Ask anyone under 30: Record stores are obsolete. Walking into a record store and scanning the racks of vinyl records is a vintage pastime that is now mostly practiced by modern-day hippies and hipsters wearing horn-rimmed glasses and skinny jeans.
However, some stores across the country have been able to keep their doors open, and retain the culture of shopping for music in an intimate way. Richmond has one of these stores in the heart of Carytown. Plan 9 Records, on West Cary Street, is one of those.
Plan 9 Records has been open to the musicians and music lovers of Richmond for 35 years. Today the stores carries everything from Taylor Swift to Sonic Youth to Coleman Hawkins; from new and used CDs to long-playing vinyl records.
Yet Plan 9 is not just a place to buy music; it is a performance venue, a salon for musical discussion and a place to catch a break—exactly what founder Jim Bland had in mind when he opened the store in 1981. Back then he established a special deal with local musicians and bands. Bands can bring their recordings to Plan 9, set a price for Plan 9 to buy it, and then Plan 9 sells it for a lower percentage of what they would sell other music for. In this way Plan 9 can pay the musicians more for their recordings.
“We have always had musicians coming through here, and we try to support them in anyway we can,” said Bob Schick, a buyer for Plan 9. Schick started working at Plan 9 33 years ago, when he was 19. He left Indiana when he was 18, and chose Richmond as a place to settle. From there he entered the Richmond music scene.
Schick stopped playing in local bands in 2000, he said. He was the singer for Honor Role and The Dynamic Truths, two college rock/punk bands.
Over the past three decades, Schick and Bland have seen the local music scene change and evolve. They both agree that Richmond is hot right now. There are more Richmond musicians signed to major labels today than either man has seen for the past 30 years.
They attribute this success, in one way, to the availability of venues. When Schick first arrived in Richmond, he said, there was only one venue at a time that would host live performances. Now, there are dozens of clubs with live music, from big venues like The National, to smaller settings like The Camel Club.
“You can find something to do practically every night,” he said.
Another factor, Schick said, is location. Richmond, Virginia is middle of the eastern seaboard. Living here, big cities like Washington D.C., Raleigh, North Carolina and New York City are shorter drives away. So bands spend less time and money traveling to bigger cities and venues from Richmond.
Plan 9 Records has been the unofficial patron of Richmond musicians for 35 years. And if Bland and Schick have anything to do with it, Plan 9 will remain, watching the Richmond music scene evolve, from its two bay windows on Cary Street.