Notes From A Record Store: Sister Ray

Sister Ray is a Soho institution – but, these days, it’s not just about Soho.

The much-loved UK indie music retailer expanded into London’s Shoreditch in 2014, opening a vinyl-only boutique outlet in the area’s trendy ACE hotel.

The Independent Echo caught up with Sister Ray boss Phil Barton (pictured, centre) to ask about the state of music retail as we move into 2016…


How has business been in the past year, and how is the landscape for independent retail looking more generally?

Business is up and remains pretty buoyant. Although for a store that specialises in vinyl you would hope so!

Independent music retail is looking healthy – I say this as a medium term prospect.

The next five years should be okay.

It’s impossible to plan beyond this as technology and fashion move too quickly.


What remains special to you about working in independent music retail?

For me, there will always be something truly magical about record stores. I think it’s in my DNA.

If I wanted to be successful and comfortable I’m in the wrong game but I get huge satisfaction out of Sister Ray.

I am proud of the shop and what we offer.


As they begin to mature, what is your opinion on music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music and the effect they have on your business?

I’ve given up worrying. We need to embrace change and use it.

Let’s face it: the more people listen, the more they may be tempted to buy. 20% of all physical product sold in the UK is bought as a gift.

‘Hear it on Spotify buy it from Sister Ray.’ Sounds like a good mantra.


What makes you optimistic for the future of independent retail and what do you wish would change in the music industry?

Optimistic? We nearly went bust several times, opening the door makes me optimistic it means we are still here.

Too many bean counters, too many people who could be selling/marketing/promoting baked beans or sofas are in the industry. Not enough passion for music.

No wonder artists end up thinking the business is rotten.


What are three records playing in your store right now you’d recommend we listen to?

New Besnard Lakes “A Coliseum Complex Museum”

Savages “Adore Life” and, of course, “Lazarus” from David Bowie’s Blackstar album.