How to Open a Retail Music Store

Updated March 23, 2017

The decline of the neighbourhood record and guitar shops has helped major chains like Guitar Center and Virgin Records thrive. These chains use their considerable financial resources and name recognition to draw in consumers looking for the latest chart toppers as well as affordable instruments. While record shops have given way to MP3s and retail chains, music fans interested in starting retail music stores can succeed if they find the right niche. A retail music store needs devoted employees, diverse products and a presence in the community to compete with larger retailers.

Produce a business report that accounts for your starting budget, proposed outreach efforts and sources of additional revenue. Calculate cash on hand, assets and credit cards that can be used to finance the shop from the start. Add your business name, logo and prospective advertising campaigns as an addendum to the report. Your business plan should outline music lessons, concerts, CD cleaning, and other services to make your shop stand out from others.

Locate storefronts in your community that are adjacent to concert halls, bars and other music venues. If your store is located near art supply shops and cafes, your chances of turning foot traffic into sales will increase.

Apply for a loan from a local commercial bank to cover your rent, payroll and initial wholesale purchases. Calculate your operating costs for the first three months. Request a loan to cover this amount. If your bank can arrange for a business credit card, apply for this card to pay for day-to-day costs like office supplies.

Acquire CDs, DVDs and music publications from a music distributor like the Alternative Distribution Alliance. Music distributors act as middlemen between record labels and retail music stores, facilitating regular shipments of new albums and books. Prepare to fill out information on your finances when applying to a music distributor as they will favour stores with revolving lines of credit and cash on hand.

Contact record labels directly if you are interested in carrying certain artists in your store. Sub Pop Records and other labels have special contact information on their Websites for direct sales to stores. Assess the name of artists desired by your customers using survey forms and informal one-on-one discussions between checkout clerks and customers.

Fill your inventory with guitars, high hats and sheet music by ordering from a music instrument wholesaler. Wholesale Music Club USA is a national wholesaler that offers stores owners access to hundreds of instrument providers through a single catalogue. Keep the size of your display space as well as customer demand in mind before ordering expensive instruments and accessories.

Conduct interviews with students and musicians to fill a handful of part-time clerk positions. Filter out a majority of applicants by asking questions about their knowledge of music and willingness to grow with your business. Ask finalists questions about their musical preferences to determine if they would create the right atmosphere for your store.

Hang a few notice boards in your doorway to encourage bands and venues to post their signs in your store. Create competition in the local music scene by allowing shoppers to vote on their favourite bands. The winning band can get top billing in the entryway and additional space near the checkout area.

Commit some of your time to creating an online presence for your retail music store. In addition to an e-commerce section for buying music, your website should feature recommendations from your staff about the latest releases. Music stores that sell instruments can create periodic podcasts to teach basic lessons on instrument care.


Coordinate sponsorships with local universities, music clubs and publications to get your store's name into the public. The support of a local music store can convince record labels to send their artists to overlooked communities. Offer your store space for artist signing sessions, fan meet-ups and other events if you lack the money to offer material support. Hold special events in your retail music store to reward loyal customers. Use after-hours events like midnight CD releases, intimate live sets and discounted music during certain days to keep customers returning for more.


Train your staff to discern between good and bad buybacks if your music store sells used records. Create a list of good qualities in a record or CD including original cover materials and perfect playback. If you buy damaged records and CDs from consumers, your store will get a negative reputation among local music fans.

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About the Author

Nicholas Katers has been a freelance writer since 2006. He teaches American history at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. His past works include articles for "CCN Magazine," "The History Teacher" and "The Internationalist" magazine. Katers holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in American history from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, respectively.