The Music Scene + cut-out stores

The Music Scene

The Music Scene, unknown location, any info on this shop out there?

Cut-out stores are a long gone part of the record business, one that I am just barely old enough to know much about. The process of remaindering music that did not sell at stores (it “remained” in other words) for decades included cutting a corner on the jacket* and wholesaling it out to closeout stores.  The process is similar to what happens in print and periodical media when the cover is removed or barcode cut off the cover of a release that is returned after not selling. So records that don’t sell get shifted over to stores that specifically sell off records at discount prices. In the days when records that weren’t saleable or were overproduced, this is where a lot of stock ended up, otherwise it was destroyed and/or used for recycled vinyl. The thing about cut-out stores is that many of the most collectible records historically ended up in the cut-out cycle. Late and lamented record dealer, DJ, and exotica specialist Matt “Head Burn” Grace regaled me with stories about such places, talking about the stacks of sealed records by The Stooges or myriad psych acts that he saw back in the 70s and early 80s. Think of an act that was “ahead of their time” and a commercial flop on a major label, and chances are their best chance at distribution back when was through a cut-out store, where perhaps one of the more eclectic shoppers figured buying a record by a band like The Dictators on Asylum was worth the risk at a discounted price. This is the kind of memory we’d like to hear more about, and The Music Scene makes me think it was one of these vinyl closeout palaces. We miss you Matt, RIP.

Why pay more, indeed.

*The “cut-out” itself could be a cut jacket corner, a drillhole in the jacket, or a sawmark notched into a jacket’s edge. This indelible marking was sometimes (usually later on chronologically) used to denote promotional records as well.

Welcome to Death Of Retail, where we mourn retail record stores (and perhaps hardware stores in the future) by celebrating their label art, signage, point-of-purchase, and other distinctive pieces of design that are either extinct or on the way there.

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Note in this image:

  • Skippy White’s (Boston), alive.
  • Boston Beat (Boston), dead.
  • Alwilk Music (New Jersey), dead.
  • Tower Records (chain), dead.
  • Dynamite Records (Northampton MA), dead.
  • HMV (international chain), dead in the US, on life support in the UK.  Poor Nipper.
  • Last Vestige (Albany NY), alive.
  • Stereo Jack’s (Cambridge MA), alive.
  • Deco Dance (Staten Island NY), dead.
  • RRRecords (Lowell MA), alive.
  • The Garment District’s downstairs record room [the silver barcode decal], store alive but record room gone.
  • Mystery Train (Gloucester MA), two locations alive, different owners, in Gloucester and Amherst MA.