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Guestroom Records turns 15: Celebration set for Sept. 14-15 in Norman

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Travis Searle is one of the co-founders of Guestroom Records, which has shops in Norman, Oklahoma City and Louisville, Kentucky.
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Guestroom Records will celebrate 15 years in business on September 14 & 15 at 125 East Main Street in Norman, Oklahoma. The two-day event will feature 15 bands, including Helen Kelter Skelter, Austin psych outfit King Country, former Chainsaw Kittens frontman Tyson Meade, reunions of the OH Jonny! Girls and Early Beat, as well as a store wide sale, special anniversary merchandise and an employee reunion.

The music industry has changed dramatically since Justin Sowers and Travis Searle opened their first store in 2003. Music retailers had closed shop in the college town, legacy indie stores across the country were regrouping and the music industry scrambled as CD sales sharply declined. Sowers and Searle, OU students who cemented their friendship while delivering pizza, saw an opportunity. Sowers had wanted to open a record store since he was 15 and Searle, who worked in music retail in Oklahoma City during high school, aimed for his own shop. The two joined forces in 2002 and incorporated as Guestroom Records. After 18 months of special orders and “travelling door-to-door peddling punk and indie records,” recalls Sowers, the pair, then 21 and 22, culled together their savings and personal collections to open a 1000 square foot shop in a former auto garage at 119 Crawford Ave.

Today, Guestroom Records has three brick-and-mortar locations in Norman and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (est. 2007) and Louisville, Kentucky (est. 2013).

The original 6000-piece inventory has grown to nearly 90,000 pieces, 75% of which is vinyl. The magnitude and longevity of the vinyl resurgence has been the biggest surprise of the 15 years. “If you had told me that 85% of our business in 2018 would be vinyl I would have burst out laughing,” says Sowers. Searle agrees, “We’ve always loved records but to see the sales formats shift as dramatically as they have over a decade and a half has been astonishing.” Guestroom shifted toward vinyl early, as demand began to increase in the mid 2000s and has participated in every Record Store Day since its 2008 debut.

Guestroom runs a local vinyl label with Norman store general manager Will Muir. The label, Muir explains, “goes to the whole ‘build the scene you want’ ethos” supporting creatives in their communities. Since 2009 they’ve released 4 singles and 7 albums, including The Starlight Mints’ 2009 “Change Remains,” Broncho’s 2011 “Can’t Get Past the Lips” and an official Record Store Day 2018 reissue of Messengers Incorporated’s 1972 “Soulful Proclamation.” Guestroom has hosted hundreds of free instore events including album release performances from Other Lives and John Moreland, annual DIY/Garage Rock “GuestFests” as part of the Norman Music Festival and multiple signings and events with members of Oklahoma’s The Flaming Lips.

“We certainly wouldn’t be here without the support of customers, artists and industry folks who have been so good to us,” says Searle. Muir, who curated the birthday celebration, sees the September event as a way to bring people together and say thank you. While there are currently no plans for more stores in their future, Guestroom owners say they’ll continue to seize opportunities to adapt, improve and grow in the changing environment of the of the music industry. “There is always room for growth,” says Sowers, “and better alphabetization!”

For more information or media inquiry visit guestroomrecords.com or contact guestroomrecords@gmail.com  
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Guestroom Records
125 E. Main St.
Norman, OK 73069
405-701-5974

3701 N. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK 73118
405-601-3859

Louisville, KY

guestroomrecordslouisville@gmail.com

1806 Frankfort Ave Suite 1

Louisville, KY 40206

502-883-0478

www.guestroomrecords.com

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