Photos: Jon Riley
Opening any kind of independent business at the moment is tough, let alone a record shop. As pessimists ring yet another death-knell for the music industry, it would seem pointless to even try, right?
The recently opened Friendly Records, based on Bedminster’s North Street, are another flicked-V in the face of anyone who says that no-one buys music anymore. “The response we’ve had to opening the new shop would suggest there’s a lot of folk out there who consider local record shops to be important,” Tom Friend, owner and namesake, asserts.
Tom believes the duty of a local record shop stretches further than just having a records for sale: “I want my shop to be a place where local bands and people can come to meet, discover new music and new records. We’ve already had some great live in-stores and there are more planned, as well as Q&A’s with authors and photographers. As long as there’s some musical connection!”
While vinyl – the most common format the shop stocks – is enjoying increased interest again, Tom doesn’t “really consider it a rebirth. It’s never gone away, it’s just been out of fashion.” He adds: “The media’s preoccupation with the ‘vinyl revival’ is misleading and has definitely led to some elements I’m not so keen on. The major labels are certainly cashing in, often at the expense of smaller shops and bands.”
For Tom, records are a gateway to discovering new music, no matter what it is. He says his interest blossomed through a ‘Direct Hits’ compilation his dad gave him: “It was mostly crap but had a song by Pale Fountains called ‘Thank You’ that possibly got me into a lot of the bands I still love today.”
Shops like Friendly Records are not just a fad; they’re the result of a lifetime of passion. Tom gleefully says that he enjoys “being able to listen to music all day as part of the ‘job’” and seeing people wearing t-shirts with his shop’s logo on. But for Tom, just getting to open the shop is exciting enough.