Scott Ansill remembers selling 120 copies of Radiohead's Kid A at midnight the night it was released. "You don't see the same excitement of the music industry in early 2000 now," Ansill, the owner of South Street's Spaceboy Music record store, reminisced. "Who would line up today for a CD?"
With a humble and enthusiastic attitude, Ansill has decided to end his venerable store's nine-year run, opting for a bittersweet ending now rather than a more hostile departure in the future. "I could have stayed open for a few more years, but maybe then it was going to be a slow painful death," Ansill said with a chuckle.
Ansill began Spaceboy in 1998 as a CD exchange on the second floor of Zipperhead, a "legendary punk rock clothing store" on Fourth and South (which has since re-opened as Crash Bang Boom around the block). Before long, he expanded to street level, and for the next nine years, Spaceboy had a stable home. In 2005, the store moved three blocks up the road, where it operated until its final day on September 5.
Spaceboy catered to a wide variety of alternative music styles during its reign on South Street. "We were all over the map. We went from psych-rock to dub to indie rock," Ansill recalled. A letter taped to the window of the now-vacant storefront at 714 South states, "We will miss the excitement when bands like Notwist, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sigur Ros, Belle and Sebastian, Espers, RJD2, Sunn0))), Jack Rose and Radiohead were new and we could bring them to you."
Mike McKee, publisher of the former Rock Pile magazine, began publication in Spaceboy's basement in 2003 and continued through his magazine's final issue this summer. "They always did a really good job of seeking out new music for people who are genuinely excited about new artists, and getting them out and sharing it with people, which is what makes a cool record shop," McKee said.
At its height, Spaceboy hosted semi-regular in-store performances from the likes of Sean Lennon, Mohave Three, and Rocket From The Crypt. "It was kind of known as a party store years ago," Ansill said. "At any point in time you could walk by the store at midnight and it would be packed with people."
But recent declines in sales and customer enthusiasm spurred Ansill's decision to close. Though hesitant to lay the blame on any number of likely factors, Ansill demonstrated that today's music market often excludes the interests of the independent retailers. For example, while Matador records would have their new releases on the shelf at stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy for $7.99, "we would maybe pay eight something, close to $9 for the same thing," Ansill said. "Even the smaller, independent labels aren't really taking care of the independent stores that got them where they are."
But there are no hard feelings for Ansill, who chose to mark the closing of his store with neither ceremony nor sadness. "When it was time to shut down I didn't really sit back and think 'technology' or 'distribution' or any of that as the main factor. I just thought you know what, we had a cool record store on South Street for nine years, and maybe now I'll go try something else for nine more years"