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The End of All Music: How vintage tech is innovating the music industry

This is a photo of the entrance to The End of All Music. Photo by Michelle Bruce.
The entrance to The End of All Music. Photo by Michelle Bruce.

Michelle Bruce
Oxford Stories
mdbruce@go.olemiss.edu

Your parents probably taught you not to go into alleyways when you were a kid, because those were places where bad things happened.

Ignore your parents.

The End of All Music, an independently owned record store in Oxford— with an entrance located in an alleyway—is the opposite of bad.

David Swider, 35, is the owner of the store situated directly above Duvall’s on the Square, and it can be accessed by a metal staircase leading to what the sign out front calls “the record store of your dreams.”

Late in his college career at the University of Mississippi, Swider began working at Square Books as a sales clerk, then eventually became the marketing director. He had tried persuading the store to sell records, but they couldn’t be convinced. Thus, The End of All Music was born.

“Running the record store and watching it grow . . .  really is my dream job,” Swider said.

And grow it has. The record store was originally located on North Lamar, but moved to the Square two years ago. As a result, the number of customers has increased.

“The move downtown was a pretty big step for us,” Swider said. “I don’t know if risky is the right word, but stressful. Having a business downtown can be expensive, but so far, it’s been really great.”

Aside from the big move, another recent change at The End of All Music is a new hire. Ben Dupriest, 36, was hired as the first-ever manager of the record store Feb. 27.

“I’ve always wanted to work at a record store,” Dupriest said. “A given record store will . . . particularly emphasize certain kinds of music, and I just identified with this (one) in terms of the kind of music that (David) seems to like and the kind of stuff that they sell.”

According to Dupriest, The End of All Music has great jazz and blues sections, which include music from artists like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, B.B. King and Junior Kimbrough—whose tombstone inspired the store’s name: ‘Junior Kimbrough is the beginning and end of all music.’

This is a photo of records at The End of All Music. Photo by Michelle Bruce.
Records at The End of All Music. Photo by Michelle Bruce.

Dupriest said he has spent much time working in restaurants, and working at The End of All Music is the exact opposite of that.

“(Restaurants are) very stressful, high energy,” Dupriest said. “When something needs to be done, it has to be done immediately, which is not to say that we don’t have to work efficiently here.

“But it’s just a lot more chill. It’s a lot less stressful. But at the same time, it’s customer service, right? You have to know how to talk to people.”

Dupriest said his role in restaurants was mostly as a cook, which meant he didn’t interact as much with customers. As a result of this, he said he’s had to develop his customer service skills and “figure out how to be helpful” at the record store.

“You never know what the next customer will bring to the table,” Dupriest said, “so that could be . . . unpredictable and challenging. You never know if somebody could come in with some weird question, if not (a) weird personality.”

Dupriest has been employed at the store since its relocation, but his role as manager includes new responsibilities, which include what he calls “more official business.”

The day he was hired as manager, Dupriest learned how to print labels for the soon-to-be shipped records that customers had bought online. He also helped Swider add new records to inventory.

This is a close up of David Swider (right) and Ben Dupriest (left). Photo by Michelle Bruce.
David Swider (right) and Ben Dupriest (left). Photo by Michelle Bruce.

As the owner, Swider also has a variety of responsibilities. He explained that many people think he simply relaxes and listens to music all day, but that, in reality, he does so much more. Swider acts as the buyer, accountant, social media and marketing authority, and human resources coordinator for The End of All Music.

“I really don’t know what lies in store on a day-to-day basis,” Swider said. “But the stuff that is constant is that my inbox is always full and I’m always behind.”

Stress aside, Swider says he enjoys ordering records for the store because it helps him be more in the know of new and to-be-released music.

“I’ve been doing this long enough that I feel like I should know more than I do,” Swider said, “but there’s still—literally every day—a new record I hear that I’ve never heard of before that kind of blows my mind. That’s, I guess, the best part of the job.”

One example of a record that made Swider think ‘Wow’ upon first listen is the album Football Money by the band Kiwi Jr.

“I ordered it strictly based on what the cover art looked like; it had this cool picture on the cover,” Swider said. “It kind of sounds like Pavement. It kind of sounds like early Weezer. It’s right in my wheelhouse, so I played it, like, 20 times in a row when we got it.”

The End of All Music also releases music on their own record label. The store’s website has a section titled Our Label, which Swider says is still a work in progress. The store has put out around five records and a few cassette-only releases through the label.

