With Record Store Day right around the corner, we’re focusing our April features on Women Owned shops. Our first is someone we’ve been wanting to feature for some time and are excited to share her story and passion with you. Meet Marketta Rodriguez, she is a pillar of the community, both her local community, and the vinyl community. Marketta established Serious Sounds, Etc. in 1991 out of an expressed desire to provide the local residents in Houston with a retail environment that catered to the African-American community of music lovers, shoppers and buyers. 2021 marked her 30th Anniversary! As the only remaining Black owned record seller in Houston, TX, she works to continue to be a vital component and supplier for music lovers in the Houston area and beyond. The brick and mortar shop ran from 1991 – 2021 at the same location, and she’s now transitioned to being exclusively online since January of 2022 until a new, suitable physical location is discovered.
When she’s not finding your favorite records Marketta is traveling, or reading in between doing concert production (the Etc. in Serious Sounds, Etc. as this is an arm that puts on live shows at Warehouse Live) or working as the Merch & Road Manager for Sy Smith, handling all her solo Bookings. “Lol…I know all still kinda work related but definite hobbies and truly a labor of love”, she says.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I returned to Houston after graduating from College in 1990. The crack-cocaine epidemic had decimated the neighborhood where I was born and raised and there wasn’t a ‘suitable’ “community” record store environment (by my standards) so I decided to create one.
What is a day in the life like?
My days are significantly different since I closed the brick and mortar. I’m a Physical Business Action Committee (PBAC) member with the Music Biz organization. We spend time addressing the “physical product” needs of the business (vinyl, CD’s, cassettes, etc.). This has become an ongoing labor of love since streaming and digital came into the mix. Our committee meets via Zoom and we do the most mundane things like reiterating to major labels and distribution companies the need to press physical product to the more nuanced things like spearheading a task force to make suppliers aware that care needs to be taken when shipping vinyl to prevent corner bumps and the like and creating guidelines for them to share with their employees regarding proper types of boxes to ship product in as well as the handling and shipping of said boxes.
I’m also a member and Board Member of the F.A.M.S. (Forever A Music Store) Coalition. It’s the coalition of Black-owned retail stores and we also meet via Zoom to regularly set up marketing plans for projects and to try and drive awareness as well as eliminate some of the disparity that exists between big box stores and indie stores (especially black-owned indie stores).
A significant portion of my day is also spent reviewing the landscape. i.e. seeing what’s available to order, ordering, staying up on new releases that might be coming down the pipelines and setting up events and promotions with my customer base to keep them supplied with all their musical needs, musical titles, turntables, t-shirts, books and everything else they were able to walk into my store and purchase for so many years.
Before I shut down the brick and mortar all of the above applied daily but to a lesser degree as face to face interaction with customers always took precedence from 10a – 7p. I often liken myself to the Bar-tender, Hair-stylist, Barber, etc. where customers would often come in and look to me as their counselor. Of course, all the nuances of running a business still apply then and now. Marketing and Advertising, Banking, Bookkeeping, Taxes, Community Outreach, etc.
Favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
Favorite sale had to be helping a 93 year old elder find a Mahalia Jackson song. She could only recall a few of the words. I played several selections. This was pre-Goggle so no lyric searches back then. When I finally hit upon the song she was searching for, she closed her eyes, reared her head back and just let the sounds take her away to a time long past. It was a priceless moment for me and I’ve always been grateful that I was able to bring that joy to her by way of song and customer service.
In your opinion what has been the coolest thing to come through your shop / thing you had to keep / almost couldn’t put out for sale?
1999 Limited Vinyl 12″ single release of Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Sy Smith‘s “What I Am” from The PJ’s Hit Television Series (soundtrack). That song was a sleeper ‘underground’ hit in my area. Sy and I became friends, forged a business partnership and are still friends/biz partners to this day.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Losing customers who have become friends to the cycle of life. In 2021 three of my MOST favorite customers all died within 6 months of each other. That made me really look at all the years and caused me to realize how many customers had become “family” and the extensive feelings of care and concern that had been developed.
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
Too many to name. Depends on what type of feeling you’re looking to evoke. lol! On a light “crazy” experience, I’d have to say it was an in-store I was having with Will Downing. This was the mid 90’s and Will was/is considered a heart-throb for middle-aged African-American women. We were doing an in-store and when the ladies at the hair-salon (which was 4 doors down from me) heard that Will Downing was in my store, the Salon owner locked up shop and they ALL filed into my store AS IS! There were women with perms, hair color, half-cut hair, etc. all over the store and they all looked a mess!! If you know anything about middle-aged Black women in the 90’s they just wouldn’t be seen out like that in public. Will Downing’s presence got them to drop all shame and he had lots of jokes!!! It turned out to be a great evening of love and much laughter!!
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Decide on your “why”. Don’t expect to make a million dollars, but know that you can make an awesome life if you honor your why. Always, Always, Always, make customer service your prime concern.
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 super excited about the resurgence and interest in vinyl especially from young females. I’m worried about the continued clog in the vinyl pipeline. I’m also worried that Urban/Black catalog titles are getting forgotten and placed on the back-end of the pipelines. That’s dangerous and alienating. I love how many new “collectors” I see via social media and how creative they are about trying to add titles to their collections.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I’m a lazy collector. Some years on and aggressive and others not so much. I am a sucker for older R&B/Jazz female legends however, like Nancy Wilson, Phyllis Hyman, Minnie Riperton, Gladys Knight, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, etc. If I only get one I will contemplate for quite a while whether I’m going to put it into store stock. lol!
Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry?
Terri Rossi (former Billboard Magazine Writer (R&B Rhythms) and former VP of Marketing at BMG Distribution), Sy Smith (Indie Artist/Musician/Label Owner), Alicia Cannaday (my current Store Manager) I call her “Generation NEXT” and I’m so honored she found me and has been an amazing resource and asset in helping me continue to grow in this industry.
Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you’re listening to:
Favorite Music Genre – R&B (forever a lover of a good soul ballad). Favorite Band Right Now — Tank & The Bangas.
Serious Sounds: @shopserioussounds
Serious Sounds: @SeriousSoundsRecordStore
Marketta: @Marketta MusicLady Rodriguez