Sounds celebrated its 20th anniversary on 21 March. This makes the record shop on Nieuwlandstraat one of the longest serving shops in the Dwaal area. And especially in the age of Spotify and Youtube, owner Maarten sees that more and more people from Tilburg - young and old - visit his shop to search for fresh records. We talked to Maarten about searching for new bands, visiting celebrities and the magic of vinyl.
How did you start with Sounds?
Sounds used to be the more alternative branch of Music Stores, with shops in Rotterdam, Delft, Haarlem and Den Bosch. I was the manager of Sounds in Rotterdam and because I often visited Tilburg for love, I had been nagging the management for a while to open a shop in Tilburg. After a while, they agreed and found a suitable building on the Nieuwlandstraat. What I didn't know at the time was that we would be located opposite Tommy, one of the best record shops in the Netherlands!
On 21 March 2001, we opened here in the Nieuwlandstraat and soon the location turned out to be a good move. Being across the street from that famous record shop gave us some brand awareness.
And Sounds is currently your own business, right?
That's right. A good year after we opened, I got a call from the Music Stores. Whether I wanted to take over the shop. I didn't have to think about it for a second, I said yes straight away. In the meantime, we've been around for 20 years and I've been the owner for over 18 years. The nice thing is that the guys I hired back then are still working at Sounds. They are all in their forties now.
Then suddenly Sounds Tilburg was yours. Did you change much?
I did not have to, because even when we were still a chain, I did my own thing. Music Store wanted us to be a counterpart to Van Leest, but I refused. I wanted to be an alternative record shop. If Hitzone's or CDs by Marco Borsato came in, they went straight to the closet. I tried to distinguish myself with punk and metal. That worked well, because Tilburg is a real rock town. Soon we had a wall full of rock and a lot of people came to see it!
Is that still your specialism?
We're actually doing what you see at the festivals now. We like to sell records by bands that are still a bit under the radar. Those bands that you also see at Best Kept Secret, for example. Actually, we play Best Kept Secret all year long by playing and selling music of those lesser known bands here in the shop.
How do you discover those kind of bands?
In all kinds of ways. I follow some key people on Facebook who are on top of new music and of course I know which labels to keep an eye on. I read magazines, follow websites and of course I often talk about new music with clients. Sometimes I even get suggestions from my daughters. Two years ago, one of my daughters came up with Billy Eilish. I had never heard of him before, but his music turned out to be really good! We order it and play it in the shop. That attracts a younger audience.
So Sounds is an upcoming supporter of new bands?!
That's right! For example, we are often asked by bands to sell their records at concerts in 013 or the Effenaar. That's good for them, because we are in contact with the album charts. If we sell 600 CDs or LPs of a band, the record will certainly be in the top 5 of the album charts.
And do artists ever come to the shop?
Sure, we've done a lot of instores in the past. For Roadburn, we are usually a small stage and artists who perform there often come in their free time to have a look around here. Furthermore, big names such as Muse, Gregory Porter and Steve Vai have stood in here. For years, we have had a wall of shame with the celebrities who have been in here. We should really revive it.
Vinyl has made a huge comeback in recent years, what have you noticed?
The rise of downloading caused a brief dip in record sales around 2000. Many of the many music shops in the neighbourhood disappeared.
From 2005 onwards, sales slowly but surely picked up again. We started with just one box of vinyl, and now we sell boxes of singles, records, new and second-hand. On the one hand, we see that people over 50 like to come to Sounds because they get that old-fashioned record shop feeling again. On the other hand, we also see more and more younger fans. Where some people collect trainers or buy expensive trousers, there are also a lot of young people who like to spend their money on records.
What is it about?
The collecting, the having and the spinning. Spotify is handy, but otherwise there's no point.
I love to stand in front of my own record cabinet and think: I really feel like listening to this! When you take a record in your hands, you remember exactly when, where and why you bought it. That's a great feeling.
On another note, you have also been selling puzzles for a while now. How about that?
It started a bit as a gimmick. For Christmas 2019, I wanted to do something nice for regular customers who no longer know what to buy as a present. I was totally into puzzles of album covers, so I bought a lot of those then. I didn't quite guess right, because those puzzles didn't sell at all at first. Until the corona broke out and everyone suddenly started to puzzle. We then sold stacks of puzzles online!