Meet the people behind the Discogs accounts in our series Crate Minds! This time, we asked Fabian Hofland, Manager at Sounds Delft, to tell us a bit more about their shop in the beautiful historical city of Delft in The Netherlands.
What’s your role at the store and your background in general?
I’m general manager of the store. I manage the staff and make sure the shop looks good and things run as smoothly as possible. I have worked in music stores for almost 20 years now. I started at Free Record Shop, the big commercial chain in Holland that collapsed several years ago. Then worked at vanLeest, the daughter company of Free Record Shop. Moved to London and worked for HMV for 2 years. And now I’m at Sounds for I think seven or eight years. Did some bar work and worked at some other places in between, but it’s mainly been music.
Can you tell us a bit about Sounds Delft, its history, and its team?
Sounds used to be a chain of record stores, but were sold off 16 years ago already, mainly to the store managers who were running them, or other people within the chain. Sounds Delft has been operating independently ever since. We try to offer as wide and deep a range of CDs and LPs as we can. We like for people to be surprised when going through the racks, so we try and get special editions, solo albums, side projects, and interesting tribute albums, or get more releases if we like a label, like recently we’ve been getting into all the amazing Turkish stuff on Pharaway Sounds. We are music lovers ourselves, so we want our shop to be the kind of shop we’d like to visit, basically.
Our team is growing, because it keeps getting busier both online and in our shop, but we are all music lovers in our own way. We have three team members who are in bands, and a singer of one of Holland’s biggest hardcore bands just left. So we either make music, are or have been DJs, or play a lot of records. The ages range from 18 to 55. Musical tastes cover every genre we have, from hardcore to jazz, from bossanova to dub, from country to electronic. Everything but blues. For some reason we have never had a blues fan amongst our staff. Not sure why.
How did you get into selling records?
I finished my degree in screen printing. Figured that was not what I wanted to do. Saw a vacancy at Free Record Shop. Applied. Got pretty much hired straightaway. Because of my musical upbringing, I knew way more music than most 18-year-olds at the time in those pre-internet days where hearing a record meant buying it, borrowing, or listening at a friends house. Started on a zero-hour contract. Worked my way up, became manager, and it all progressed from there.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Selling people great music. It’s as simple as that. We sell loads of different records and are happy and thankful for everyone who chooses our shop to buy their records. But for me personally, I like it when people come in for suggestions for themselves or gifts. Especially when you hear back that the person really loved the album. Or when you get talking about one band, make a connection or reference to another, and then get people excited for that band as well. I got a regular customer of ours hooked on Cave In just two weeks ago. That really makes my day. Or when we sell a record that is playing in the shop, that is always great, too. There is so much great music, and there is so much left to discover. We like to push the music we believe in. We have a monthly Spotify playlist with about two hours of new music. And we sometimes highlight albums on our social media that we think deserve extra attention.
What has been your most unexpected find in recent years?
We have been very lucky with some of the vinyl collections we bought in the last couple of years. There was one from a collector who bought a bunch of seven-inches and records every week from the late ’60s till the late ’70s. So a lot of first pressings, some in ridiculously good condition, some records and especially singles that were never repressed, a lot of amazing things in there. We also got the whole collection of the local hospital radio. They also bought a few new albums and singles every week for decades. It had all kinds of stuff in there. We had some wicked krautrock records like the first Kollektiv album from 1973 or some weird electro/hip-hop single from 1984 by Hashim called Al-Naafiysh (The Soul), which both sold for a couple of hundred euro each. Great fun to get to browse through and discover all the amazing stuff first.
If we were digging through your personal collection, what would we find?
I’m all over the place, but I think that goes for most people who work in a record store. You get to hear a lot, your ears open, your taste expands. You can’t work in a record shop for a few years and not pick up a couple of things.
I grew up on Stones, Beatles, The Who, and Queen from my dad. Got into ’80s stuff from my older sister, but I ended up listening to other ’80s stuff later on, but got into the sound from her. She was into Duran Duran, I love Talk Talk and the heavily underrated Tears For Fears. I started buying and properly getting into music in the ’90s, so big grunge kid. Got into Deftones, Korn, Machine Head, Slayer, the main things if you were into heavy around that time. At the same time I started getting into dance via Underworld, Chemical Brothers, and The Prodigy. Got into drum and bass heavily, DJed that for years and years. Became obsessed with Aphex Twin and all things Warp, Rephlex, Planet µ, etc. Then I started working in record stores and came the jazz, all types of world music but mostly afro-beat and bossanova. Still later dub, modern classical, and from my young colleagues now both country (weirdly enough) and emo/hardcore stuff like Code Orange, La Dispute, and Turnover. The last Turnstile record was even in my top 10 of last year. Artists I own the most records of are: Gary Numan, Aphex Twin, Underworld, Radiohead, Future Sound Of London, Pearl Jam, Therapy?, and DJ Shadow.
What is your best memory about the shop?
