Aaron Keele and Akim Boldireff
Record dealers and organizers of 10th annual Toronto Downtown Record Show
Ages: 39 and 46, respectively
You know those super-knowledgeable guys behind the counter of the local indie record store, the kind that could have come straight out of the Nick Hornby novel High Fidelity? That's Mr. Keele and Mr. Boldireff.
Mr. Keele grew up in his father's Toronto record store, Don's Discs, which specialized in 1940s and 1950s blues and doo-wop. He went straight out of high school to work in Vortex Records and then had his own shop, Tune Up Records, catering to the DJ and dance-music market. Mr. Boldireff was a record store regular who got to know Mr. Keele at Vortex and later started the long-running north-end store Sonic Temple before selling it and becoming a private dealer like Mr. Keele. Both run the Record Show, which features around 45 different dealers selling records and music memorabilia in booths. Sunday, March 27th, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. $5. Estonian Banquet Hall, 958 Broadview Ave. therecordguys.com
Granted, record buyers come in all shapes and sizes. Still, describe a typical Toronto record collector picking through the crates at the Record Show? First off, he's male…?
Aaron Keele: That used to be the case. But one of the most special things about what's happening now is that the variety is spreading. I used to be the youngest guy in the room… and then every other guy was 45 and up. Now you're seeing not only young men, but young women. It's so vital to keeping it alive and keeping it fresh that there's no typical customer.
Akim Boldireff: What you've got are people that never left vinyl collecting. Then you've got the "new kids on the block" (I hate to say that, but I just did!) that are getting into the hobby for fidelity reasons or the aesthetics of records. It's not a comic-book-nerd kind of guy, someone who's never dated a woman. It's a real mixed breed.
And so much has changed in record retailing, with stores closing, big record stores now jammed with DVDs and video games. Do you feel Toronto is still a good city for buying records?
Aaron: Honest to god, it really is. We're going to do a photo shoot [for this article]at She Said Boom, and [owner Randy Harnett's]store is super vital. You can get great records there. Vortex Records still has amazing deals after all these years.
Akim: For a person like me, it gets a little more difficult because I'm a dealer. If your hobby is to go to all the used record stores in town, it's very competitive. It's all about being there at the right time and finding things. There are a lot of people who, on their way home every day, drop off at the used record shop to see what the new arrivals have to offer. And Toronto has a lot to offer because you've got musical styles from all over the world. You've got reggae records, British folk music, Italian soundtrack music, a little bit of everything. And lots of collectors. Lots of collectors! It's competitive if you're looking for stuff. I find that Aaron and I don't stick to shopping for records in Canada any more.
Right. So, there are still lots of good record shops, particularly used record stores, but you have to be on top of them because of all the high demand out there. Describe the record-collecting community in Toronto then.
Akim: A lot of people have serious collections in this city. We're talking 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 [records]and up. I find unfortunately that, a lot of the time, we get our albums through unfortunate circumstances [e.g. the death of a collector] It's also very common for people to downsize: The kids move out and the parents move into a condo. And you get Joe's reluctant phone call (you know, the husband calling and saying): "My wife's making me do this." They are downsizing, and the big purge is happening with their vinyl collection. That's how I make my money, that's my business.
How do these people find you?
Akim: We have a website, www.therecordguys.com, and also through word of mouth. The community is small in many ways. You get recommendations. Word of mouth is a big part of it.
Are you expecting a trove of large private Toronto collections to be unearthed in the coming years and to hit the shops and the Record Show?
Akim: Absolutely. It's going to be great as far as the next 10 years or so go, because baby boomers are reaching an age where they are downsizing. I mean, not all of those people are going to get rid of their collections, but a good portion of them will. So there will be lots of good records on the market and available.
What's the rarest record you've ever sold?
Aaron: It was a really rare blues 45 [single]on the Atlantic label. And I had no idea what it was. I thought, I'll give this a try. And I got $1,900 for it. [It was by]Soldier Boy Houston. The other one was a test pressing of the very first Who album [My Generation] and it was a U.K. mono. Basically, what they do is they test the [factory]plates to make sure everything is good. The maximum they would have pressed of that would have been 100 copies, maybe more like 50. And they would have sent them to the band members, the producer and the label executives. The idea is that everybody is supposed to listen to it and make sure there are no defects in the plates. That went for just about $1,900 as well.
How about the MP3 generation, and those who have gotten rid of their CDs and have put all of their music on computers and iPods? Your thoughts? Is there a sad corner in heaven for those poor people?
Aaron: You know what? MP3s are a great way to get some music, because a lot of times, it can be impossible to find a record, but there it is for $1 [on iTunes] But as wonderful as that is, the thing that keeps vinyl alive is the majestic experience of popping a record out of the sleeve. You look at pictures of the band. You read the credits. It's a much more visceral experience. You can hear lots of music with MP3, but you can be really absorbed in the experience with a record.