Institution: Phonica

Our anniversary themed series of features wouldn’t be complete without including some time with one of London’s long-standing record shops. These establishments are the foundation and incubator’s of the capitals thriving music communities, and with largely dwindling numbers year-on-year, the role of those in a healthy position is crucial to the next generation of vinyl lovers.

Over the course of the last decade Soho’s Phonica have become one of London’s leading record stores, famed for stocking a wide range of music and for their regular in-store events; recent in-stores have featured Clone Records, Four Tet, Egyptian Lover, DaM-Funk, Night Slugs and many others.

We spoke to manager Simon Rigg about sales trends, hottest records, the importance of their online store and the highlights of Phonica’s ten years in the game.

Can you firstly give us a rough ten year timeline on how record store sales have fluctuated?
Despite all the headlines of the resurgence of vinyl, our vinyl sales have remained steady or slowly going down in the last 10 years. There was a dip around the start of the recession 2008/9 but now firmly back up to normal – healthy I’d say.

At the lowest point, was it hard to keep Phonica afloat?
It was never that bad to be honest, just a slight dip in sales.

How has your customer base changed over this time? Is it a younger demographic now?
No, not really, I’d say we have a dedicated customer base but over the last few years, we have had new younger customers in their early 20s who have started buying vinyl, buying or inheriting decks and really enjoy the vinyl experience as opposed to mp3s.

Do you think much will have changed for record shops ten years from now?
No, I don’t think so, I think this is the level we will continue at…

What have been the quickest records to sell-out over the last ten years?
Quickest or best-selling? Mmm, maybe the Burial /Thom Yorke / Four Tet releases, Joy Orbison… the ones with limited supply!

Have there been significant shifts in the most popular selling genre? If so, can you please describe how that’s changed?
Its still house that we sell most of, electro house (Mandy, Tiefschwarz etc) was the sound when we first opened along with Kompakt. Then more minimal sounds selling with Villalobos being the biggest seller, disco enjoyed its time in the spotlight with The Revenge’s ‘Night Flight’ being one of the biggies. Now, I’d say its across the board and harder to predict the big sellers. This year, its all about Bicep, Citizen, Daphni, Four Tet and Kon & Amir’s Cerrone edit.

How important is the Phonica online shop to your wellbeing?
I think its very important – its very hard not to have a website these days, its about 50/50 with the shop and the website but the website is a useful tool with those who visit the shop, as they come in with lists or pick orders up in store.

And finally, what have been the highlights of your time running Phonica?
Seeing the shop grow from nothing to be an established and well-respected name in electronic music. The in stores have been a lot of fun – I think my favourite was the Four Tet one where Kieran played for 3 and a half hours!


Richard Akingbehin