Rule 1: Everyone Talks About Album Club

The following article was first published in the January 2019 edition of Viva Lewes magazine:

Back in June 2018, music publicist Del Day and musician Danny George took over Union Music Store from founders Stevie and Jamie Freeman. In some ways, little has changed. It’s still very much the antidote to mainstream online retailing: a local record shop where the owners love discovering new music and sharing their knowledge. Despite this, they’re also happy to order anything you want. “We’re not snobs but we’ve only got a certain amount of space to play with”, Danny admits. It’s what Del describes as a curated approach. “We want it to be a shop where you can pick a record up and we go ‘that’s a great record’ and genuinely mean it. It’s becoming a little arts hub here for us – and we’d like to extend that.”

Del and Danny at Union Music Store. (Photo: Mark Bridge for Viva Lewes)

Look closer and you’ll spot a broadening of genres, heralded on my visit by the jazz trumpet of Lee Morgan greeting me as I walked through the door. “Since we moved in we’ve expanded the range of stock”, Del tells me, “so rather than just being a specialist Americana/country shop, we’ve now got world, jazz, blues, some classic rock and a lot more interesting left-field records.” You’ll also discover loads more vinyl albums – “we’re probably 80% new and used vinyl” – and, if you turn up on the last Wednesday evening of any given month, there’s a good chance you’ll find a session of the shop’s Album Club taking place.

Album Club is “essentially like a book club”, Del explains, attracting an even mix of men and women. You buy a copy of the month’s chosen album – obviously the shop would appreciate your custom but what’s more important to them is that people obtain a physical copy rather than relying on streaming services – and you listen to it as much as you can. “It’s about embracing the art form again and actually cherishing buying the record. And this gives you a chance to reinforce that.” Whoever turns up for the meeting will find the kettle on and beer in the fridge. “We meet in here at 7.30pm, we play back the record and we discuss it for about two hours”, says Del. “It’s basically a chance to nourish that artistic element in your head.” There’s no fee and no obligation to stay until the end.

Union Music Store has hosted five album club meetings so far, from Damien Jurado to Janelle Monáe. January’s meeting will be listening to Merrie Men, the latest album from supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen. Yes, it’s a diverse collection – but what’s the point? Del has a characteristically matter-of-fact answer. “It’s a little bit of publicity for our shop, it’s a way of embracing the art form, which we think is really important, and it’s also a social event. It’s immensely enjoyable. I really look forward to it.”

Union Music Store, 1 Lansdown Place, Lewes.