At a time when the traditional record store has been under fire from Internet sellers, Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz has found a new lure to draw in customers.
Using the latest social media tool, Twitter, one of the only record stores left in the city has started scavenger hunts for vinyl, memorabilia and merchandise, hoping to attract a new generation to an old school brick-and-mortar store.
The record store experimented with its first scavenger hunt last month. The clue was released on Streetlight's Twitter, Streetlight SC. The prize was a signed copy of The Peoples Key, the latest album from popular indie band Bright Eyes.
The result, they say, was bright. People went into the store to search for the prize and ended up shopping for CDs movies and collector vinyl LPs.
“In Santa Cruz, specifically, we are seeing more of vinyl sales," said Mari Sauffer, 35, the store's supervisor. "It's kind of becoming more of a collectors area [of] those things, say analog, that are harder to find.”
Record stores face stiff competition from the Internet, where any music on a CD can be downloaded and shared with the world for free. Streetlight Santa Cruz hopes to combat a downward trend in sales by reaching out to the community with social media and offering products that cannot be shared online.
The store has had to branch out from CD and vinyl sales; it also sells DVDs, video games, turntables, posters and artwork. Stauffer was tight-lipped about the scavenger hunt offerings in the future.
“It'll be all sorts of different merchandise, not just music; it may be like a DVD or something," said Stauffer. "Were not really disclosing specifically what were gonna be giving away. It will be a pretty wide range."
The event was not huge, but it was successful, drawing in some excited Bright Eyes fans and garnering media attention around the store.
"It was only handful," said Stauffer, "I think because it was the first one we did. The new Bright Eyes sells very well, and that's a popular group in this town. I think maybe people just hadn't found about it soon enough."
The idea for a scavenger hunt did not originate with Streetlight Santa Cruz. It was part of a series of promotional activities created by the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. Streetlight SC will continue the event independently.
“At the moment were gonna try to do it as often as possible—probably a couple times a month would be my guess," Stauffer said. "It may happen more often. It will also depend on how we can get ahold of merchandise, and how often, to give away."
The Coalition of Independent Music Stores was created in 1995 and represents 59 stores in the United States. The organization coordinates promotions and events for its members, without the umbrella of a single label or corporate owner.
“We were just trying to come up with a way that we could use social media to tie in to physical record stores, in order to try to bring more people into the record stores,” said Liz Reeves Boger, 28, director of program sales at CIMS.
CIMS has put on scavenger hunts at other locations in the past, with such bands as Pearl Jam and Jimmy Eats World.
“The stores have reported increased sales through these types of scavenger hunts," said Boger. "They definitely increase traffic, increase visibility online with people messaging, posting on their Facebook and their Twitter pages."
The more flexible record stores have ridden out the Internet storm by cultivating social media connections and bands' online communities.
“The biggest success we've seen is when the band actually messages it out through their own Twitter and Facebook pages,” Boger said.
The next promotional event is Record Store Day, an international event held annually on the third Saturday of April. The day was started four years ago to celebrate and keep alive independent record stores.
Bands release special vinyl records on that day. Some which will be sold later and some just for the day in limited editions. Among the artists participating this year are the Rolling Stones, Phish, Foo Fighters, Gorillaz, Panda Bear and Nickel Creek.