For Lars Larsson, owner of Record Mania, selling records was initially a small, personalized affair. Based in Sweden, Record Mania started as a humble mail-order business back in 1996 before blooming into a website, Discogs store (RecordMania.SE), and brick-and-mortar outlet based in Stockholm. If you find yourself in the area, orders via Discogs can be picked up in-store, and you can read the Record Mania blog to view the most recent additions to their inventory.
Discogs: What’s the story behind Record Mania?
Lars Larsson: I started selling with a paper list every third month, concentrating on soul, jazz, and funk in addition to in-demand and rare records. I sent the list to a few good customers, two to three hundred people, primarily in Japan and in big record hubs like London, Berlin, and Paris. When a friend told me that I should start a website to get more customers, I doubted that my customers wanted to buy records online!
However, I was getting fed up with doing the manual work involved in making a list, so around 1997 or 1998, I started a very basic website. It was, more or less, an immediate success! I was working from home all day, all year round. Business was good and steady but not so stressful. I either had some kind of relationship or personally knew most of my customers back then, so they just chilled when I couldn’t get back to them.
In 2000, I met my future wife, and we lived together in a one-room apartment that stored stock for the online shop (around five to six thousand records) and my personal collection. It started to get really crowded with records lining the walls and customers visiting my apartment from all over the world. So, a year later, I opened a small store in a nice area in Stockholm. My wife and I worked for twenty-four hours straight before the opening day and my friend and neighbor Rickard Masip was my first employee.
Back then, the store specialized in soul, jazz, and funk, but we also had a lot of hip hop, Latin, African, reggae, and Brazilian music. We were lucky to score some fantastic hip-hop collections early on, and that genre grew into a very important part of the store. We’re still at the same small physical store to this day, with even more people working, though we have broadened the genres that we sell.
We work hard to travel, buying collections from all over the world, but during the pandemic, we are limited to what we can find in Sweden. I can’t wait to start traveling to get more records when the pandemic becomes less of a problem!
D: How long have you been selling on Discogs?
LL: Since 2013, but long before that through other platforms as well as paper lists in the ’90s.
D: What is the most valuable item you’ve ever sold?
LL: An original copy of Ethiopian Modern Instrumentals Hits that sold for roughly 2,300 Euros.
D: How do you manage your inventory on Discogs?
LL: Our inventory is managed automatically by syncing it from our standalone website. All the work with grading and pricing is done there and then synced with our Discogs shop regularly. So we run the same inventory here on Discogs as on our main website.
D: What values do you try to stick to when it comes to running your store?
LL: Simply, to be offering records that me and my staff like, in fine condition. Not having the largest shop in terms of space, I try to keep a high turnover, with lots of new arrivals every week.
D: What sets you apart from other sellers on Discogs?
LL: It’s a hard question as there are a whole lot of other great sellers out there. We pride ourselves on strict and descriptive grading, fair prices, and quick communication with buyers. We keep a great selection of Swedish and European jazz, but more so in normal times. It has been harder to purchase collections during the pandemic.
D: What’s the biggest challenge of selling online vs. in person? How did you overcome it?
LL: The most obvious challenge is the different conceptions of grading that can vary between buyers. After selling records for a long time, you (hopefully) learn to stay true to the grading standards by heart. For me and other sellers that I respect, it’s universal knowledge, whereas it can be very subjective, especially for beginner buyers. To overcome this, I am conservative and consistent with grading and let the buyer see photos and hear sound clips before purchasing on our website.
D: Which Discogs feature helps you the most as a seller?
LL: I think it benefits our sales that buyers can do a lot of sorting and filtering of the stock, such as narrowing down genres into styles, choosing condition or release year, and so on. There are a lot of features that help with navigation.
D: What would be your #1 tip for new sellers?
LL: Learning about grading properly and cleaning the records before selling makes a big difference in looks and sound. And the golden rule, to treat customers the way you’d want to be treated.
D: In the age of downloads and streaming, why do you think people still buy physical music?
LL: There is an emotional and sensory value in holding the medium in front of you, something that digital solutions cannot replace. The simple ritual of picking out the record from the shelf, dropping the stylus, and reading the credits and notes on the back while listening adds to the experience.
D: What’s something you wish you’d known before you got started as a music seller?
LL: Like I said earlier, I always valued high turnover, which has been great, but perhaps some rare records I should have held onto longer as they might be ten times more expensive now, haha. But that is part of the trade, and as we say in Sweden, “det är lätt att vara efter efterklok” (hindsight is a wonderful thing).
D: You sell to buyers all over the world on Discogs. What is your most memorable Discogs order?
LL: One of many that come to mind was when we had a sleazy German fusion LP for sale, with our comments mentioning the pretty ridiculous-looking band on the cover. It was later ordered by who turned out to be one of the original members.
D: What are your current music recommendations? Give us five!
- My Garden by John Carroll Kirby
- Eastern Flowers by Sven Wunder
- My Young Misery by Darrow Fletcher
- The Eccentric Soul compilations by Numero Group
- Big Mistake by Brenda Jones
D: Where’s your favorite place in the world to dig?
LL: It used to be the States, but nowadays, I prefer to purchase collections from old customers on home ground. There are several great collectors that have been buying from me during my 25 years of mailorder – always a thrill when one of them decides to sell.
D: What’s the next record to be crossed off your own Wantlist?
LL: A clean copy of Crying All By Myself by William Bell.
Photos courtesy of RecordManiaSE.