With close to 10 record stores, Austin has many opportunities for music collectors to find rare albums and discover new music. One of these stores that has become a local institution over the years is End of an Ear. Located on South First Street among an assortment of taco joints, the store has won The Austin Chronicle’s award for “Best Small Record/CD Store” for the past six years in a row. In December, the store underwent a large expansion that allows it to carry a wide range of audio equipment on top of its already expansive music collection.
End of an Ear specializes in selling new and used vinyl, but also boasts a robust CD collection, an assortment of DVDs, VHS tapes, books and various independent zines, along with a newly improved selection of audio equipment. Previously crammed into a tight space toward the back of the store, the audio equipment — which includes receivers, speakers and turntables — is now prominently displayed along a wall of shelves in the new back room.
The back room was added after the owner of the vintage clothing store next door decided to relocate. End of an Ear purchased the space, and the addition gave the store about 1,000 extra square feet of room, bringing its size up to about 3,000-4,000 square feet. Aside from housing the expanded audio equipment selection, the add-on is also the new home for the store’s shipping and receiving area.
With about 45,000 records in stock at any given time, vinyl makes up the majority of the store’s sales. The selection is large, but carefully curated. Blake Carlisle, who co-owns the store along with Dan Plunkett, explained that the wide variety is mainly due to the staff actively seeking out good music from smaller labels around the world.
“We try to have quality used records rather than having the same ones that everyone else has,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle and Plunkett are picky when it comes to buying inventory, often relegating less interesting records to the dollar bin section in a separate part of the store. Carlisle’s reasoning is that he doesn’t want customers to flip through Doris Day or Reader’s Digest records to get to what they really want. Carlisle and Plunkett acknowledge that everyone’s opinion is different, which is the main reason why they carry such a varied selection of musical styles, selling as many interesting jazz, new wave and hip-hop records as they do metal or dance.
End of an Ear also boasts a large cassette collection. But specializing in this medium was not something the owners originally set out to do.
“It just sort of happened,” Plunkett said. “There were a lot of artists and labels. We liked putting out material that was only on cassette, so that’s how we ended up carrying so many.”
Aside from its vast inventory, End of an Ear also plays host to intimate live shows throughout each year. Some past performers include artists such as Kurt Vile, Speedy Ortiz, Fear of Men and Perfume Genius.
As far as upcoming shows go, the store expects to have some in-store performances for South By Southwest, even though nothing has been finalized yet. One upcoming event it has definite plans for is Austin Psych Fest in May. There are a few in-store performances scheduled, and Plunkett said that the festival always brings a lot of new customers to the store.
“Last year we could tell a notable difference,” Plunkett said. “The people who come to town for [Austin] Psych Fest tend to be more of collectors. There were a lot of people who came in from France shopping here last year.”
With its expansion and aggressive pursuit to seek out new music, the award-winning End Of An Ear shows no signs of slowing down.