Rick Zeigler finds success selling music in Broad Ripple
Three years ago, Rick Zeigler moved to Indianapolis from Salt Lake City with his family, a few thousand CDs and a hope that there was room for one more independent music retailer in the city.
It turns out that he needn't have worried. The Broad Ripple store, Indy CD and Vinyl, has become an institution in the city, alongside other great locally-owned stores such as Vibes, Luna and Rockin' Billy's. Zeigler now stocks 20,000 titles and has signed up 1,000 paying members to the store's discount club.
To celebrate his third anniversary, he's putting on an in-store music jam starting at noon on Saturday and lasting until 10 p.m. "It'll have more stars than this year's Battle of the Bands," one local musician joked.
Scheduled to play are local A-listers such as The Slurs, The Mudkids, Loretta, 7DFC and Vess Ruthenberg, along with up-and-coming acts such as Thin Fevers, Svetlana and Anapparatus.
"I picked those bands for a variety of reasons. I think that some of those bands are the best in the city. They were familiar with the store and we were familiar with them, and they said yes," Zeigler says. "Everybody I approached said yes, actually."
His decision to pack up his store in Utah had nothing to do with business, he says.
"Things were going famously in Salt Lake City because there weren't any other indie stores. But the public schools were horrible there and I wanted my son to get a better education. I grew up in Muncie, and I knew that if this kind of store was going to work, it had to be in Broad Ripple. Luckily I found a space."
Occupying the space that once housed a stationery store, he opened up shop in April 2002. "I knew there were other indie stores and that we'd face big competition. But we had to do it. We had to move and I didn't want to go back to being a clinical psychologist. I like selling music a lot better."
He doesn't see a great difference between his Salt Lake City customers and their Indiana counterparts. "The indie-rock scene is the indie-rock scene," he says. "We always sell Spoon. There was more of a folk and world music scene in Salt Lake. They didn't know who Marshall Tucker is. There's more of a Southern rock feeling to this town."
One thing holding back the development of a music scene is the lack of radio support for non-mainstream rock, he says.
"Unfortunately, we don't have a solid radio station to play indie-rock. In Salt Lake, there is a community radio station that would play all kinds of music. Here, we have some good shows and WTTS plays good music but there's no college station that plays music."
The store's close location to the Patio and the Vogue have made it an ideal location for live in-store appearances by acts playing those venues. It allows the bands to reach an all-ages crowd and maybe sell a few discs at the same time.
"It doesn't necessarily help sales that much," he says. "I want it to be a live presentation of music. I sell the stuff all the time, so I don't make a big effort to really push the product of the people coming in. My experience is that the acts appreciate that low-key approach."
And although he's in direct competition with other local independent stores, he says he gets along well with the owners of the other stores, since they're all in the same boat.
He gets a laugh when he reads articles predicting the demise of the recorded-music industry. "When I opened my Salt Lake store in 1995, everybody was saying that in three years, nobody will buy CDs. Then the dot-com boom in the late '90s came and everybody said, 'In three years, nobody will go out shopping for CDs.' Now, with iPod, they're saying the same thing. Who knows. In 20 years, I may be a blacksmith but I doubt it.
"I don't know how it balances out, but the Internet, I think, helps sales because it gives people more information and a chance to get more information on bands before they buy. You look at the Internet sales charts and it looks like most of the buyers are older, which is sad because we carry a lot of items that would appeal to people older than 30: lots of jazz, folk and bluegrass. That's been a hard crowd to attract, because I think those people have given up on going to record stores because, when they do, all they hear is hard rock and hip-hop."
He says the music business is consolidating into the big-box discount stores, such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart, and independent stores such as his. He has to live with the fact that the giants can undercut him on prices, so he makes up for it by carrying a wider variety of titles and hiring clerks who know their music.
"I know the reason why other stores don't carry so many titles," he says. "They have to sell X amount of units. But, to me, if you don't have any Sly and the Family Stone in your store, then you don't really know your music. It's the same with The Band's music and Coltrane and having a big Coltrane section. I never really considered having anything but a wide selection of the bands I consider true artists.
"I stopped paying attention to the Billboard Top 200 album charts a long time ago," he says. Customers drive demand to carry certain artists, too, of course. And they influenced his decision to carry plenty of vinyl selections.
"People here buy a lot of vinyl, much more so than in Utah," he says. "And customers will come in and ask why we don't carry certain artists, like Joe Bonamassa. I'd never heard of him before a customer asked for him. He's a hell of a guitarist, though, and I stocked him and he started selling. So there you go."
With his business thriving, and his son safely enrolled in Indiana schools, he seems happy but slightly surprised that things appear to have gone so well for him in such a short time. "I never expected to be back in Indiana, but it's nice. It's a good place to have a family. I like having a store in Broad Ripple. I like coming in every day and being here. It's a comfortable environment. I'm happy here."