Highlights of the season to come and the crazy year that it's been.
POP LIFE: HOLIDAY 2021
Four years ago tonight, I hosted two dozen friends in a new retail space that I had created called Pop Music. In many ways, it feels like we've been living this dream for much more than just four years and I attribute this to how much the brand has evolved since we first opened our doors on November 7th, 2017. I was shown so much love from the community, especially those first couple of years when our eCom growth strategy hadn't quite taken off. It's a true privilege to unlock the door every day, knowing how lucky I am that this dream of mine has found a place in so many people's lives.
2021 has not exactly gone as planned, something to be expected being that every business has had to adjust to what seemed like ever-changing rules and lockdowns. Again, we've been the lucky ones. We have developed such an enthusiastic fan base who chose to support the POP dream via the online store. I still can't believe we were closed last holiday season - those seven crucial weeks help fund our operations for the whole year, like they do for most small businesses. You helped us pull it out though and I am so excited to have fans shop with us in our retail store this season. We can't wait to show you what we've brought in!
Over the course of 2021, Pop Music has been raising funds for a handful of charity organizations in Canada. It's always been my vision to use our platform to bring awareness to social causes, and highlight the efforts of others who strive to enrich the lives of the communities they serve. Here's some ways we've paid it forward.
In February, Rhino Records created a Black History Month vinyl campaign that featured a dozen limited edition releases, I saw this an an opportunity to raise funds for B.A.N.D. (Black Artists' In Dialogue Network). Initially the plan was to donate 15% of sale proceeds of this campaign to their organization but in the end we donated $500, as that percentage just didn't feel like enough. This Instagram post is a great snapshot of how it all played out.
Our Instagram followers are the true stars of our charitable work with MusiCounts. Our first introduction to MusiCounts was through an initiative instigated by Record Store Day Canada a few years ago. Initially, we would just use these opportunities to raise awareness / funds for what the organization does, whether it was selling pins / totes and such at RSD events. What really stood out for us was that a lot of our customers didn't know much about MusiCounts or the role it plays in Canadian schools.
Where our relationship with MusiCounts has evolved to is now doing things on our own as a brand and using opportunities that present themselves to generate support. Pop Music is one of only a handful of record stores in Canada that doesn't resell vintage vinyl records. This doesn't stop fans from trying to get us to buy their old record collections though. However, what we've noticed is that people just want these old collections to find good homes and they donate them knowing that we will use them to fundraise for community organizations.
Despite being a lot of work on our end, we present these donated collections from time to time on Instagram and our followers enthusiastically bid on these auctions without even getting the full picture of what they are bidding on. It's the spirit of the auction that matters most, not necessarily how many gems are in the boxes. The rules are simple. The auction winner donates the amount of their winning 'bid' to MusiCounts directly. With our most recent vinyl drop off in September, we divided the collection into decades and as a result, raised way more money as fans were super generous with their offers. So far this year, we've been able to raise over $1000 for MusiCounts.
With Canada's first ever National Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30th, we chose to use one of our auctions to raise money for the Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto. Thanks to some generous bidding, this auction raised $565 for the organization. This incredible community centre provides a safe and welcoming environment for all Indigenous women and their children in the Greater Toronto Area. Their programs offer wrap around blanket services to address and support Basic Needs, Housing, Families, Advocacy, Employment, Education, Healing from Trauma, and Access to Ceremonies and Traditional Practitioners/ Healers.
THE NEW VINYL REALITY: Part 2
In the spring, we shared with you how challenging vinyl production has become. Since then, it's only got worse (and much more expensive). Like most industries, our supply chain has been deeply impacted by the pandemic. Alan Cross recently did a report for Global News that explains the issue fairly well. While he makes some great points about box sets and such taking up what very few resources the industry has available, he doesn't talk about how the we've allowed big box companies to cut deals with artists to release eight or nine different colour variants of their albums.
Amazon, Target and Wal-mart have never cared about vinyl until they realized that they could use the format to drive extra store traffic. It's exhausting how many questions we get from fans asking about 'this' exclusive colour they heard about, or 'that' exclusive variant given to X retailer. I'm so over it. We need to make black vinyl cool again until there's sufficient reason to go beyond that. In the words of RuPaul, can I get an AMEN up in here? Seriously, it has to stop.
