For Greg Tonn, owner of Winnipeg’s premier vinyl destination Into the Music, staying afloat in the digital age is all about adaptability. The doors of the Osborne location may have closed, but with recent changes, the Exchange District location is regaining stamina as a hub for local creators, musicians and artists.
Since opening in the summer of 1987, the business has undergone multiple transformations to abide by the times. Tonn says the changes made in this last year have been some of the most profound of all.
“If we were still running the store like we did in 1987, we would’ve been dead years ago,” Tonn says. “It’s really all about understanding your customers. As things change with your customers, you need to adapt.”
Following the closure of the Osborne location due to a scarcity of second-hand record supply, Tonn called for customer feedback to evaluate what their next steps could be.
“One of the things we did was conduct surveys,” he says. “The purpose was to tell us who our customers were in terms of age group and, most importantly, where they were getting their information (about businesses) from. The other thing we did was a series of sit-down interviews with local DJs, record labels, people who run festivals and people who could give us insight on how to improve.”
The findings showed a generational gap between the store’s older and younger clientele. With rising vinyl prices and more folks turning to streaming services, Tonn realized more had to be done outside of boosting record sales to stay afloat.
“I really yearned for a connection with the local community,” Tonn says.
That’s when Olivia Norquay, a longtime employee of both Music Trader and Into the Music, stepped in. As Into the Music’s special events co-ordinator, she is the mastermind behind their new programming.
“We host weekly events, which have included performances from bands, film screenings and vintage pop-ups,” Norquay says. “It’s been really great, and so many new people have come in the store.”
In the next couple of weeks, the record-store-turned-arts-venue is bringing dozens of events to the table for arts enthusiasts of all sorts. In the tradition of First Fridays in the Exchange, a zine fair will be held on Oct. 4th.
“For Nuit Blanche, we’re hosting a bring-your-own-record party,” Norquay says. “I’m kind of thinking of it as a book club – but for records, where people can just bring a record that they like and play it on our turntables.”
Though trends and technology may change, a dedication to the local music and arts scene has proven to be a priceless investment.
“We’ve really opened up the space to be more for the community,” Norquay says.
Interested in hosting an event at Into the Music? Contact Olivia Norquay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Headed to Nuit Blanche on Saturday, Sept. 28th? Check out the Bring-Your-Own-Record Party at 245 McDermot Ave.
Published in Volume 74, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 26, 2019)