, do you guys know about iTunes? Unless it's some super-awesome new bonus edition.
Are music and physical products where most of your actual income still comes from, or are you trying to grow Sweat more as a general brand?
We already are a brand, for sure; we have our branded party, and we do outside events all the time. That's definitely super-important. We like selling records, and are glad it's happening. I don't know, I don't think we're huge self-promoting whores that much. We just do what we do, and provide what we provide.