For the record lover

Recently, the Manitoban was able to sit down and talk vinyl with one of the all-time Winnipeg record gurus, Greg Tonn, founder of the widely respected city institution Into the Music.

Manitoban: For people who may not be familiar with Into the Music can you give us a brief history?

Greg Tonn: Into the Music opened on July 17, 1987 at 801 Corydon Avenue (now Selim’s Antiques). Six hundred square feet held my own record collection of about 2000 LPs and maybe 100 cassettes. CDs had only just been introduced a couple years prior and vinyl was still king. Even then we were rethinking the role of a purely second hand record store. We were clean and organized, with a compact selection of stock short on junk (who wants to look at it) and long on gems. We sported the first listening stations and soon the first used CDs in town too.

By the summer of 1990 we outgrew Corydon and found a much larger space at the ghetto end of the Osborne Village. 167 Osborne Street was our home for 13 years and this was when the store really started to grow and gain in reputation. CDs began to grow into the largest part of our business. We started to bring in new releases, mostly imported rock, punk, blues and jazz. New vinyl releases were at a low point and the fear was they would disappear altogether (along with turntables, styluses, turntable repairs etc).

In 1999, we were nominated and won the Best Retail Store for the Prairie Provinces during the Prairie Music Awards. In 2003 we were not able to agree on a new lease at Osborne and we eventually found our present location, 245 McDermot Ave. With the new Red River Campus three blocks away and about to open, the buildings around us filling up with new and established businesses and better prospects for parking than our Osborne location, we were off to the races. Now, we are fully focused on what we do best: providing a full service alternative to the mainstream/corporate model with emphasis on vinyl LPs and seven-inchers, both new and collectible.

M: What made you decide to pursue the world of vinyl records as a career?

GT: I’ve always been a collector. I love the look and feel of a record and, of course, vinyl records have a long history of being collectible. The so-called practical advantage of CDs as a listening medium didn’t seduce me the way it did others who just got rid of all their vinyl. CDs do have some very useful values and I happily let them co-exist at home. However, I’ve personally always placed much more value on the vinyl object than the CD object, an individual choice.

So I’ve never really thought of “pursuing vinyl records as a career” as a choice (though clearly it is a choice on some level). It is something I’ve always done and enough folks have also made the vinyl choice so that has always been viable as a business career. I’m glad the world has caught up to all us long-time vinyl collectors.

M: Do you have any tips for new collectors?

GT: It’s our love of music that brought us to collecting, so if you do “collect,” then collect what you love (artists or genres, Christmas records or Japanese pic sleeve singles, etc). Collectors treat their collection with respect; keep it clean and in great shape. Find like-minded souls to share your collection with: listening sessions, revelling in the music, appreciate the artwork/packaging or the artist’s story. I love reading about music : reviews, blogs, old copies of Rolling Stone/Option/Wire, figuring out how the music I’m curious about fits into a larger movement or history. Music is an endless labyrinth of stories, ideas and personal histories.

M: Today many independent music stores struggle to stay in business. What do you feel has been the key to making Into the Music so successful all these years?

GT: Tough question and I can only take a guess at the answer. We’ve been pretty passionate about the music we love. We nurture as many personal relationships with folks as possible, and that seems to make the business of selling records more meaningful.

I have a combination of having a love of music/collecting, an ongoing curiosity of old and new music’s and enough of a business background to balance everything. Recognizing that our customers are interested in relating to music as an object (LPs, singles, CDs, tapes) and that the customers at independent music stores are educated, curious and eclectic makes the process of bringing in stock both a pleasure and an adventure.