As a result of the above points, this holiday season there is no key stock available for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and about another dozen legacy artists that we move so much of. This is the new vinyl reality, a slightly worse and much more expensive one that it was six months ago. That being said, what inspires us is the love we get from the fans and their incredible patience as we navigate the waters of seven different vinyl distributors to get them what they want.
As easy as it would be to feel slightly disenfranchised by all of this, we love the challenge this reality presents, and I go to bat every single week hunting for cool titles to present to our customers. That's the one great thing about our industry, the beat always goes on and there's always something coming out that acts as the perfect distraction for what we don't have.
RECORD STORE DAY: BLACK FRIDAY
Based on the reality outlined above, it should be no surprise that there isn't the resources to produce a huge list of exclusive titles like fans have come to expect. We've opted to purchase a much smaller spread of titles for this event as we feel there's a tremendous amount of liability if fans are not enticed to support these releases. Our hope is that this conservative offer only means that Record Store Day in April next year is loaded with exclusives that'll fans will be clamouring for a chance to own them.
As always, we publish our Record Store Day offer prior to each event, it's this transparency that has earned us the reputation of being one of Toronto's go-to places on RSD. There's definitely a few titles dropping on this event on November 26th that will generate some buzz. Time will tell though if fans are willing to get out of bed at 4am to score them though. Certainly expect to see some in-store and online promotions for select product categories. CyberPop Monday will return too.
2021: THE MOST POPULAR ALBUMS
At the start of September we posted our most popular albums of the year so far. It's always so fascinating pulling out these numbers, remembering how much work it was to promote these releases. People can talk about how great or how shit an album is, but at the end of the day, we are most interested in what outsells what. Can't wait to see how the last four months of 2021 impact these rankings.
UPDATED SHIPPING POLICY
2021 continues to challenge the sustainability of our shipping policies and it should be no surprise Canada Post as increased their costs numerous times throughout the year due to rising gas prices and workforce improvements. Ultimately when we implemented our original FREE SHIPPING thresholds in 2019, the costs to ship products across the country was much less. So rather than increase our prices, which was the alternative, we opted to implement a 2-tier system that reflected our shipping cost changes this past spring. In many cases, this literally just meant adding another record or tee to your order, if you lived in the eastern or western provinces.
Unfortunately, costs have gone up yet again in November due to unprecedented gas prices and we have to implement another change to the tiers for December. These thresholds are still significantly less than of our biggest independent competitors. We will revisit these tiers after the holiday season and hopefully revert back to our previous spend thresholds.
As of December 1st, 2021.
FREE Expedited Shipping on orders $109 or more:
Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec
FREE Expedited Shipping on orders $135 or more:
British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland / Labrador, and Saskatchewan.
One of the most exciting enhancements to our shipping practices has been the new record mailer that we have sourced from a small business operating out of Ontario. These new mailers offer much greater protection for shipping vinyl records, their one inch bumpers on each end prevent sleeve damage from occurring during transit.
THE BEAT STILL GOES ON
As the pandemic rollercoaster continues to wreak havoc in all of our lives, we can all agree that things are definitely much better than they were a year ago. It's inspiring how music became such an important soundtrack in our COVID existence and that so many fans added turntables into their homes.
While we don't have some crystal ball that will tell us when these supply chain challenges will end, what we always have is new music and new artists to discover. It's such a thrill to hear feedback from our customers about how much they love something we've recommended. We hope that we've been able to introduce you to albums that have become your favourites and to new artists that you can't wait to see perform live. This is the Pop Music difference.
I am so grateful that because of your support, I've been able to invest into my team. The legendary 'secret agent' Kristy Radford, who has become the other half of this unique brand. Our creative genius Stephen Fiset who has enriched our Pop cyber world in so many ways, and the development of my very first team member Patrick Lemieux, who has persevered through all the changes over the years.
Thank you for supporting this crazy dream of mine, it's impossible to put into words what it feels like to come to this magical space everyday. It's all because of you.