by Robyn Kaiser
Every news outlet has been reporting on the increase in vinyl (record) sales. There has been a steady increase over the past several years. Manufacturers are producing affordable, lightweight, travel turntables. Crosley and Victrola have seen massive increases in sales. Victrola recently released a record player with Blue Tooth Stereo Speakers (which this writer cannot wait to buy).
Artists and record labels are releasing limited runs of vinyl, touting colored vinyl, bonus content, mp3 downloads with purchase of the vinyl package, etc.. Artists like rock legends U2 releasing the anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree to new pop dance artists The Chainsmokers are producing their music on vinyl, in addition to traditional CD and digital formats.
Enter Monostereo, the one-stop boutique. A “One-Stop” is precisely that: a one-stop shop for your mastering, production, distribution, and sales/marketing needs. Headed by industry veteran Mike Gomez and business partner/brother-in-law Jeff Berg, Monostereo was born out of the Long Island, New York record store Record Stop, located in Lake Ronkonkoma. Record Stop opened its doors in 1974. Gomez’ father-in-law ran the original Record Stop for many years. It recently reopened in May 2017 in a new location, on Railroad Avenue in Patchogue (just a few miles from the original storefront.)
Sonic Sound had the chance to speak with Mike Gomez from his office in Charleston for a solid three hours. This one-on-one is most decidedly the first of its kind with Gomez, during which he shared the ins and outs of Monostereo and the good things coming down the pike.
Monostereo grew into a small distributor, with a sizeable presence online over the past several years. In 2011, Gomez was brought on to take the reins and lead the boutique to growth and further success. Bringing more than 20 years of industry experience in both production and label management, Gomez saw the potential Monostereo had for both existing artists and new arrivals. “After years with Subliminal Records and then Tommy Boy/Rasa, I was growing tired of the New York grind – especially the commute from Long Island,” he explains. “My wife and I headed to South Carolina, where I found a vibrant, growing music scene. It blew my mind. Here are all of these artists, who need label services and good people to help get this great music published and out to the masses.”
Over the next few years, Gomez would bring in former client Deepak Chopra and handle his manufacturing and distribution. He would partner Monostereo with three different pressing plants (including the new presses manufactured by Viryl Tehcnologies in Canada), acting as the broker between the artists and the plants. He would sign on dozens of indie labels to handle their manufacturing and distribution as well. He would also use his hustle and increase their reach to more than 400 accounts nationwide for distribution – in forms of indie shops, non-traditional stores, and big name retailers. Internationally, Monostereo has reach in Canada, the UK, and several other areas around the globe. Those international partnerships also benefit Record Stop, as well. There is a large number of imports available at Record Stop, at affordable prices, which are rarely seen in other record shops. “Our hands aren’t tied by constraints large distributors have. No minimum numbers. We control our costs,” he explained.
A major difference between Monostereo and large distributors is the intimacy factor. “Every account I deal with, they have my cell phone number,” he says. “You call the office, you’re going to get me, Jeff, or our assistant. You will never get someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or someone who won’t be able to help you. In this time in music production and distro, that’s what people want, no they need. How many labels can you call up and get the label manager? The president?”
That personal attention has led to bigger and better releases for Monostereo. They recently signed a deal with mega bookstore Books-A-Million. Books-A-Million will be carrying exclusives of “Remastered From The Archives,” which is the entire Red Bank Record catalog of 15,000 masters that Monostereo was able to get its hands on. Previously unreleased records from B.B. King, Charlie Parker, John Lee Hooker, Ella Fitzgerald and more will be released exclusively on 180-gram vinyl through BAM for four months, followed by a widespread release. “This music is meant for vinyl,” says Gomez. “It’s the type of music where you want to hear the pops and crackles, hear the soul of the music and truly enjoy it.” They are currently remastering about 70% of the catalog (“some tracks just couldn’t be salvaged” according to Gomez), with the mastering being handled by Vlado Meller, mastering legend for over 40 years. Meller’s career includes the mastering of Sir Paul McCartney, Kanye West, Shakira, A Tribe Called Quest, and dozens of other household names. Meller has his work cut out for him, as the 2017 release schedule proves:
Mark Bryan – Songs of the Fortnight- August 11
Four Trips Ahead – And The Fire Within – August 25
BB King – Remastered From The Archives – September 15
Ella Washington – Ella Washington – September 29
Etta James – Red-Hot & Live (New York) 1983 – Remastered From The Archives – September 29
Drivin n Cryin – Live at CBGB 1991- October 13
Mississippi John Hurt – Remastered From The Archives – October 27
Memphis Slim – Remastered From The Archives (RSD/BLACK FRIDAY) – November 24
Johnny Winter – Remastered From The Archives – December 29
“With our strategic partnerships, we can release a new record every 5 to 6 weeks,” according to Gomez. “Other distributors and label are bound by their sales books, scheduling releases months in advance.”
With their hands in every facet of the music industry machine, Monostereo is well on its way to being a force to be reckoned with. But no matter how large and in charge they grow, one thing will remain constant: you will always be able to get Gomez on the phone.