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In a world of streaming music, Charlotte's Lunchbox Records keeps on spinning

Lunchbox Records is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Daniel Coston
A line of music fans forms outside Lunchbox Records, located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Just in time for holiday shopping and the Black Friday edition of Record Store Day, we venture to Lunchbox Records, one of the most recognizable record stores in the Charlotte area, not only because it’s aquamarine blue exterior, but also because of its impact in the music community.

It’s known for hosting in-store performances for all ages, stocking records from local acts and receiving signed music memorabilia from Grammy-winning fans (hello, Taylor Swift!). In the age of music streaming, Lunchbox Records owner (and Late Bloomervocalist) Scott Wishart shows that we’re actually in a record renaissance.

"It’s a reaction to streaming and digital downloads. People want to have a physical and emotional connection to something and own something."
– Scott Wishart, owner of Lunchbox Records

Interview Highlights:

On the origins of Lunchbox Records:

Originally, Lunchbox Records was a label that started in 1989/1990 through some people in Atlanta that put out a compilation of a bunch of Atlanta punk bands. My brother got involved in this collective and, through a series of change of hands, he eventually became the sole person doing the label. I would help him doing ads and graphics.

When it came time for me to start the record store, I thought, “I should call it Lunchbox.” So I asked my brother, and he was like, “Yeah, that’s cool.” I took over the name and resurrected the label too.

On the importance of opening Lunchbox Records in 2005 in Charlotte:

At the time, I could have moved somewhere else and it. But I felt like there was more of a need here.

Not that I’m some kind of visionary in the vinyl resurgence. It’s just the fact that most of the things that I liked to buy only came out on vinyl. And so I’m like, “I’m having to special order this stuff (outside of Charlotte), which is ridiculous.” Eventually, it got to the point that I wanted to start a store that was more focused on what me and my friends want.

On the impact of “Record Store Day” on the vinyl industry:

One of the things that helped bring vinyl back to the spotlight was “Record Store Day.” People love to hate it, but they’ve done something that no one else was able to do: they turned around an industry. Lunchbox Records has done it every year they’ve had it.

The other way I look at this day is “Pretend the Internet Didn’t Exist Day,” where you are forced to leave your house and go support a local business. It makes people realize there are things in their neighborhood that they didn’t know existed.

On the importance of locally-owned record stores like Lunchbox Records:

To me, it’s (important) to support the small and local artists that don’t have a focus anywhere else. If you go to Barnes & Noble or Target, they’re not carrying local stuff. It’s nice to go into a place and stumble upon things, which — even with internet algorithms — is pretty hard to do.

We also have bands play in the store, which is something we started as soon as the store opened. Other than (at the time) Tremont Music Hall, there were no other all-ages venues in town. I’m 43 now, and I can get into pretty much any music venue. When I was growing up, there were so many shows that I couldn’t see because I wasn’t old enough to see them at bars. I want young people to enjoy music and be able to see live music and have fun.

On digital downloads and music streaming:

It serves its purpose. I do not subscribe to any streaming services.

I don’t have faith in streaming services to continually provide the content I need and for it to always be there, despite what they promise. For multiple reasons.

If you’re a really small band, and you want your stuff to be on Apple Music, you have to pay for your stuff to be on there — they don’t just put it up there and keep it up there forever for free. So if at a certain point, the artist decides to remove the music or it’s taken down, the digital music’s just going to go away. Whereas if I bought the physical record, I still have it. That’s the reality. That’s why I prefer to pay for something and have it.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

Late Bloomer - “Complacency”
Late Bloomer - “Sleeve”

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Joni Deutsch was the manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, at WFAE, where also hosted the Amplified podcast and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. Joni also led WFAE's and Charlotte's first podcast festival.