When I was a Junior Writer at Lewis Communications in 2014 and 2015, we approached Daniel Drinkard at Seasick Records because several of us at Lewis are vinylphiles hoping to see the store succeed. It just so happened that Daniel had a couple big things on the horizon: a change in location to a much larger space and Record Store Day—the Black Friday of the vinyl industry. Daniel had a good base of regulars in the shop—a broad demographic from broke college kids on up to the older, wealthier, Over-the-Mountain crowd. Our priority was to craft a simple flyer to announce the location change. But because this was such a high-traffic day, we wanted to do something that would invite customers to think of Seasick as more than a record depot, to invite them to a conversation, to make them feel a part of.
The Gold Record
People wait out front for Record Store Day (RSD) to begin. Some sleep in tents overnight. The line goes around the corner and down the block. We played into that urgency with a scavenger hunt. We got some old, banged-up 45s, spray painted them gold, and slapped one of Daniel’s Seasick stickers on the front. In the week leading up to RSD, Daniel hid a record a day somewhere around Birmingham, took a picture with a little clue, posted it to Instagram, and sent people out to find it. We were going to let the first finders have a jump-start on RSD traffic, but the Organization of Independent Record Store Owners has strict rules against that sort of thing. It was a huge success. Seasick added about 200 Instagram followers in that week.
[Sadly, because of time, and because Seasick was a pro-bono project,
the following ideas never came to be, though Dan seemed to like them.]
Limited-Edition Rebus Puzzle Band Buttons
Daniel had a button machine sitting around and had the wise idea to make limited-edition buttons featuring Birmingham’s notorious nuisance, The Clairmont Sinkhole. He sold out in an afternoon. The only thing people like more than buttons is inside jokes, so we set out to exploit Daniel’s button-making capabilities. Taking what’s already been done with Mickey’s bottle caps and Narragansett coasters, we came up with some band-name rebus puzzles: printed as limited editions, posted to Instagram/Facebook, and ask follow-ers to solve the puzzle. First one who solves the puzzle gets the button. Or 5% off a record. Or a high-five.
(Black Keys, Faith No More, Blur)
The Tournament of Records
In our research, we found that the vast majority of record store websites are really terrible, if they exist at all. Daniel had a strong social media following and used his website mainly as a means to announce new releases and in-store shows. One misstep music store websites often make is starting a review blog they fail to maintain. But we also thought Seasick could establish itself as a thoughtful music resource while avoiding the pitfall of blog maintenance.
I suggested he borrow the successful format of the Morning News Tournament of Books—a bracket of the past year’s new releases featuring disparate books pitted against one another. The winner is judged by different authors. There’s even a Zombie Round. For Seasick, we get local musicians, writers, bloggers, etc. to write about the year’s new vinyl, with blow-by-blow commentary provided by Daniel and some whip smart lieutenant.
Daniel had established a relationship with the folks at Good People Brewery, and they even brewed a special Black Vinyl Ale they gave out for free at RSD. We wanted to come up with something that would be mutually beneficial to both of them and build that relationship.
Each month for Spin Class Daniel would invite three local musicians/music buffs to give a short talk about a record of their choosing: why it’s important, who it’s influenced, how it came to be, etc. The speaker would be provided with a turntable and the record they’re discussing. Hosting this at Good People, keeping the volume to a minimum, would allow people to come and go as they pleased. To listen for a bit, then go grab a beer. Or, if they happen to wander in just to grab a beer, Spin Class wouldn’t ruin their quiet night like a band would. And, obviously, it’d be a different venue for Daniel to sell some records.
To promote Newman’s Classic Cuts, which was also moving into the new Seasick space, we came up with some good music-themed haircuts: From the sensible “White Stripes” (three lines shaved into the side of the head) to the the embarrassing “James Taylor” (bald up top, long around the ears). The more ridiculous the do, the more money you save.