Fat Beats Examines Factors Leading to Its Closure
Fat Beats — a mecca of hip-hop vinyl and true friend to independent artists — will shut its New York City doors on Saturday evening for the last time. It’s a bittersweet moment for hip-hop fans all over the world. While the company will maintain its online presence, label and distribution arm, the retail closing is indicative of something much bigger. Rap fans and DJs are no longer buying albums like they once were and are just as easily allowing online communities and piracy to replace the sensation of going into the real world and discovering music through a community retail shop. The BoomBox got with Fat Beats owner and president Joseph Abajian (aka DJ Jab) to discuss the store’s closing.
“The reality is Fat Beats retail hasn’t really been the store that I’ve known in years,” Abajian tells The BoomBox. “For the last three years, we’ve been kind of just keeping it going because I have a business plan to create a huge hip-hop retail operation. Now, we’re just trying to salvage what we have. It’s not hurting me that we’re closing. I was hurt years ago when music went to buy Nike sneakers.”
Fat Beats was renowned for being the best place to find independently released hip-hop vinyl. The closing of similar mom-and-pop record shops leaves a lot of artists without major label backing and marketing budgets to fend for themselves online. For newer sensations, take Wiz Khalifa as an example, this can be a good thing. For others, a big opportunity to locally build a fanbase is lost.
“As independent artists, you want to see yourself in a store,” he says. “New York in general has changed. It’s very hard to have a small mom-and-pop store. The rents and taxes and general business structure is not setup for you. The mom-and-pop scene — being that we do distribution across the world — is still fairly strong, though. There are less than before, but there’s new stores popping up all the time. I would still encourage artists to find a local store. We are physical people. We have to interact.”
On that front, Abajian is currently planning a larger retail operation to replace Fat Beats. While the new store will still sell records, it will also open up to graffiti artists and fans as well as dancers. Abajian also intends to have a robust book selection and museum element that focuses on the genre’s true history, fashionable or not.
Watch the Fat Beats blog throughout its final week for updated in-store performance times and special announcements. The BoomBox will be there to cover the legendary store’s closing featuring DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Just Blaze, DJ Scratch and a closing set by DJ Jab himself.