With the advent of the internet and the ushering in of the digital era, the concept of a local record store may seem outdated. But you know what's missing from those torrent files and streaming sites? A human touch, a hub for the musical community to convene with others who recognize and share their obsession with sounds. Radio-Active Records offers that, in brick and mortar, to those who need more than an MP3 to explore and enjoy all there is to music.
Radio-Active co-owner Mikey Ramirez tells New Times that his store doesn't waste resources on converting those who download music into those who may buy it. Rather, he says, "We focus on the market that exists, on the people that are passionate about music and care about independent artists and record stores."
With events like this month's meet-and-greet pizza party with alternative hip-hop supergroup Deltron 3030 and regular in-store performances, Radio-Active Records is not just a place to pick up vinyl; it has become Broward County's musical central nervous system.
Record Store Day 2014, with Sweet Bronco, Shotgun Betty, Bluebird, the Astrea Corporation, Deaf Poets, and Ketch Shuby and DJs. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 19, at Radio-Active Records, 845 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Entrance is free. Call 954-762-9488, or visit facebook.com/radioactiverecords.
We caught up with Ramirez and operations manager Natalie Martinez while they were in the midst of a local media blitz, promoting their store's upcoming Record Store Day lineup. The two had spent the previous afternoon at Florida Atlantic University's Owl Radio and were soon to sit down with public radio station WLRN that afternoon.
Since the beginning of the new year, Ramirez and Martinez have been prepping for Radio-Active Records' celebration on Saturday. Seven-hundred independently owned record stores in the U.S. and hundreds of similar stores internationally have joined forces for the past eight years annually to celebrate the unique culture and ambiance of the record store.
We asked Ramirez if RSD is bigger than Christmas for his store. "It is our Christmas," replied Ramirez in regard to the sheer volume that sells on this day.
"Should we start wearing Santa hats then?" quips Martinez. Ramirez laughs and tells us that the day comes with its share of headaches and stressors as well as perks. "Gray hairs are coming in now, but it's good; girls seem to like the George Clooney look."
Ramirez says he couldn't have pulled off this year's RSD without Martinez's help. He calls her "Queen Bee" (to his King Bee) and says she organized most of the event while he took more of a backseat, problem-solver-type role. With six acts on the bill, five DJs, outside vendors, free coffee and other beverages, and a live internet stream courtesy of Jolt Radio, it looks like Martinez really outdid herself for 2014.
"There is a little bit of everything for everyone," says Martinez of the evening's entertainment. She is also a fixture on the local music scene, having played with such local acts as the New and Beach Day, so she knows her shit. "I really strived to have a bill with diversity," she assures.
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Of the much-anticipated RSD releases themselves, Ramirez tells us he expects big things from Childish Gambino, a Ghostbusters ten-inch, a Cake box set, and a Notorious B.I.G. reissue. "And then there is the Dave Matthews box set, yet again," says Martinez. "They are always big sellers. DMB fans are diehards."
Ramirez, who looks every bit the part an independent-record-store manager, possesses the kind of business acumen of Marisa Mayer. He runs a tight ship at Radio-Active. His attention to detail has been one of the critical elements that has kept the store afloat during turbulent times in the industry.
Take the move from the store's old location in the Gateway Shopping Plaza to the new spot on Federal Highway back in November 2011. "With the move, we lowered our overhead and increased our exposure, a win-win," he notes. Ramirez says his new location is much more streamlined too. "Some people complained that we don't have couches anymore, but when you do the math, the extra square feet needed for these couches cost us thousands of dollars each year."
At the end of the day, Ramirez doesn't lose focus on what is paramount: keeping his clientele happy. "Customer service is first and foremost," Ramirez explains. "We never make anyone feel like they are not welcome; that is a stigma that has crippled record stores for years. High Fidelity is a novel. It's not reality."