There are loads of course, but the one that sticks out is rather bittersweet. We had a very gentle and rather shy regular customer who we all really liked. He had quite a few different types of music he liked, and he always bought great records. Always. One day his brother came to the shop and told us he unexpectedly had just passed away. He always spoke fondly of us and the talks about music we had with him. Which is great to hear in itself. But the brother and the mother had no idea which music he liked best and they asked us if we knew what music was really special to him, so they could play the right music at his funeral. The funny thing was we all connected with him over different artists, so we all had a different memory and therefore came up with different artists. I knew he was really into The Sound (and Adrian Borland solo), the owner knew he had everything of Natacha Atlas, and another colleague said he really loved The Cinematic Orchestra. Even though it was really sad he had passed away much too soon, it was really nice to be able to help with the music and give him a musical send off he would have loved.
What is your favourite release that you have in stock right now, and why?
I’m known in the shop as the guy who likes female singers, so only fitting to name my favorite female singer album of the moment, of an artist I have only just discovered: Rozi Plain. Her fourth album What A Boost is a great record. Nice atmosphere, interesting songs, great lyrics, and a very intriguing voice. I also like the cover. You see her back, and she has her hoodie up. It’s like she wants you to follow her, or maybe she doesn’t. Again, intriguing. I have sold a few copies already from just playing it in the shop, which is always a good sign.
What does the record scene in The Netherlands look like?
That might not be my place to say. We saw a big surge in vinyl, like everywhere else. We are also selling a lot of CDs, still more than vinyl, but that might be because a lot of other shops don’t have as many in stock. And especially for the website that helps that you have it in stock. People want their stuff the next day, so it is a big advantage that we have over 100 different Frank Zappa CDs, to name one artist. We also see that we sell a lot from the genres we have more of than most other indie shops. We sell a lot of metal, always have. We sell a lot of soul, funk, jazz, bossa/latin/world, because that is stuff we love, and people know that we are a good place for that. It’s also the stuff we sell a lot of on Record Store Day. We will get the big names in, but we focus more and more on those genres, wicked ’70s soundtracks, and that kind of stuff. We love a good reissue.
We also noticed that people have their own ways of finding new music, and people listen to albums online first. You don’t have that many records you sell a bunch of in the first week. We sell a lot of records, but mainly a whole lot of different ones. Albums used to get hyped and people jumped on them. Now everybody takes their time and they might not get it on day one; they might wait a week or even longer. I think that is a good thing, because you only buy stuff you really like. Because we all have records we bought too hastily and barely — if ever — listen to anymore, right?
What is your favorite record shop to visit, and why? (Apart from Sounds Delft of course!)
Because we have so many different suppliers where we can get stuff for low prices, other indie shops don’t really appeal to me anymore, because I can order it at Sounds. So why pay more elsewhere? Therefore one of the great places for me is Plaatboef Rotterdam. They, like us, have more stuff than they know what to do with, and that messy, packed vibe is something I feel at home in, I guess. They have a great selection secondhand, and I always walk away with at least a handful of records. I always bump into some nice unexpected finds, some old single or EP, or an unknown Mo’Wax release I’m still missing. Just a great place to browse, always good music on, and the people that work there are great.
What, in your mind, does the future hold for Sounds Delft?
We are just in the process of selling secondhand CDs. We noticed that more and more old titles aren’t getting repressed, so there are some great classics you can’t get anymore, like De La Soul’s old albums or the early 2000 albums by Tori Amos, to name just two. So that is one reason. On the other hand, same as secondhand vinyl, it’s nice to offer people the option of buying it for €9.99 new €5 secondhand. People on a budget can get more for their buck.
Apart from that, we are actively looking at what does sell and what doesn’t. We have too much stock at the moment, so we are getting more and more careful with what to buy and are looking more closely at what doesn’t sell. It’s an ever changing market, so you have to keep on top of things. Some artists you used to sell loads of, suddenly stop selling. You have to be aware of these changes. It’s a tricky game.
Do you have a number one tip for buyers and/or sellers on Discogs?
Sellers: Be fair. List the item as is. You don’t want the hassle of giving refunds and getting bad reviews or having to return records. We list our items mint/mint with description: “Brand New Sealed Copy” via an automated tool, because manually is undoable. When we see any discrepancies, are unsure about the color of the vinyl, or if there is a dent or damage, we always try to let the buyer know and won’t ship before they confirm to be OK with whatever the issue is. It’s always better if they find out from you than when they open the package.
Buyers: Please note we are a record store, not a warehouse. There are a lot of collectors on Discogs, and when they identify themselves as such, we become very cautious immediately. Our records are in the racks, get handled by customers, so 100% pristine can never be guaranteed. We work with music because we love the music. We buy albums because we want to play those albums, not because we want to store them sealed on a shelf. So if you want every copy of every album by your favorite band and they all need to be perfect, please look elsewhere. We are not the place for you. If you want amazing music that will blow your mind or hit you straight in the heart, than please visit us and buy some great records.
Anything else you would like us to know?
Yeah: Please play your records. You’re not collecting stamps. Let the music live!