Frankfurt's Freebase Records will close at the end of this month.
Freebase was founded in 1994 by DJs Carsten Schuchmann (AKA Meat) and Christopher Holz (AKA Chris Wood). In the decades since, it became central to Frankfurt's fertile house and techno scene, running a label offshoot while regularly hosting in-store gigs and employing many of the city's key DJs. Two of those DJs, Manuel Schatz and Phil Evans, will start a store of their own, Gosu, which will focus on second-hand music.
We caught up with Freebase founders Carsten Schuchmann and Christopher Holz for a chat about the record store business.
Freebase has been running for more than 20 years. You must have a lot of great memories from the store. What part of your job gave you the most satisfaction?
There are so many good memories from the last 21 years. First of all, we always loved to be one of the spots in Frankfurt where people came to meet friends and music lovers. Freebase was always the meeting point for people traveling from or to Frankfurt, for the local music scene and many more to have a chat or to check the last hot tunes before going to a play the night in a club.
In that time, the internet has completely changed how people consume music. What do physical record shops offer that an online experience can't?
We guess it's like we described it before: a record shop is the a meeting point for music connoisseurs, DJs, nerds and hangarounds. Something social platforms or online stores can also never replace is the taste of the guys working in the store, who bring their favourite sound to the customers. A physical store should work like a filter. We created a "Freebase Sound" over the last 20 years—that's why people come around and trust in our taste.
In other ways, the internet has also helped record stores sell goods online (Discogs, etc). Do you think the internet is being utilised as best as it can be, or are there still channels waiting to be explored?
We're not sure how it will continue with the internet and physical stores. We guess it depends on where your shop will be located. It will be hard for shops in smaller cities to survive. Discogs and all the other online global players are very powerful. A good collection with hard-to-get records is less valuable than it was some years ago. You can get almost every release online. Actually, we have no idea where it will end up. We hope all the nice little physical stores, not only record shops, will have enough power to survive against the digital and online world. But we're not sure if this will happen!
What's your take on the so-called vinyl resurgence? Has it resulted in more people buying vinyl from your store, or have sales remained steady?
Two or three years ago, when the vinyl resurgence began, it was more prevalent in the guitar, rock and classic music scene. You can see it clearly in the vinyl top charts—there are only reissues from old rock bands. But you can easily find all this "great old vinyls" in a second-hand store around the corner. The industry tried to make it more interesting with some heavy vinyl pressings and shit like this.
Anyhow, last year the resurgence arrived also in the electronic scene, resulting in higher sales. What we would love to see is that all the producers and DJs who want to see their productions on vinyl should play their vinyl too. Most of them just want their tracks on a physical piece, but play digital.
Do you have any advice for anyone out there hoping to start a record shop in today's environment?
Find your corner and never say to any little label owner, "Sorry guys, we don't take your stuff directly from you." Throughout the last 20 years, we always took releases directly from little labels who didn't have a distribution if the music was good. That’s what a indie record shop should be—a place where you find rare stuff with small printing editions. You'll only survive if you work like this.
Can you tell us more about the store some people from Freebase are going on to set up?
Two of our guys, Manuel Schatz and Phil Evans, who worked for Freebase last few years are going to open a new store called Gosu. It's going to open at the beginning of July, exactly when we're closing. They will focus more on the second-hand business, with a small selection of new releases. This will be the store where we'll find our new hotties to play!
Finally, you've seen a lot of Frankfurt DJs come and go. What do you think of the Frankfurt scene at the moment?
Frankfurt is not that important in the electronic music business anymore. Too many people from the scene have left in the last few years. That's also a reason why the record shop business hasn't been going well. Frankfurt is a nice little village where everybody knows everybody. That's nice and cosy in a way, but boring too. The club scene is very small and it doesn't look like it will become better in the near future. Frankfurt is the capital of money and the government is not willing to support an alternative music scene in any way. Nevertheless, we have an electronic music scene with new DJs and labels coming up. The next generation is working for Frankfurt, so let's see what the future brings.