“Snoop Dogg doesn’t know this, but still today, promoters call from places like France and Belgium asking for him because they associate him with our store,” V.I.P. Records owner Kelvin Anderson told Patch.
“They still think he lives down the street,” he added, chuckling.
After last week’s announcement by Anderson that the famed record store would likely close next month, potential promoters may have to redirect their inquiries concerning The Doggfather.
Indeed. Anderson’s record store located on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach garnered worldwide recognition in 1993 when a then- young Snoop appeared in the music video for his single, “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?,” atop the store’s roof.
Since then, the music industry, which relied on fans purchasing physical vinyl, cassettes and compact discs to generate revenue, has changed dramatically.
With the advent of digital downloading, record sales have dropped. Retailers such as Tower Records went out of business while others such as F.y.e. have gradually phased out stores.
Needless to say, V.I.P. Records hasn’t escaped the downturn.
“I can’t compete with free,” said Anderson. “I’ve been able to hang on this long because we offer things that the big retailers can’t offer.”
“You can’t go into Tower or Best Buy and hum a song, and have someone not only tell you the name of it, but then help you find the record,” he continued.
Anderson said free downloading is the main culprit behind why he may close the store.
Anderson added that the announcement wasn’t a surprise to the store’s regular customers. He said although it wasn’t “easy to do,” the store’s closure was inevitable, and that loyal customers were informed prior to last week.
Anderson, known for personal interaction with his customers, discussed some of the challenges he confronts on a daily basis.
“I have had people tell me while in the store, ’you know I could download this album for free, but I’ll buy it anyway to show support,’” he said.
“Of course I can’t sell music for cheap like the big retailers, so why would someone pay $16.99 for a CD they can just get for free?” he asked.
Rondell Shaw, 20, a student at Long Beach City College, said he grew up and still resides in the same neighborhood as the store.
However, he said that buying music is “a thing of the past.”
“Yeah, I know about some of the history of the V.I.P., but nobody’s walking around with disc players anymore,” Shaw said. “I bought a shirt in there one time, but not music. It’s free. What’s the point?”
History of V.I.P. Records
V.I.P. Records, formerly a chain store, has been whittled down for the past several years to its last remaining location in Long Beach.
Anderson bought the store from his brother and began doing business at his current location in 1978.
Anderson said that the store is one of the few black owned businesses in the area, and likened its worldwide notoriety with the Queen Mary.
“Since we made the announcement, people from all over have been calling us,” Anderson said. “Recently, I would say that 40 percent of the people that visit the store are tourists. They want to take a little piece of Long Beach with them.”
Of course, tourists aren’t the only patrons of the store. Local artists have utilized the V.I.P. as a launch pad for their careers in the music business.
During the early ‘90s, Anderson constructed a small recording studio in the store.
The studio served as an outlet for a local group dubbed, 213, to record their initial rough demos.
The group, comprised of Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg, recorded the song, “Long Beach is a Mutha…,” which eventually landed in the hands of super-producer Dr. Dre.
And from there, the rest was history.
For several years afterward, Long Beach artists such as Tha Dogg Pound, Domino, The Twinz, Dove Shack and Tha Eastsidaz garnered critical acclaim and sold millions of records following the success of 213.
Anderson said he considers V.I.P. a landmark, so much so, that he is circulating an online petition to get it designated as such.
Despite announcing that October would be the store’s last month in business, Anderson said V.I.P. could still remain in business, albeit, not under it’s current model.
“The physical part of the business is over,” he added. “We do feel that if we can get enough capital to reinvent ourselves, we have a shot.”
Anderson hinted that the store could be converted into a “lifestyle” shop. Clothing lines and digital download stations could be integrated, he said.
Anderson said a flood of fan support via Twitter and Facebook have also included suggestions on ways to alter the businesses’ direction.
“There’s so much history with us that turning the V.I.P. into a Hard Rock Cafe type of place is a possibility,” he said.
Anderson said that a tentatively dated fundraiser is in the works for October, at which point he will size up what the future may hold for the landmark V.I.P.