Two friends walk into a record shop...
It's Summer, 2003. Vinyl is dead. Music is sold by the song for 99 cents or pirated. 3 Doors Down dominates the airwaves. There is much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It sounds bleak, but for me and John these were the halcyon days of our teens. That record shop was an oasis of culture in our suburban desert, a place where music folks like us could geek out and feel cool at the same time. And this shop was fighting to keep vinyl culture alive, in spite of the state of the industry at the time. Wherever I go in life, a part of me will always be back there, digging through the new releases and eavesdropping on the older hipsters.
So fifteen years and a lot of life went by, and I found myself living in an RV. I traveled the country and saw the sights. I tried out some half baked business ideas. I learned to code (sort of). And the more I learned about business and technology, the closer I felt to that record shop in my hometown. Because I believe the record shop of the future will look a lot like the record shop of 2003. At least on the surface. But twenty years of tech advancements means so many opportunities for improvement in the record shopping, collecting, and listening experiences. I was beginning to formulate the germ of an idea for what Thirdhand might become.
I was staying at a campground in South Haven, Michigan and John came to visit. At that point I think the idea was something like a marketplace for record stores. I don't remember pitching John on it but I'll never forget when he told me he was all in. I had a partner, and Thirdhand had a second wheel.
The next week we got to work calling record stores and talking to owners, we incorporated, and I started building a prototype in Django. Pretty soon, though, we realized we'd rather be selling records ourselves than helping other people sell them. Maybe someday we'd get back to helping others sell, but for the moment we had a singular focus: sell records online to work towards a brick and mortar. And that focus continues to guide us.
Like many of the great record dealers, we got our feet wet by listing spares from our own collection on Discogs and other marketplaces. Soon we got our own site and a pipeline of new and used records. We taught ourselves marketing. We experimented with dropshipping on Amazon and sold like a hundred copies of Rumours in a day (but lost money on it). We learned. We messed up. We learned some more.
One of the great joys in our journey so far has been doing pop-ups and record fairs. We love to get face to face with record collectors and other dealers and talk music. We may not have our brick and mortar yet, but we are out there in the real world doing the real work.
The future is bright and our story is just starting. Thanks for being a part.
- Bill Neylon, Thirdhand Records