Just as Fran Jones opened his independent record shop in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, Britain entered two lockdowns and an enforced Christmas closure. It seemed that the timing couldn’t be worse.
But Black Star Records is also an online community of analogue music lovers, and as consumers increasingly reconnect with vinyl, the idea of collecting and owning music and supporting artists who were affected so badly by Covid 19 began to take shape.
One year on, Black Star Records has teamed up with Ocean to help turn that community into a crowdfunding platform to invest in unsigned and emerging musicians.
The collaboration has launched with Be a Black Star, an outdoor ad campaign appearing now on Ocean screens in UK cities, supporting the message that owning the art by buying vinyl helps musicians and emerging artists more directly than streaming platforms.
Club membership is free and to reach the next stage the goal is 1500 members (Black Star Records is already at 850) using the outdoor ads to create awareness.
Ocean chief marketing officer and vinyl collector Richard Malton said: “A strange phenomenon happened during Covid. People were reconnecting with the simpler things they use to do, hear and watch. Collecting and owning records was one of them. The concept of owning the art and seeing the money flow back to the artist, therefore supporting the artists rather than a streaming service paying $0.003 to $0.005 per play, is very appealing.”
There’s the sustainability argument too. Buying and owing recycled eco wax vinyl for a lifetime is more sustainable than streaming a track. The average streaming platform manages 20,000 servers daily to maintain its service.
By comparison, Fran cites a 65-year-old Beatles album that still plays as well today. Vinyl is carbon locked.
Now Black Star Records is supporting the music industry’s 2030 wider environmental goals by becoming the first independent record shop to join Earth Percent, Brian Eno’s charity which is addressing the music industry’s own impact and commitment to climate goals.
Fran said: “Vinyl sales help the artists and more importantly emerging artists more directly than the streaming platforms. We also work hard to make sure that we are the best priced new release records in the UK, beating the online giants. As a club we also guarantee the indie only versions of the vinyl. Then we support the community to connect directly – writing blogs, reviews, attending gigs together and sharing in live music.
“When we get to 1500 members the club will turn into a crowdfunding platform. Where we will invite emerging and unsigned artists to come and meet the virtual community. Share what they do. Then we can invest directly into the artists to support them on their journey. Remember you only have to sell 1,500 records to get into the Top 40.
“That might be an initial self-release, funding merchandise or planning a tour by ensuring a certain number of tickets are sold. We don’t want to be a record label, but we do want to be an analogue community of digital supporters, using our love and passion for collecting music and vinyl.”
Fran’s aim is to ultimately turn the community into a co-operative. With the help of Ocean, his vision is a step closer.