Notes From A Record Store: Bilbo, Belgium

‘Great Music, Good price.’

That’s exactly what you’re promised at Bilbo in Leuven, Belgium – and that’s exactly what you’re going to get.

The legendary record store, which also operates a successful retail website, prides itself on “nice prices in combination with a personal service” and for being a “substitute for megastores”.

They’re certainly never bereft of a bargain CD or vinyl, some superb recommendations and, of course, all the latest must-have music.

The Independent Echo quizzed long time Bilbo employee Matias Pardon all about the art of selling music in Belgium.

[Pictured L-R: Billbo’s Matias Pardon, Bruno Segebarth and Rudi Claes]

 

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

The music business has been great for indie retailers in Belgium the last couple years.

We’ve seen some great releases and vinyl became hugely popular. The booming vinyl sales are something we didn’t see coming when we started selling the “black gold” again five years ago.

We started out with a little under 500 records, now we have at least 1,500 titles in stock all the time and we’re moving to a new location in a couple months where we’ll be offering even more vinyl (and of course CDs).

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

I started doing this when I was 17 (11 years ago) and I’m still doing it today. And I still love it pretty much every day.

Also, I don’t think there’s another job where you can be so close to your customers in a way an indie music shop does. I don’t think I’d be as happy doing this job if I’d be doing exactly the same at a bigger store.

On the other hand, it may all seem glamorous to some but it’s still hard work from time to time. It’s still a job, you know!

What is your opinion on music streaming services such as Spotify?

I personally really like Spotify and Tidal as a product. I use it all the time when I’m in my office or on the road since it’s perfectly portable and let’s you discover new music all the time.

What I usually do is listen a bit to a new album I read or heard about via Spotify or Tidal and then buy the album on CD or vinyl.

I think streaming services are a convenience good, something you can easily use whenever, wherever and isn’t too expensive but not really special either. Vinyl and CD’s on the other hand are the collectible stuff, the tangible things you really want to have.

I personally could never give up buying records, it just wouldn’t feel right. I still want to be able to hold my music, to go through my records on a Sunday morning, rediscovering my once favorite albums.

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

The only thing we need at our shop is great music from great artists (at a decent price).

The better the releases, the more people will come down to our store and will be happy which will make us happy. It’s all actually quite simple 🙂

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

  • Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood
  • Balthazar – Thin Walls
  • Jon Hopkins – Late Night Tales