Interview- Barry Roberts

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Barry Roberts owns Barry's Music, the local music store in the town that I work in, Radford, Virginia.  I've been going to Barry's to hang around, chat, steal information, get advice, and buy stuff for the past ten years or so.  It's awfully nice to have a local music store that is run by people you know and trust.  I thought it might be interesting, since he's such an integral part of any local musicians life,  to ask Barry some questions about how he sees the local music scene and about owning a music store.

 

I suppose it's a lot of musician's fantasy to own a music store so you could have access to basically any instrument or music thing you want.  How did you decide to actually act on that and open up a music store?

Since high school all I've done is work in music stores or played music on the road.  I have a few ex-band mate buddies that own music stores in East Tennessee, so I had the idea awhile before I decided to do this. Mostly about age 30 I thought I'd better get some stability in my life or I wouldn't make it to 40.

How has the internet affected your store? What I mean is, online
stores like Samash and Musiciansfriend etc. and Ebay.

The internet has given me some stiff competition, but having said that, I think the newness of it has worn off.  I find that lots of people have been ripped off and are just plain not satisfied with the service and products in general they have purchased via the internet.  Buying a guitar or any musical instrument in general is more romantic in a store I think.......people want to touch it, play it, and then take it home.

Sure, it seems to me that buying a guitar is something you'd only want to do in person. I see the romantic part there for sure. You need to hear how it sounds and feel how it plays before you decide whether or not you can make music with it. Your store is definitely about service I think, and I know first hand that you don't try to up-sell people.

      

 What sort of person is your standard customer? Since you're literally right next to a  university, do
you mostly cater to that crowd or do you have a more varied clientel?

Actually Bud to be very honest only about 20-25% of my gross comes from student business, most of my customers are local to the New River Valley. Lots of churches, local bands and just guys or girls that play at home.

 

Barry, you're everyone's friend as far as I know. I hear great things about you from people all the time when we talk about music stores. Do you ever have to weigh business and friendship and decide which is more important to you?

Wow!!!!  That's a hard question to answer........but I will start by saying that I love hearing that people think that of me because I really strive to be fair to everyone.  And I hope people realize that I have to make money to stay in business, but I always tell customers "I have to make money, but I don't have to make it all from you", meaning I don't give something away to one guy then double the profit margin to the next guy just to make up for it.  Sadly I think that goes on a lot in other stores.

 

I know you play now and have played a lot of music. What's your
band history?

I started playing guitar at age 14 1/2 after seeing KISS and thought I wanted to be Ace Frehley.  I started to learn drums at about 17 while playing in a band with a guy who at the time was giving my sister drum lessons, so I started to take a few myself and became a drummer in a few bands.  The drum video was done while I worked at Morrell Music in Bristol, just a beginner video I guess, nothing great.  I went back to playing guitar I guess because I like being a bit more mobile.  I've played in several bands in the last twenty five years and traveled a lot with these bands.  I guess my main claim to fame is that I've played every dive and honky-tonk east of the Mississippi and some west of it.

      

It seems like these days with equipment being so affordable, more and more bands are recording their own CDs. As a seller of these indie CDs, what is your impression of the impact these have on the music scene in
general?

I think in the year 2002 that is one of the great things
about modern technology.  Being able to get your music to the masses.

Sure, people can now record and produce their own stuff easily and
press cds. How do you think the public views this though. Is it your
impression that the buying public sees a CD on the shelf and thinks, "Oh
there's a CD I think I'll buy it." or do you think they look at the CD and
think "Oh there's a CD. I think before I buy it I'll look to see which well
known label released it." You know what I'm saying? Do you think the public seperates the indie CD from the label CD in their buying mind, and do you think it matters to the public?

I think people do separate indie and label groups,but there are people that  in my store at least that buy only idie/local CDs.

 

You deal with a lot of bands and their equipment needs, so you hear all their gig stories both before and after. Based on that, what is your impression of the public support of local and indie music?

Sadly I think local support is on the decline for this kind of thing, not sure why other than most kids age 15-23 are into more dj-tecno-rap kind of thing I guess.

 

            

 

    

 

I see it the same way. I've always wondered this though. I hear from a lot of people that the music scene is great in this place or that place, but I look at it here and just don't see it that way at all anymore. So I was thinking, since we're a college town and have another college town 15 miles away, maybe the listener base is in the constant 18-23 year old range and they just want something different that what we're giving them in terms of live music. Do you think that the falling off of local support for live music could be some combination of bands not incorporating the dj-techno-rap thing into the music?

Oh sure, there doesn't seem to be an interest really in doing that sort of thing among local bands though.

As a long time musician and a music store owner, what advice would you give an up an coming band these days?

Advice???? Buy as much equipment from Barry's Music as you can afford........just kidding.  I would say be patient, and be diligent, it usually is a long tiring process from the basement to the big stage and most people aren't willing to sacrifice the time and money for the long haul.

 

Do you find that people tend to buy what you have on the shelf or do
people come in with special orders a lot?

I'd say the majority of people buy stuff off of the shelf, but we do a lot of  special orders also.

What's the market on used stuff? I know you've got a whole floor of
your store for used stuff. Do a lot of people buy and sell used equipment?

Used equipment is great.  Your typical musician is looking for a bargain, so my used section gets lots of attention. We buy some and take lots more in on trade.

Does there seem to be any one sort of music that's more popular to
play these days than anything else? How about you, what kinds of music do
you like to play the most?

Yeah I think the kids are into a lot of different kinds of music of which sadly I'm not very familiar with.  Ii personally like a lot of 70's bands such as RUSH,YES,ELP, mostly prog rock I think it's called.  Lately I've played mostly in modern country/classic rock bands.  Kinda funny how lots of Steve Howe (YES) and Ritchie Blackmore (DEEP PURPLE) licks are actually country influenced.

2002 Bud Bennett