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Sunderland five-piece prove the music industry can be big business for small retailers

Frankie and the Heartstrings have opened their own record store to sell their second album

What do you do if you've just come up with a new product but can't find anywhere to sell it? Well, if the retailers don't bite then the answer is relatively simple: open your own shop.

It's a principle that has led to the creation of many a high street store over the years, and now it looks like the same applies if you're a band looking to promote your record.  

Sunderland five-piece Frankie and the Heartstrings are living proof of this theory, hitting headlines following a decision to turn their latest album into a fully-fledged business venture.

The music business

Originally musicians rather than businessmen, the group released their debut album in early 2011, reaching a very respectable 32nd in the UK charts. Their second LP didn't quite hit the same heights when it was unveiled in July this year, but the tactics they've used to promote the album have led to a potentially career-defining revelation.

And that's not because the band's brand of indie-pop suddenly made everyone eager to rediscover 2005, but more a result of their decision to open a shop in which to sell their record.

Explaining that the demise of HMV and the struggles facing independent stores left them worried there wouldn't be any high street retailers left to stock their album, the five-piece took it upon themselves to set up Pop Recs Ltd in Sunderland's old tourist office.

With the shop continuing to enjoy success, Pop Recs Ltd is a live illustration of how local stores can serve as a unifying force in the community

Initially planned as a two-week marketing ploy, the shop was based on the same principle as many pop-ups that have opened for brief stints on high streets across Britain.

Yet Pop Recs Ltd has proved to be a rare exception, and it's early popularity prompted the band to stick with it, extending its lifespan for the forseeable future. The doors are still open today, all sorts of albums are available and artists have been booked for in-store performances through to February 2014.


Frontman Frankie Francis revealed that switching the touring lifestyle for what is essentially a career as the owner of an independent record store hasn't been a stroll in the park, but it's a transition that's starting to pay-off.  

To say the initiative's success was unexpected would be an understatement. Pop Recs Ltd is now serving as more than just a gimmick - it's an outlet for bands that are desperate for the exposure the store can offer. The shelves are stacked with records from local groups, and labels are also looking to promote their presence inside the shop.

With bands coming in to ask for gig slots and customers filing through the doors, Frankie says that if it wasn't for the store then he and the four other members of the group would have to be working elsewhere to make ends meet.

Hitting the right notes

The five-piece happily admit that they're hardly raking in the riches, and record sales alone aren't enough to keep Pop Recs Ltd afloat - but they've embraced the challenge and expanded their product range.

By selling their own coffee blend and brand of beer to keep people in the store, the group have shown an innovative side that they would have previously preserved for their music. The move is another great example for aspiring entrepreneurs in any business to follow - occasionally you need something in addition to your main product to ensure customers stay engaged.

With the shop continuing to enjoy success, Pop Recs Ltd is a live illustration of how local stores can serve as a unifying force in the community. If bands keep coming back to play and customers continue snapping up records, who knows where Pop Recs Ltd could be in ten years' time?