When the Rough Trade file retailer housed in a 10,000 sq. foot warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, announced it was closing and relocating in January, few may have imagined its new dwelling can be adjoining to the gleaming neon lights of NBC Studios and the towering marquee of Radio City Music Hall.
But beginning June 1, commuters (ought to they return) and vacationers exiting the subway at 49th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan will discover stacks of vinyl behind the window of the most recent Rough Trade record shop, at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
“Midtown certainly was not in the script,” mentioned Stephen Godfroy, one in all Rough Trade’s homeowners, in a video interview from his dwelling in Oxford, England, final week. “That’s what makes it exciting for us — to champion emerging artists in a place where people wouldn’t expect it.”
Last Tuesday, tubs of Sheetrock, energy instruments and a small dumpster nonetheless crammed the two,100-square-foot house — a former shoe retailer just below 1 / 4 of the dimensions of Rough Trade’s previous Williamsburg location — that may quickly home some 10,000 new vinyl data. The home windows dealing with out onto Avenue of the Americas had been lined in messaging from its new landlords, the actual property large Tishman Speyer, promoting an app known as Zo, which a consultant from the corporate described as its “tenant amenities platform.”
Rockefeller Center could seem a curious spot for Rough Trade, a store born of mid-1970s London counterculture that spun out right into a record label of the identical identify in 1978. But the Rough Trade shops of 2021 are by now a great distance faraway from their scrappy beginnings, having break up from the label in 1982.
“Not being obvious bedfellows, we had to look at the details,” mentioned Godfroy, who has been with Rough Trade since 2003. That included the specifics of the placement, sandwiched proper at road degree between the subway station and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
As with their different 4 retailers, all within the United Kingdom, the brand new Rough Trade will proceed to host reside occasions, however its companion will not be the live performance promoter the Bowery Presents. Instead, Rough Trade will likely be a part of the programming at Rockefeller Center, and its Midtown gigs will likely be held on the constructing’s 65th flooring within the ritzy Rainbow Room, and at surrounding areas such because the plaza and, in summertime, the ice skating rink.
Godfroy mentioned Rough Trade had been contemplating a transfer throughout the East River for the reason that summer season of 2019, to higher entry the ever-growing quantity of people that wish to purchase new releases and reissued favorites on wax. Weekday foot visitors was by no means nice in Williamsburg. (Not that Midtown is doing much better in the mean time.) And although Rough Trade had maintained its gross sales numbers on-line by means of 2020, the transfer was “really precipitated by the pandemic,” Godfroy mentioned, which put the need of protecting busy day by day “into sharp relief.”
While Midtown is usually synonymous with workplace towers and Broadway theaters, it additionally has a wealthy and various historical past of file shops — like the previous album- and sheet-music emporium Colony Records within the Brill Building, the eclectic D.J. hub Rock and Soul close to Penn Station and chains comparable to Disc-O-Mat. The hostile nature of Manhattan actual property has contributed to many shuttering this previous decade.
Tishman Speyer and Rough Trade declined to touch upon the specifics of Rough Trade’s lease. (Its Brooklyn spot, which it occupied for seven years, is presently obtainable to hire for about $50,000 a month.) But Ben Van Leeuwen, an proprietor of the shop’s soon-to-be neighbor at 30 Rock, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, mentioned his enterprise acquired a beneficiant deal even earlier than the pandemic, permitting it to open there in 2019 at a decrease danger.
“Tishman makes a lot of their money off the office space above,” mentioned Van Leeuwen, which creates flexibility for the ground-level shops. “I imagine there are a lot of bigger brands that would have taken that space in a heartbeat and paid a lot more than we’re paying,” he mentioned, however added that it was his understanding that the actual property firm needed to have storefronts that had been “local and more artisanal.”
Godfroy mentioned the shop’s vital downsize in sq. footage, coupled with its standing as a vacationer vacation spot, will imply that “the cost-benefit analysis is pretty much the same.” To bolster its smaller dimension, the store will use mechanical Vestaboard shows to share real-time gig ticket data, gross sales charts and music information — “They make that chk-chk-chk sound that you get sometimes in airports and train stations,” Godfroy mentioned — and it’ll additionally maintain data at a brand new on-line success heart in Greenpoint.
30 Rock was first known as the RCA Building when it opened in 1933, and a few misplaced New York City music lore lingers within the neighborhood. In the 1970s, the engineer Don Hünerberg rented a studio above Radio City — beforehand utilized by the NBC Symphony Orchestra — and the primary Blondie and Ramones albums had been tracked there. The avant-garde fixtures John Zorn and Glenn Branca additionally labored there, as did Sonic Youth for its 1982 debut EP. “The Rockettes would rehearse down the hall which always gave the place a certain ‘kick,’” Thurston Moore, a singer and guitarist for Sonic Youth, recalled in an electronic mail.
More not too long ago, the humanities house National Sawdust offered an “immersive, site-specific choral and movement piece” known as “The Gauntlet” at Rockefeller Center in 2019. The web station NTS Radio hosted reside broadcasts there that 12 months; it additionally packages, with full inventive management, the background music performed contained in the buildings.
Back in Brooklyn, the borough’s greatest file retailer is now Academy Records, which is presently situated in Greenpoint. Its proprietor, Mike Davis, mentioned that Rough Trade’s departure from the neighborhood had to this point not impacted his gross sales numbers. “We’re both ostensibly record stores, but we’re sort of in a different business,” he mentioned, noting Rough Trade’s emphasis on new releases and his personal retailer’s give attention to used vinyl. “They’re kind of catering to a slightly different market.”
Josh Madell, a former co-owner of the beloved, now-closed East Village store Other Music and the present head of artist and label technique at Secretly Distribution, proposed that this might be “a branding move” for Rough Trade, who may be wanting “to drive music fans to their web store as much as to their new brick and mortar shop.” (That’s not dissimilar to what occurred when Sub Pop opened its Sea-Tac Airport store in 2014, in keeping with the retail director there.)
Madell sees Rough Trade’s transfer as a constructive one for the unbiased music trade, at the same time as he finds it exhausting to think about native file heads touring to 30 Rock to flip by means of the stacks. “I don’t think that’s who they’re trying to attract,” Madell mentioned, noting that he had solely been to Rockefeller Center prior to now decade to go to the Lego retailer together with his daughter. “They’re reaching a different audience.”
“Vinyl’s not really an underground medium anymore,” he added.