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Crazy Beat Records: An Interview with Gary Dennis


Join us as we dive into the world of Crazy Beat Records, a record shop nestled in London and Essex. In this interview, we're chatting with Gary Dennis, the driving force behind the store.

Crazy Beat Records has established itself as one of the biggest record shops in the London and Essex areas. What makes your store a must-visit destination for music lovers, and what unique experiences or finds can they expect that they might not find elsewhere?

Being one of the biggest shops is definitely one of our unique selling points. With over 100,000 items on site, there's something for everyone, ranging from £2 bargains to niche rarities. We pride ourselves on combining a modern, online store approach with a traditional store for diggers.

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How do you manage your broad and varied music inventory, and which genres are most favored by your customers?

Having a range of staff who have knowledge of diverse genres is definitely essential. In the early 90s, when I first took over the shop, it purely sold reggae, dance, hip-hop and soul music. Gradually, over the years different staff members have contributed their expertise in other areas of music, and our repertoire has expanded to encompass virtually any musical style you can imagine. In practical terms, we constantly have multiple staff members listing online and putting stuff out in the shop, each working with particular genres. This keeps things interesting for the staff and for our customers.

Can you describe the community surrounding Crazy Beat Records and how your events and store atmosphere promote a sense of inclusion?

Originally our core customer base was DJs and hardcore collectors, but gradually that's expanded. Thanks to our Discogs store, we have customers in virtually every country. We have customers fly in from the other side of the world to visit our store! We are very open and welcoming to all kinds of customers, from octogenarians who are looking to relive their memories, to school kids who are just getting into records. We always endeavour to be helpful and welcoming, and we're not judgemental about people's tastes.

How are your bargain sections curated, and what unexpected treasures might customers find there?

Honestly there's not a huge amount of thought put into those sections of the shop. The bargain bins are generally cheap rock and pop and soul on one side, and cheap garage and house on the other. It gives people the chance to increase their collections and try new stuff out without spending a fortune. There's the perception in some circles that record collecting has to be a massively expensive hobby, but that's really not the case. Whether a particular record is a hidden gem comes down to the customer's taste, I suppose!

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How do you balance the needs of your online and in-store customers, and what challenges and benefits does this dual presence entail?

At one point we tried to do what a lot of physical shops with a Discogs store do, which is to put our shop stock onto Discogs. It was a complete disaster, and threw our inventory into chaos. We quickly learned that the best way forward was to keep the Discogs stock out the back, separate from the shop stock. The customers who come in to browse the shop are typically looking for dance or reggae, whereas the Discogs customers will buy stuff that we'd never put out in the shop - bird noises and novelty picture discs and other mad stuff. There's an audience for everything on Discogs but our shop clientele is more specific.

What types of records are you most interested in purchasing, and could you explain the process for those looking to sell large or special collections?

We buy an immense quantity of collections, in all genres. Sometimes it's just a handful, usually it's a couple of boxes, and on some occasions we've bought entire houses of records! Obviously condition is important, but we really would buy any genre within reason. The one thing we always say no to is 78s, those things are impossible to post and are almost always worthless! We've refined the process over years to make it very simple - the seller contacts us, sends some photos so we get a general idea of the collection, then we either get them to come to us or we visit them, depending on geography and circumstances. It's always exciting to see what's going to turn up, and every day brings new surprises!

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