Tanner Early, Guest Writer
Walking down Manchester Road, you may wander into a small, unobtrusive music shop. You’ll find the walls lined with vinyl albums on display all around and bays of cds filling the shop’s center. Classic rock artists—Lou Reed, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin—play overhead with just the slightest hiss of static from the record escaping into the songs. This isn’t a record store from decades past, but in 2019. You’re at Planet Score Records.
Planet Score Records opened in October 2015, when its owners, Joe Stulce and Tim Lohmann, purchased a store in Hazelwood formerly known as Record Reunion. Stulce had frequented Record Reunion as a customer and later worked there as an employee, eventually becoming a manager. Lohmann and Stulce soon decided a new location would bring improvements for the business.
“We always knew we wanted to move it out of the dead strip mall in Hazelwood, where it had stood since the 80s. We had the idea that it could thrive with a rebranding and a move to a better location,” said Stulce, “We found the perfect spot in the Maplewood shopping district and put our plan into motion.”
The name Planet Score is derived from a song by the band Guided By Voices. The song in particular concerns record stores existing in current times. Stulce believed that song to be the lead singer Rob Pollard’s “love letter to independent record stores.” Pollard himself was involved in the naming of the store. After hearing of the potential store name inspired by his song, he gave official permission for Lohmann and Stulce to name Planet Score Records before they even had to ask.
One may wonder how a record store exists when current trends appear to be in downloading music digitally or streaming it. According to Stulce, the idea of competing with other platforms isn’t a serious factor for his business. In fact, it benefits their sales.
“In some ways, I think easier access to music instantaneously can be beneficial to physical media sales. I see a lot of shoppers looking up music on their phone to test out before purchasing a record. Suppose you see an eye catching album cover, or a band or artist that you may have heard of, but not yet listened to. You get a sample of their sound, and if you dig it you can buy the record right there,” Stulce said.
Stulce went on to explain that people who download music exclusively wouldn’t appear in their stores, so they aren’t a concern. To them, music is music no matter how you consume it. Artists often make more from physical media sales than from streaming platforms. But even with the knowledge of how a record store is organized and the trends displayed by its shoppers, there is a question of how record stores and vinyl came back into the mainstream. Compact disks and streaming had presumably taken over the market.
“I think part of [vinyl’s] revival could be a backlash against digital and streaming making music seem disposable and fleeting. Vinyl can last forever if taken care of properly. You can have a brand new record, fresh off the press, sitting next to a 50-60 year old album, and that’s just cool,” said Stulce.
As a whole, vinyl records take in the highest sales for Planet Score, but CDs occasionally match those sales or even surpass vinyl. What makes the store standout among others is that the staff exclusively consists of Lohmann and Stulce. One or both of them are present in the store at all times. Stulce emphasized that first and foremost the pair are music lovers. Customer service is key in their work and sharing a love of music is very satisfying for them.
Reflecting on Planet Score’s success, Stulce said, “Access to music has never been as easy as it is now. And with technology always evolving, who knows where the future of non-physical media is heading. We keep this in mind, as now everyone who comes to the store is choosing to not follow the latest trends in music consumption, and to us that is well respected. Being around fellow music lovers all day, conversing about bands…that is what it’s all about. It’s a record store, and every visit should be a magical experience.”