NATASHA Youngs is the co-founder of the Resident Music record store in Brighton with her husband Derry Watkins. To celebrate the 10th annual Record Store Day, the shop is hosting a line-up of live music and issuing over 500 exclusive vinyl releases. Youngs told EDWIN GILSON about the challenges facing her store and running a business with her husband.

It sounds pretty hectic to co-ordinate over 500 independent vinyl releases for this day. Does the team work overtime in the weeks leading up to it?

Yeah. It’s pretty intense but we’re quite good at this now. 10 years in and we’ve got the planning pretty much nailed, so it gets a little easier every year in terms of stress levels. The workload doesn’t diminish though and the whole team give a heck of a lot to make this event work.

You say an extra 1000 visitors will be heading to Resident for the day. Do you mean they’ll be flocking from further afield than Brighton?

Brighton has a huge catchment area and because we stock 85 – 90 percent of the releases in such healthy quantities. We have a reputation as a really good place to come for the day. We go out of our way to look after our customers and to make it about so much more than the releases.

It seems like you’ve made an effort to make a trip to Resident an immersive experience, with touches such as staff album recommendations and descriptions. Are you keen to make that connection between your staff and customers?

Absolutely. A successful record shop lives or dies by the curation and presentation of its stock and the communication between the people that work there and the customers. We need to be offering much more than you can get by sitting on your bum ordering records online. Human interaction, connection, communication, recommendations and in-store atmosphere are all crucial. We work hard on all these aspects.

Recently a study found that vinyl sales had outstripped downloads but streaming was still the most popular source of listening to music. To what extent do you streaming as a threat to physical record sales?

Streaming is only the same as listening to the radio to be honest; just more focused. It actually serves rather well as a promotional tool a lot of the time. We’ve lost count of the amount of people who say “I’ve been listening to this on Spotify so I’ve come in to get a copy” or “I heard this on the radio, it’s great so can I get a copy please?”

Was there ever a time when you felt like Resident was in danger due to a lack of record sales, or have you always had enough custom to sustain the store?

To be honest, the biggest threat to our business isn’t lack of sales (we can adapt) but rather the ever increasing cost of running an independent and small business. Massive rate increases, wage increases, pension commitments, utilities, rent and more. It’s terrifying. Running a small business feels increasingly unsupported these days. We’re genuinely worried what this will do to our high streets and especially to great areas of independent shopping like the North Laine.

Do you think you’ve seen more custom since the closure of HMV recently? Did you ever see yourself as in direct competition with them or did you think the two stores attracted different demographics?

I think we needed each other. The high street needs HMV. We stocked quite different music and formats, although there was obviously cross over). Being based in Churchill Square they attracted a very different demographic. We used to send customers each other’s way for things we couldn’t help them with.

On a more personal note, what’s it like running a record store with your partner? Can it ever be a bit of a strain or is it nice to have that shared passion? Or a bit of both?

Both! It can be difficult not to talk “shop” over dinner every night; we do struggle to switch off. But then we don’t get that situation where we just smile and nod at each other’s tales of work woes like so many couples. Derry is a smart business man and his thirst for discovering brilliant new music never wanes. We make a good team. I can’t imagine doing this without him, or indeed with anyone else.

Where do you see Resident going in the future? Obviously you had the extension not so long ago - are you happy with how things are ticking over at the moment?

We’re very happy with where we are right now. We’re just concentrating on honing the smooth running of the physical shop and the website but there are always things in the pipeline. We’d ideally like to just get things to a manageable workload level so that we can take a proper family holiday this summer.

What’s on at Resident Music on RSD?

Acoustic in-store performances from Holly Macve (8am), Robb Johnson (8.45am) and British Sea Power (6.30pm, plus signing). 

Of the line-up, Youngs said: “Holly Macve is signed to (record lable) Bella Union which is essentially an instant seal of approval in our eyes. She also happens to be local, has a wonderful debut album out now and did a little last minute in-store for us the weekend it came out. She’s very much on our radar. Robb Johnson is also local, a great supporter of RSD and has played for the event before. 

"We do feel a responsibility to promote local music but, to be honest, we are blessed with so many switched on promoters in Brighton that this responsibility isn’t solely ours.”

Natasha Youngs' Top 5 releases for RSD

“The releases we are most excited for outside of the usual heavy hitting heritage acts (Bowie, Springsteen, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, U2) are:
The War On Drugs new 12”
Cabbage’s debut album on double orange vinyl
A brand new 7” from The The
The reissue of Elastica’s debut album with a flexi-disc & fanzine
A brand new 4 track EP from The Comet is Coming
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Cornelius collaboration”

About Record Store Day

RSD is the one day of the year when over 200 independent record shops all across the UK come together to celebrate their unique culture. Special vinyl releases are made exclusively and many shops and cities host artist performances and events to mark the occasion. 
Thousands more shops celebrate the day around the globe in what has become one of the biggest annual events on the music calendar. Other participants in the event in Brighton are Rarekind Records in Trafalgar Street and Cult Hero records on North Street.