Today we get to introduce you to someone slinging vinyl and merch both on the road and off. Nicki Ricci is a touring professional (merch manager) and when she’s at her home base in Nashville, is store clerk at Vinyl Tap; a new and used record store that also has local and regional craft beer while you dig. Nicki has recently started DJ’ing, strictly vinyl, and is “excited about how that’s going“. From working in various record stores, promoting local shows, repping at a music venue, and managing an artist; she’s worn a lot of different hats and has played various roles in this industry, but one thing is for sure, this is where she belongs “At the core of it, I’m a wax head. Vinyl is my love language. The digging, buying, selling, flipping, spinning—I love it all. Not many people get it, but those reading this blog know what I’m talking about”.
When not on the road or at Vinyl Tap, she a self proclaimed self-love kind of gal. She’s a runner, day hiker, foodie, and cinephile. “The perfect day off is a morning run and workout/hike, maybe a getting my nails done, having a “don’t worry about the bill” kind of meal and a movie. When you work in your passion, it’s easy for it to be all encompassing which is unhealthy. That hobby/work/life balance is necessary when you work in one of your hobbies”.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
So many different and random factors in life brought me to where I am. I’m kind of obsessed with music. Maybe obsessed isn’t the best word but music is the information my brain retains and I have no choice in the matter.
I was born and raised in Memphis, TN and the majority of my family still lives there so the roots run deep. Great music is woven into my childhood. I can go into a whole discourse about the soul of Memphis but that was my environment growing from a baby into a preteen. No one really plays music in my family, it’s just always been around. We moved to North Florida in the early-aughts and during that time of Myspace and the iPod, I learned how to dig for new and old music online. Like I said, music has naturally been a part of my life but I never seriously pursued it. I didn’t know you could actually make money in the industry, it seemed so unstable. While I was at Florida State University studying Spanish education and preparing to be a teacher, I was also going to concerts weekly, doing street team work for festivals, getting involved in the local music scene, etc. I spent my free time doing what made me happy and music was it.
My first retail job was in 2013 at Central Square Records in Seaside, Florida. I thought it was going to be a regular summer job but it opened the door of possibility. I learned a lot in that record sore like how to talk to strangers, predict people’s taste, and sell something as subjective as music. My goal wasn’t to make a sale, I wanted the customer to go home with a larger playlist and it worked. Music is one of the few things that can make a person feel valid and we work in an industry that sadly capitalizes on that.
On paper my job is to sell records but in my mind, my job is to help people find the music that makes them feel good. Intention and passion are the most powerful sales technique.
What is a day in the life like?
If I’m touring: I wake up in a random city. I’ll pull out my phone and try to locate where in the world I am and the closest cup of caffeine. I’ll spend the day either preparing and working a show or exploring the town and any record/thrift store in the vicinity. Then, after a full day of that, I climb into a vehicle around 2 am and shuttle off to a new town to do it all over again!
If I’m in Nashville: I’ll spend the day taking care of myself whether that’s hiking, running, eating, socializing, or going to a show. I love DJ’ing so I’ll set up a gig every so often. I work my shifts at the record store if I need to but if I’m home it’s a “treat yo self” scenario every day since I work hard on the road for months at a time.
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
Every show or DJ set I’m working on is the coolest thing in the moment. So, to not really answer the question—out of all the music industry jobs I’ve had, working at a record store has been my favorite and working as a stage manager has been the coolest. The record store gig is the best way to spend the day and the stage manager position at the venue put me in the orbit of some of my favorite artists and led me to a life on the road.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part of the record store job is the supply chain and making a profit on vinyl to be honest! The current resale market online is somewhat annoying; it’s heightened and influencing the prices at record stores. The job of working at a record store is the most enjoyable so I’ll take all of the difficulties.
If I’m selling merch and vinyl on the road, the biggest difficulty would also be making a profit. Touring is a money pit. Everyone wants their percentage of something. The most ludicrous cut I have to deal with on the road is the venue or promoter taking a cut of merch sales. They don’t put any money towards designing the products, producing or shipping, counting or selling it, none of that. At the very least they offer a corner for us to set up shop and at the end of the night, they ask for minimum 15% of the sales. Some cities like New York and San Francisco ask for 25%. It’s maddening and normalized robbery.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
As with anything you want to get into, seek it out. Want to work in music? Read blogs, follow labels, seek out volunteer and work positions in fields you have experience in that are also in the music industry (marketing, booking, events, retail, stage building, etc.)
Want to work at a record store? Visit more often, buy and discover vinyl, get to know the staff.
Want to work in live music? Apply for box office or street team positions at your local venue, go to shows and meet people, get into your DIY/house show scene, volunteer at festivals. Start local. If you really want to accomplish anything, you will prioritize that thing.
Women in Vinyl just started a free job board which is amazing. Bobnet is a job board for live music. Agencies and labels also post on LinkedIn like any other company. Follow your favorite labels, shops, and music events for opportunities!
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I’m a fiend. My interest in vinyl peaked in my teen years when I started getting into music more seriously and watching movies with records in them. My theory on the vinyl resuscitation: the millennial generation is the first to not have vinyl so naturally that is what we’re curious about. In a virtual world, we want tangibility. I see it happening with cassettes and kids younger than me. Music will always be relevant but the medium is constantly changing.
I will forever prioritize vinyl because it’s the OG fully lossless form. There are no files to compress, it is pressed as it is. It could physically be flawed but at the end of the day vinyl is the deepest form of music. I also love the limited runs and collectibility. As long as humans have ears, they will want to have a vinyl copy of their favorite album.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I’m excited about how the interest in vinyl continues to grow. There’s no better way to discover and listen to music than reading the liner notes on the floor of your bedroom while listening to a full record. I find the interest in cassettes to be funny but don’t appreciate the predatory pricing (we all know better than to spend more than $10 but these Urban Outfitter teeny boppers do not). I don’t like how pricey Discogs has become but that’s the standard marketplace and it sets the prices.
I’d love to see more environmentally friendly approaches to vinyl which is not environmentally friendly at all. Let’s stop with the reissues of albums you can easily find used. We don’t need 180 gram, 150 is fine and even then not necessary.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Go to shows and buy merch. Merchandise is the main way a band profits on tour. If you can’t go to a show, order merch from the 1) artist, 2) label, or 3) record store. Be a conscious consumer when it comes to paying for streaming services. Amazon and Spotify are easy if you don’t want to put in any effort to consume music but it contributes to a problem no one’s policing, therefore we have to police ourselves. Choose your paid streaming and vinyl services wisely. Share those songs and playlists, Shazaam away, music is meant for sharing and not gatekeeping (even though it makes you feel super cool to whip out a good song no one knows).
Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you’re listening to:
I’m into all kinds of music so I’ll use this as an opportunity to shout out my favorite local Nashville bands. Snooper is a punk/dance fave by West and East coasters alike; the local scene is very proud of them. Faux Ferocious is in that field of punk. Frost Children are Nashville buds in the glitch scene. Future Crib and Bats are fantastic underground bands I’d love to see on a label soon. When I’m feeling good, I’ll play an Evan P Donahue or Jasmin Kaset (Birdcloud) tune. Gotta shout out the lyricist Jonathon Stone Phillips. There are so many people I could mention here and I’m sorry if I haven’t, I’ll shout them out occasionally on my social media so follow me there. The Nashville scene is pretty tight knit so we all see each other at shows and events. Check out YK, To-Go, Soft Junk Records, or the now defunct Cold Lunch Recordings. Support your local music scenes!
The Vinyl Tap: @vinyltapnashville