If you’re a fan of local music, you’ve likely visited West Ashley’s record store, Monster Music & Movies. Although it opened during a time of declining CD sales, the store has not only survived but thrived over the past 20 years due to a resurgence in popularity in vinyl sales.
The record store represents the essence of what all record collectors have in common: a deep love of music. And for Galen Hudson, the longtime general manager and, as of this year, the store’s new owner, his life’s path has been guided by his love of music.
Hudson said he became a “record freak” while growing up in the 1980s in Chapel Hill, NC.
“I just couldn’t get enough – learning about new artists, new music. It’s this sense of discovery that happens in a record store. When I got out of college, of course, I got a job at a record store,” he said.
When Hudson moved to Charleston in 1993, he began working for Manifest Discs & Tapes, a Columbia-based independent record store chain with five stores in the state.
In 2004, Manifest announced it was closing operations and sold its individual stores. The Charleston store was purchased by Bruce Carlock and Mike Wise, who ran a chain of stores called Cat’s Music. Hudson, who then oversaw three Charleston-area Cat stores, took over at the West Ashley Manifest store — now called Monster Music.
“We had to change the name, and there was a giant sign over the store, ‘Manifesto Records and Tapes,’ and these giant letters, maybe 4 feet of neon. We said, ‘Well, what can we change the name to so we can use as many of those letters as possible?’ Someone had the idea of Monster Music.”
Hudson has managed the store since he began the process of buying the business three years ago, fulfilling a lifelong dream of owning a store of his own.
A changing industry
Monster — a store that sells CDs, DVDs and vinyl records — has survived in a rapidly changing industry, in part because Hudson created a used record section of the store in the mid-2000s when vinyl’s popularity revived, and in part because because of Record Store Day, a nationwide day. party.
“Around the mid-2000s, CD sales started to decline, year after year … That’s when things felt a little bleak,” he said.
The tide began to change in 2006 – Hudson would annually represent Monster at an industry trade group called the Music Monitor Network, where independent music stores would come together to create initiatives to drive sales of physical music. In 2006, the chain conceived “Record Store Day,” and Monster hosted its first Record Store Day celebration the following year.
“It was an effort to change the conversation a little bit, to show the world what role the record store plays in its community and the importance it has to its customers,” Hudson said. “We got record companies to create some exclusive releases just for the record stores that were participating in Record Store Day. For Monster, I turned it into a store-wide sale with bands, food trucks, a big party.
“At that time, the novelty of the iPod had kind of worn off and people were starting to get frustrated with certain things,” Hudson said, as if the physical experience of finding and buying music was missing.
Every year since 2007, Hudson said there has been a nationwide increase in vinyl sales.
“It’s the biggest part of our business,” Hudson said. “We’re not comparing it to streaming — we’re comparing it to what it was 20, 15 years ago. And the fact that it’s going up every year, that’s pretty dramatic. There’s some significance there.”
Creating space for connection
Another reason for Monster’s success, Hudson said, is its customer-centric approach and offering things like posters, T-shirts and more — “things that Walmart or Best Buy won’t really care about. Our focus is getting to know our customer and the type of experience they want to have in our store.”
The staff at Monster are full of passionate melomaniacs – perusing the store’s Instagram account, you’ll find staff members photographed with favorite records, photos of well-attended listening parties and an annual themed Halloween costume contest musical.
“I want to help promote local bands, create a space where you can find live music every now and then,” Hudson said. “I think for a lot of people, the store has the same meaning that my record store in Chapel Hill had for me – it’s where you go to learn about new music, learn from people who are really passionate about music and meet other music fans.
“Over the years, I’ve known and met a lot of people who ended up marrying people they met in record stores,” Hudson said. “This is about a lot more than just moving units, moving units is boring. It’s really about the personal connections we make for this shared love of music.”
Keep City paper free
We do not have a paywall. Each week’s print issue is free. We are local, independent and free. Let’s keep it that way.
Please consider a $100 donation to keep it going City paper for free. Donate: chscp.us