“Running the label is a lot different than running the store,” Swider said. “(There is) a lot of admin work involved in it. And we do everything properly, you know, we’re not just putting out records without people’s permission or anything. It’s a lot of work, but it kind of helps mix up just working at the store every day.”

According to Swider, one of the most difficult things about running the record store is finding good records.

“There’s a finite number of them out there, so we spend a lot of time tracking down record collections,” Swider said. “If you’ve got good used records, you’re going to be just fine. But you can’t go out and just buy those anywhere. You have to really hunt them down.”

This is a photo of the main interior of The End of All Music. Photo by Michelle Bruce.
The main interior of The End of All Music. Photo by Michelle Bruce.

Swider explained that The End of All Music has been open long enough now (eight years as of March 1) that people can simply Google ‘buy used records’ or something similar and the store’s name will show up. He also said that the store gets calls almost every day from people trying to sell their records.

“Seventy-five percent of the time, it’s not anything we’re interested in buying,” Swider said, “but that other 25 percent, there might be some interesting stuff. So we do a lot of house calls (and) go look at record collections.”

Every year on one Saturday in April, The End of All Music participates in Record Store Day, a holiday that celebrates independently owned record stores. However, the event has been moved to June this year due to the COVID-19 situation.

“(For) record stores that participate in Record Store Day, on that Saturday there are about four or five hundred new records (released) that you can only buy at a brick and mortar independent record store,” Swider explained. “No internet sales, nothing like that.”

According to Swider, Record Store Day is the busiest day of the year for The End of All Music. Double Decker is the weekend after, so it’s a crazy two weeks for them. Record Store Day is on June 20 this year.

“We kind of turn it into a celebration where we have a party,” Swider said, “and we give away a ton of free stuff and just celebrate the fact that there are people in Oxford (who) dig record stores and want to go support them.”

Swider said that many customers will camp out the night before in hopes of getting the first spot in line. He explained that this spot is coveted because a lot of the records are so limited that there may be only one or two copies in the shop—which means that the first in line gets first dibs.

“This year we’re doing a raffle (for the first spot in line),” Swider said. “It’s a dollar a ticket, and we’re giving all the money to the Food Pantry.”

In past years, The End of All Music has given the proceeds from a chosen sale on Record Store Day to various organizations. For example, last year the store put out a record featuring two local artists and gave all proceeds to Memory Makers. The Southern Poverty Law Center and MusiCares are among other past years’ donations.

This is a photo of new records at The End of All Music. Photo by Michelle Bruce.
New records at The End of All Music. Photo by Michelle Bruce.

Dupriest said that some people have come into the shop and said they thought vinyl was gone. He explained that this is the opposite of the truth.

“I kind of push back against that narrative that vinyl disappeared and now it’s coming back. It never went anywhere,” Dupriest said. “(It) may have been overshadowed by CDs and streaming, but for some people, it’s never changed. It’s always been the way we listen to music.”

Swider holds the same sentiments as Dupriest: “I don’t think (vinyl) ever went away. There are probably more people buying records now than there have been in a long time. Most independent record labels never stopped making vinyl, so it’s always been kind of available.”

Swider said that vinyl is definitely popular right now, citing various reasons such as high fidelity (good sound quality), collectibility, and the fact that vinyl allows customers to own the music they love so much.

“People like to own their stuff. If you have a favorite record, what’s better than owning it?” Swider said. “If you have a date over and you’re like, ‘Hey, do you want to look at my streaming playlist on my phone?’ or ‘Hey, do you want to look at my record collection?’—it’s like, which one of those is cooler?”

Swider admits that streaming is convenient because everything you want to listen to is made easily accessible; however, he said that streaming may become more expensive in the future and may not be around forever, while vinyl will last for hundreds of years as long as its owner takes care of it. He compared vinyl to a book, which he called “a perfect object.”

“(Vinyl) will outlive you, easily. If you take care of it, the format is never going to go away,” Swider said. “There are some things that are just kind of perfect the way they are, and vinyl falls into that category.”

This is a photo of David Swider and Ben Dupriest working. Photo by Michelle Bruce.
David Swider and Ben Dupriest working. Photo by Michelle Bruce.

The End of All Music is located at 103A Courthouse Square in Oxford. (Remember the alleyway entrance.) They’re open Sunday through Monday from noon to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feel free to bring your new or used records to them, and remember Record Store Day is Saturday, June 20.

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