Ottawa record store marks 40 years in business

Brothers Ian and James Boyd are celebrating 40 years at Compact Ottawa of connecting Ottawa music lovers with vinyl, CDs and cassettes.

Compact Music celebrates big anniversary on Record Store Day

Brothers Ian (left) and James (right) Boyd run Compact Music's two locations along Bank Street in Ottawa. On April 21, 2018, they marked four decades in business. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

If it weren't for a well-timed record sale in the 1980s, brothers James and Ian Boyd might not be marking four decades in business.

The pair were at a record show in New York City, selling copies of a newly-released Bruce Springsteen album — one which, at the time, was only available in Canada.

They sold more than 50 copies of the album at that show. Only days later, it would be released in the United States.

The profit they made allowed them to buy new records to sell at their Ottawa shop, Compact Music, which this weekend celebrated its 40th anniversary.

"We used to go to... record shows and stuff all over the place: Montreal, Toronto, Philadelphia, New York," James told CBC Radio's In Town and Out.

"We've been together all these years and, even though we do have our moments, it still works."

Compact Music is one of the city’s longest running independent music retailer. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

2 locations still thriving 

Compact Music is one of the city's longest running independent music retailers, with two locations on Bank Street — one downtown and one in the Glebe.

The two brothers told In Town and Out they have plenty of amusing stories over the past four decades, including a time when the store got a mysterious envelope containing $150 from a former University of Ottawa student.

The student wrote that the money was to compensate the store for records he stole while in university. 

"There's a lot of fun in what we do," Ian said. "Every day you'll always hear something new."

Changing times 

The store's anniversary, coincidentally, fell on the the same date as Record Store Day.

The brothers said they witnessed first-hand the decline of vinyl and cassettes and the rise of digital music, even closing down their stores at one point around 1988.

But the pair eventually changed their minds and, a few years later, launched Compact Music all over again. 

Ian and James Boyd are celebrating 40 years of selling records to Ottawa music lovers. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

"We morphed our store a number of times," Ian said. "We've always felt we would go after the 20 per cent of people who value listening to music at home, and that would be our market. And [that decision's] always served us well."

James said that one his favourite parts of the job is having the opportunity to listen to music some people may never hear.

"Really, the best music doesn't sell," he said.

"There are the ones where you can, you know, sell multiple, lots of copies. Then you get the smaller bands that do fine — but most people don't even know who they are."

CBC Radio's In Town and Out