If you are like me and you love music, then you love a terrific music store.

Great music stores are a rarity in this digital age, so when my friend DJ Relentless mentioned this really awesome and cool new record store “Pop Music”, I asked him to introduce me to owner Derek Antonio so I can hear from him more about his store.

There store is relatively new, when did you open your doors?

The store opened in November 2017.

You have a fantastic story for why you took the leap to open Pop Music. Tell us more?

It was a gut feeling telling me that I could take all that HMV experience and put it into my own vision. Like any leap, there are risks but if you do your homework and keep your motivations pure, the universe has a unique way of supporting your ambition. The moment I decided to do it once and for all, elements of my vision began to manifest either through my own hard work or through the help of others.

Please share with our readers what inspired the look of Pop Music’s?

Vinyl is very visually inspiring, so I wanted to be able to show off as many albums as I could. Specifically, albums that customers would recognize as record stores can be intimidating. Customers can’t help but feel more welcome when they see products they can relate to. Prior to HMV, I was with Banana Republic for nearly a decade and brand standards were everything. I continue to run with that discipline. So many record stores end up looking like people’s basements with product everywhere. I’m more interested in clarity of offer, ensuring that customers don’t feel overwhelmed by what they see.

What other products do you carry at the store?

The business model needed to be more diverse than just vinyl. Not only for my own sanity but also because I knew there is a big demand for licensed merchandise of popular artists. Much like our vinyl offer, the apparel and collectibles tend to focus on legacy artists (for example Bowie, Stones, Madonna, Beatles, etc.) Tapping into my HMV relationships with vendors, I was able to build an assortment of official merch that would compliment the records. It’s constantly updated with new styles every week. Pop Music would also need to provide tools to help customers explore their curiosity about vinyl. Audio-Technica have been producing quality turntables since 1962 and many HMV customers loved their products, so I feature 3 of their most popular turntables. Later this fall I’ll be testing out Audio-Technica headphones for the holiday season as a natural extension of the brand.

Who is your key clientele?

We knew that by calling ourselves “Pop Music” would raise a few eyebrows, especially because the genre is always put down. Aside from pop, our focus is to feature the most popular albums from all genres from punk and hip-hop to jazz and electronic. With over 1300 albums in stock, I try have the best of everything and whatever I don’t have can be here in just a matter of days. Customer orders are big part of my business. Our customer base trusts me to filter out all the noise and showcase albums that are buzz-worthy or essential. Our walls are sprinkled with all the latest releases from the indie artists to the superstars. It was important to appeal to the queer community by bringing in unique releases that I know are valuable to our people. You can see a trend in our social media posts that differentiates Pop Music from all the other records stores in Toronto. Our inclusiveness is a core value, not just a sales pitch. I hand pick everything that is in the shop with the intention that people will feel like Pop Music has something for them.

What do you hope to see of Pop Music?

The first year can be challenging as a new business, but I’m humbled by the support that has come from the local communities. A year ago, this brand was just notes scribbled on a page and now here we are 9 months later generating all this revenue. I’ve been approached a few times now about expanding our reach but it’s all about sustainability and timing. I’m in the process of seeking a web developer who can make our online store match the vision that’s in my head. There’s also more opportunity to partner with other queer businesses and organizations in our community. Pop Music has sponsored several events already and it’s been inspiring to hear the enthusiasm that people have about what we’re doing.

Pop Music is located at 581 Gerrard East in Toronto or you can visit them online at www.popmusiccanada.ca


About the Author

Antoine Elhashem our publisher of PinkPlayMgs, theBUZZ, and The Pink Pages Directory, is a seasoned media, community, and business leader, with 30 years career in the industry. He is the host of “On the Couch” the popular LGBTQ community talk show on ROGERS tv and YouTube, and he also pens a blog for theBUZZ magazine called “Some of My Most Favourite People” where he takes a look at community events, pop culture, and entertainment.