Spinning The Black Circle: Culture Clash Curates encourages community

Culture Clash owner Tim Friedman is promoting community in the time of COVID.
Culture Clash owner Tim Friedman is promoting community in the time of COVID.

As Toledo’s small businesses scramble to figure out their new normal after months of COVID -related shutdowns, Culture Clash Records has come up with a subscription program that gives music fans the albums they didn’t know they needed.

Culture Clash Curates” is an ongoing monthly subscription program, and the way it works is pretty simple: Through the record store’s website (cultureclashrecords.com), and starting at $50 per month, customers answer a short questionnaire on music tastes (and distastes), talk about what they’ve been spinning lately, and Culture Clash takes it from there. Subscribers receive the equivalent value each month in hand-picked records to suit their tastes, plus a few extras from time to time.

Regulars to record stores are often hungry for staff advice on what unheard album they should buy. Owner Tim Friedman said the new program encourages the kind of personalized interactions with their customers that is currently lacking in the time of social distancing, and which may not return for some time. “There’s just no real substitute for browsing through a record store, you know, literally touching everything you see,” Friedman noted. “And we can’t do that right now, but rounding out that relationship between the store and our customers is essential.” The Curates program aims to do just that.

Those personalized interactions and getting the lowdown on new releases are ingrained aspects of all record stores’ charm and is definitely built into Culture Clash’s DNA as a business. And even though Friedman acknowledged it still isn’t quite the same, he is positive about the Curates program’s potential to build a similar sense of community. “Even if it’s just once a week, sometimes once a month, making a pure connection with a customer and a record [ . . . ] that’s so fulfilling,” he said.

Friedman noted that both he and store employees are in charge of filling the subscription orders; sometimes employees with more knowledge in a certain genre will take up the request. He also remarked that, while the Curates program “has the fingerprint of a stop-gap, COVID procedure,” he said he has no plans to cease Culture Clash Curates after the pandemic subsides. “There’s this revived communal supportive spirit right now [in light of COVID-19],” he said. “I hope it continues.”

Continuing community

Community has always been important to this small record shop. Ever since Culture Clash started as Boogie Records in 1973 under the ownership of Pat O’Connor, the record store has been synonymous with customer recommendation and community; O’Connor made a legacy out of knowing his customers well enough to pull recommendations out of the bins on a regular basis. That legacy, Friedman said, was passed on to him when he took over the Culture Clash mantle in May 2017. “[That sense of community] is what I imagined I would be keeping alive in Toledo, so I want to be sure there’s a place for people to find what they know they want, to come away with a new perspective and new outlook on music, even if just because of one album,” he said. “We have a lot of one-time subscribers, and if we get one of those records so nail-on-the-head that they can’t stop playing it, that’ll make it worth it.”

To become a Culture Clash Curates subscriber and start receiving monthly curated collections, go to cultureclashrecords.com, and follow the Merch link.

Subscribe to the Culture Clash Curates program at cultureclashrecords.com or discogs.com/seller/cultureclashrecords/profile.

While the store is not currently open to the public, you can look for updates by subscribing to their newsletter via the store’s website or visit facebook.com/CultureClashRecords.