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Sweat Records Helps Keep Indie Music Alive in Miami

Courtesy of Sweat Records

Miami Sound Machine and Miami bass dominated Miami music in the 80's and 90's.

Back then, bands like 2LiveCrew were at the top of the hip-hop scene in Miami. Ten years before that, KC and the Sunshine Band's "Shake Shake Shake" blasted over the airwaves. 

Now, Pitbull and DJ Khaled top the charts on mainstream radio. But there’s more to Miami's music scene than just these famous artists. A lot more. And Lauren Reskin is standing at the gate of the industry in the Magic City. 

Some of her favorite acts include artists like Donzii and Richie Hell

Reskin is the founder of Sweat Records, 5505 NE Second Ave., a record shop in Little Haiti that has become a hub for music lovers in the area to discover a vast collection of genres — rock, pop, electronic, hip-hop — from South Florida. 

Her priority is getting more local music into the public eye. 

WLRN's Luis Hernandez spoke with Reskin this week on Sundial ahead of Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving focused on supporting small businesses in the community. The following is an edited excerpt of their conversation:

WLRN: You started Sweat Records in 2005. Vinyl was not the thing back then. It's growing now, but when you when you started was it  mostly vinyl? What were you selling?

RESKIN: We were about half and half with CDs and vinyl when we first opened. CDs peaked in ’99 and sort of went down from there. And vinyl has been on the double-digit up and up since 2005 or 2006.

There's a return to sound quality. People are into things sounding good again. People are spending money on headphones and sound systems and turntables. To me, one of the best things about it is everything is digital and the people that grew up just a generation below us have maybe never had a physical format music collection. And what better way to rebel or, you know, dive into the counterculture than by buying a giant analog piece of vinyl. And we love that we're able to provide that service. Every time a teenager comes into the store and walks out with a great record, our hearts swell and we know we're doing our job we're supposed to be doing. 

Credit Courtesy of Sweat Records
Courtesy of Sweat Records
Lauren Reskin

Why did you want to go into this business? 

I'd worked at the Virgin Megastore that was down south in Sunset Place and I knew that Miami, though a very spread out town, did have a great population of music lovers from all over. And I really just wanted Miami as my hometown to have an indie record store that was the classic kind of store but for Miami's tastes. People down here have great taste in music. People love all kinds of different genres and we wanted Sweat Records to be the kind of place that local people considered their friendly local record store. 

When did you start doing performances?

Pretty much as soon as we opened. We had a backyard space in our first location and immediately people started approaching us to play. I had been a concert promoter, event promoter, DJ etc. and loved doing things like that. People were coming up with great ideas and so we just started having them on a regular basis.

Then when Hurricane Wilma forced us to move about eight months later, when we set up our new space we knew we wanted to have a stage and host in-store events. And lately, we've been throwing a lot of vinyl release parties, which is our favorite thing. We love celebrating when people embrace the format that we're embracing.

Credit Courtesy of Sweat Records
Courtesy of Sweat Records
Sweat Records is celebrating Record Store Day Black Friday and Small Business Saturday this weekend.

We're talking about the local music scene, so tell me about a couple of groups or performers here locally we don't know about but we should be paying attention to. 

Well, one of our favorites is Richie Hell and he's actually going to be playing at the store on Small Business Saturday. He's from Argentina, moved here a couple of years ago and he does a really cool sort of Thievery Corporation-esque world party music. We love him. He's got an amazing 12-inch record out that was pressed on press and some other cool merchandise. And we're excited to have him be playing that night. And along with him is a newer band called Donzii, which is sort of a New York post-punk flavor of group. They're local people we've known for a while and we got to see them live, we loved them and brought them in. I know they're working on vinyl and we're showcasing them both Saturday night for free. 

Thanksgiving is coming up and after that is Black Friday. One thing that NOT a lot of people talk about is Small Business Saturday. That's important for you.

Well, one of the cool things about the day before is they actually do Record Store Day Black Friday now and Record Store Day is the big day in April where all these exclusive releases come out. You have to be an independent store to order them. You're not going to find that stuff in Target and people line up around the block to be able to get their hands on these limited pieces.

So, Record Store Day Black Friday is sort of a smaller extrapolation of that, and there's a bunch of cool stuff coming out Friday morning. We'll also have people lining up. We're excited for that. It's a more low key Black Friday option. No one's going to get trampled and we're all just going to be celebrating music and drinking some cider. 

I really believe that small businesses are the soul of their communities. Nobody feels like a community has soul because of a new corporate restaurant or a public storage unit. There are so many incredible editors in Miami, you know like Books & Books, that are inspirational to us and you know it's important for people to be able to go into a store and have a local experience. And we do actually get a ton of tourists and all of them are looking for Miami flavor. 

Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.