St Albans’ new record store rides vinyl revival wave

Derek Watson by a selection of vinyl records

Derek Watson by a selection of vinyl records - Credit: Archant

THE city has been hit with an avalanche of shop closures recently, with white-washed windows and shadows of old store lettering a familiar sight in St Peter’s Street.

The disappearance of HMV felt like the death of music in the district – “Where on earth will we get our music from now?” was a question that regularly peppered conversations of shoppers trawling from door-to-door.

But an unsuspected saviour has emerged, armed with the credentials and creativity to save the limp, local music trade and laugh in the face of high street adversity. Cue Empire Records, the brainchild of comic store hero Derek Watson, who also runs Chaos City in Heritage Close.

His mantra for opening the independent record store is pretty simple: “The idea was to see if I could do something in response to HMV closing, and at the same time do something that the town hadn’t had for a long time. I just want to give it a go, I think there’s a demographic for it.”

With only two days to go before the shop opens, anticipation for the new enterprise is heating up on social media channels and Derek’s own excitement is apparent.

“I think it’s going to appeal to a wide range of people”, he mused. “I’m aware that there’s a kind of gap in the market for older music lovers and for things like jazz and classical music. I’m happy to cater for that as well.”

Music purists will be pleased to hear that Empire Records, which takes its name from the 1995 film, will focus on vinyl and will even sell Steepletone record players.

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Derek said the music medium is the only growth market in the industry at the moment, with sales up 60 per cent year on year.

Audio addicts will also be able to pick up t-shirts and posters alongside CDs – both new and second-hand – and the High Street’s latest addition will no doubt be a haven for great finds, especially with such a self-professed music-lover at the helm.

“I love it; it’s a passion of mine. I like all sorts of music and I’m not focused on one genre.”

Interest in the shop sky-rocketed as soon as the Empire Records Facebook page went live and several record players have already found a new home. Derek explained: “People are looking forward to it and saying just how much they miss listening to real music.”

It may be the shop has the potential to mold the music scene in St Albans too, as Derek said the shop will be hosting live acts every Saturday, adding: “It’s nice to give them [local bands] a voice.”

The weekly performances will kick off on the launch day this weekend with local band Chameleon Boy, who will do an acoustic set at 1pm this Saturday, May 18.