The meteoric rise of streaming services like Spotify and internet distribution channels have decimated sales of physical music products worldwide. Retail chains and department stores have almost stopped selling music in Finland all together. The digital transformation has been swift, and traditional record shops have almost gone the way of the dinosaur - but not quite.
The greater Kallio district of Helsinki is still home to a conclave of independent record shops. There’s Levykauppa Äx near Hakaniemi Market Square, Black and White and Hippie Shake Records near the busy street of Hämeentie, and Fennica Records, Goofin’ Records and newcomer Rolling Records near the Sörnäinen metro station. Three new stores are set to join them soon.
New and collectible vinyl records, along with second-hand rarities, are back in vogue and several young entrepreneurs say they are counting on business picking up.
Specialisation is key
The brick-and-mortar Combat Rock Shop on Vaasankatu specialises in heavy metal and its many derivatives. Jani Koskinen has just decided to hand the reins of the shop over to his former sales assistant, Jere Lehmus.
"Specialisation is the only way to survive in this business these days. All of the shops in the area have a distinct profile, which ends up being a plus for all of us. Most people listen to all sorts of music. A lot of them visit every store and find something in every one. As long as fans who love mucic and records find their way to Kallio, we all win," Koskinen said.
Koskinen’s decision to call it day was a blow to Lehmus, who decided to fulfill his dream and take over.
"It felt right from moment I made the decision. It would have left a terrible hole in Finland’s punk scene if a ground zero gathering place like this would have closed its doors," Lehmus said.
He’ll call the store Teen Wolf Records once he assumes ownership in September, but he doesn’t plan on changing the store’s concept much.
"I’m going to try to keep things the same. The shop has a good thing going, so I won’t change it. Maybe just a few things to make it look more like me," he said.
Mavericks every one
In October, journalist and DJ Anna Cadia will open her own outlet in the chain of Levykauppa Äx shops across the street on Vaasankatu. A Levykauppa Äx record store had been active in that spot for decades, but shut down about a year ago.
Cadia is not worried about how she’ll manage because she has faith in her prospects.
“Vaasankatu is a great area. Here the traditional brick-and-mortar stores have much more pulling power than in the Punavuori district, for example. I believe firmly in the ability of a good record shop to attract buying customers,” she said.
Cadia admits that the stereotypical record shop owner is a male music nerd who plays bass in a band on the side.
"The threshold is high for a woman to start running a record store, but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t think of my gender for a minute. I just thought ‘Yes! Yes! This is incredible!’"