Owned by Derry Watkins and Natasha Youngs, Resident Music is one of the world’s best record shops. It was winner of England’s Favourite Independent Record Shop in a poll organised for Record Store Day. It’s a far cry from the day before they opened, when Natasha, perched halfway up a ladder painting the shop, heard a man shouting at her “This is the last thing Brighton needs, another record shop. I guarantee you will be closed in six months.”
Derry, who was born in Horsham, West Sussex, has spent his life working in music. And up until the birth of his son, he was also an avid gig goer, seeing up to four bands a week. The first gig he attended was Motorhead, who made a huge impression on him – and his ears, which were ringing for days. The gigs he attended afterwards all seemed incredibly quiet. He has never forgotten the UK Subs gig he attended as a teenager in Crawley. In those days, it was not unusual for fights to break out at venues, but this gig was different. After a fracas started, the band jumped into the crowd to join in. The fight turned into a mass brawl and as he looked around, Derry seemed to be the only person in the room not fighting.
Derry only ever wanted to work in a record shop, and his first job was at Our Price in London’s Tottenham Court Road. The Our Price chain was later bought out by WH Smith, so Derry took the opportunity to move to the Virgin Megastore. The laid-back atmosphere at Virgin was a bit of a shock compared to the corporate Our Price. His job title was Roots Buyer and his training consisted of the manager showing him the Roots section and saying “Here you go, fill it up.” Derry made an instant impression, increasing sales rapidly as he brought in the professional stock control methods he had used at Our Price. His efforts did not go unnoticed, and he was soon promoted to work in the Virgin Head Office as a Chart Manager, responsible for key releases. It was through his work here that he rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy of rock, leaving him with lots of great memories, including talking to Robert Plant about football for hours in a hotel bar in Istanbul (they had a common bond as they both supported underachieving teams, Wolves for Robert and Leyton Orient for Derry). Earlier in the day he had witnessed Jimmy Page bartering over the price of a fake Rolex on the street outside (apparently it was a great bargain, although I am sure Jimmy had enough loose change to buy an original).
The most memorable in-store event at Virgin was Oasis playing a midnight gig to launch their second album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, at which Noel goaded Liam into walking out so that he (Noel) could play the solo show he had wanted to do in the first place. Although he enjoyed working for Virgin, Derry felt they were losing direction. He found it frustrating that music no longer seemed important to the company, which was concentrating its efforts on other aspects of the business such as airlines and phones. Following a restructuring of the company, Derry worked on the V-phone project which turned Virgin record shops into mobile phone stores. While working on this project he met Natasha, who had worked her way up the company. The duo shared a vision of opening their own, great record shop as opposed to changing other people’s into phone shops. Soon they were an item and Derry moved to Brighton to live with her.
Accepting the offer of voluntary redundancies from Virgin, Derry and Natasha took off to tour the world for six months. Evenings were spent in exotic locations sharing bottles of wine as they planned to open their record shop.
Resident Music opened in 2004. Initially the shop only sold CDs but they quickly responded to customer requests for releases on vinyl, putting in a vinyl rack which now accounts for a major percentage of the shop’s turnover. There is a low counter, so the staff don’t appear intimidating. This is a great feature. So many record shops of the past had high counters that separated the staff from the customers. I recall shops that looked like a coconut shy where you could only see the heads of the staff above the counter, which certainly created a barrier.
Resident have incorporated many appealing design elements. The shop is neat, clean and browser friendly. The racks are full but not overcrowded, with reviews added to the covers of all new releases. The shop has also worked hard to capture the attention of the student population. Each year they give away fresher’s packs consisting of posters, samplers, badges and a welcome letter providing useful information about the city. Resident embraces social networking and makes regular use of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, including a daily Album of the Day feature. The shop sells tickets for more than 250 local events, a great way of getting people into the store. Resident also has a weekly mailout to more than 15,000 customers. The Resident team are happy to offer musical guidance to anybody looking to discover new music. They even guarantee cheery smiles.
The XX, Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons have all played in-stores at Resident Music to help promote their debut albums. The most memorable day was when Jarvis Cocker, a champion of independent record shops, worked behind the counter at the time his Further Complications album was released. He was supposed to stay for an hour but had such a great time that he stayed for more than four hours, serving and chatting to more than 200 customers.
I have a lot of admiration for what Derry, Natasha and the team at Resident Music have achieved. They opened the shop at a time when more than 100 independent record shops a year where closing. The golden days of music retailing were over, the free stock had stopped arriving and record companies had switched their promotional support to supermarkets and online retailers. People thought they were mad to open a new shop at such a time. But Derry and Natasha have proved that if your model is correct, if you are prepared to work hard, if you are innovative, if you support local music and the community and if you offer great customer service, then you can succeed.
Resident Music’s achievements have been recognised by the music industry. The shop has won the title Best Independent Record Shop in the UK three times (2011, 2014 and 2015). It was also voted Best Indie Shop In The Country both times that Record Store Day organisers ran a public poll. In the lead-up to RSD in 2016, BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne broadcast live from the shop and included a DJ set by local musician and record shop supporter Norman Cook.
Derry and Natasha can be proud of their achievement, proving all the doubters wrong and thoroughly deserving the awards the shop has received.
I asked Natasha whichforthcoming records distributed by Proper she was looking forward to.
TV/AM – ‘No Silver Bird / Narcissus (Tunng Remix)’ – RSD19 release
Last year Joe Oxley finally released his debut album, ‘Psychic Data’ – an electro-psych-goth-industrial-drone-shoegaze masterpiece that made No7 in our albums of the year. For Record Store Day 2019, he’s releasing an exclusive 7” featuring a cover version of a 1968 rare psych curio by an obscure Mexican band – a track that Joe is a big fan of & that he’s been playing in his live sets. It’s not had a physical release anywhere before so we’re looking forward to this. It’s backed with a remix from an all time Resident favourite band – Tunng who bring their psych-folk-tronica magic to the now classic TVAM track, ‘Narcissus’. 500 only on yellow vinyl – we’re expecting this one to do well for us.
SHE KEEPS BEES – ‘Kinship’ – released 10th May
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the New York duo but it’s clear from the very first listen that they’ve lost nothing of their magical power in the time they’ve been away. ‘Kinship’ is another engrossing dose of raw beauty – intense and spirited (like PJ Harvey or Nadine Shah) yet spacious and haunting (like Jesca Hoop or Julie Byrne). It’s a real treat.
I asked Natasha about what is Resident up to on Record Store Day this year?
“Like most indies, we’re super busy gearing up for Record Store Day. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into making the day a success: stock ordering, booking the bands, hooking up with local traders, prepping all the information for customers, organising all the stock, talking to the press – it’s a logistical challenge for an independent shop but it’s great fun and we learn more each year to hopefully deliver a better event each year. Yet again, we’ve put together a packed day of entertainment to supplement the record buying frenzy.
We are starting the day with The Leisure Society at 8am and then later in the day, once the queue madness has died down, we have DJ sets from Blood Red Shoes and Wrongtom. Then we have live sets from Our Girl and David Gedge of The Wedding Present with the traditional Resident raffle wedged in between the bands. Can’t wait”
If you would like to be Proper’s Featured Store, contact Graham Jones.
Tel: 012736 06312
Vinyl, CD, Tickets, In-stores
Monday – Saturday: 9am – 6:30pm
Sunday: 10am – 6pm
27 – 28 Kensington Gardens,