Toronto record store that supported local music scene to close doors by June

·4 min read
Soundscapes, located at 572 College St., drew lineups on Saturday and Sunday for its closing sale, which began on Wednesday and will continue until the store closes its doors on June 1. (Çetin Cem Yılmaz/Twitter - image credit)
Soundscapes, located at 572 College St., drew lineups on Saturday and Sunday for its closing sale, which began on Wednesday and will continue until the store closes its doors on June 1. (Çetin Cem Yılmaz/Twitter - image credit)

A much-loved Toronto record store that supported the local independent music scene will close by June 1.

Soundscapes, located at 572 College Street, drew lineups on Saturday and Sunday for its closing sale, which began on Wednesday and will continue until the store closes its doors. It has been in business for 22 years. Owner Greg Davis opened the store in 1999.

"A big thank you to all of our loyal customers through the years! You have made it all worthwhile and we so appreciate your support for us through the good times and lean times," a note on the store window reads.

"We are all lucky to be living in a golden age for musical discovery. The past twenty years produced musical riches aplenty, both from new artists, as well as the discovery of archival releases from the past. We hope you have enjoyed the music we were lucky enough to recommend and sell to you over the years."

Phil Liberbaum, senior staff clerk at Soundscapes, said on Sunday that the store has received much support since it announced that it must close.

"The show of love, adoration and support we have all had here has been amazing. It's been wonderful," he said.

However, it's a scenario not unlike the popular song Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles, Liberbaum said. Except, in this case, it's "Spotify killed the CD star."

"It basically was a while in coming because of the format shift away from physical media to streaming media," he said.

Phil Liberbaum, senior staff clerk at Soundscapes, said of the store where he has worked for more than 17 years: 'I think Soundscapes has been a kind of a cultural centre, not just a retail operation. I think it's been a magical place.'
Phil Liberbaum, senior staff clerk at Soundscapes, said of the store where he has worked for more than 17 years: 'I think Soundscapes has been a kind of a cultural centre, not just a retail operation. I think it's been a magical place.'(Submitted by Phil Liberbaum)

Not only has it become pretty costly to carry new vinyl records, but now that "they've almost become luxury items" there's plenty of competition selling them in Toronto, he added.

Liberbaum said sales have declined over the years and the pandemic made it even harder to carry on business. The store was closed for two-and-a-half months last spring and offered only curbside pickup for three-and-a-half months during one lockdown. "The Christmas shopping season became a total washout as a result," he said.

The store used to sell concert tickets, one of two record stores in Toronto that did so, but tickets flatlined last March. With high rent and property taxes, the store struggled, he said. "All of these things came to a head," he said.

Davis then took a "long, hard look" at Soundscapes and made a reluctant decision to close it, he said. "It was a question of the long-term future for the store, and Greg decided there isn't much," Liberbaum said.

Store was community hub for independent music

Soundscapes, however, has a long, colourful history. When it opened, the store quickly became a community hub for independent music in Toronto.

Its customers have been hard-core music lovers, "people who love the artifact," and casual shoppers as well, Liberbaum said. Customers have ranged from university students picking up Rumours by Fleetwood Mac to people in their 60s buying classic jazz. Increasingly, shoppers have been over the age of 40.

Many local and visiting artists performed in the store. Soundscapes sold on consignment albums that were independently produced. It carried music books and magazines.

"I think Soundscapes has been a kind of a cultural centre, not just a retail operation," Liberbaum said. "I think it's been a magical place."

One customer, Cetin Cem Yilmaz, tweeted this photo of album covers in Soundscapes.
One customer, Cetin Cem Yilmaz, tweeted this photo of album covers in Soundscapes.(Çetin Cem Yılmaz/Twitter)

The Toronto Public Library, in an article about the store on May 11, 2011, said: "Over the last decade, Soundscapes has kept its customers steadily supplied with some of the best recordings, in-store performances, and concert tickets to be found in the GTA.

"Greg's been joined behind the counter by some other faces over the years, but his enthusiastic advice and friendly encouragement of audiophiles new and old has remained an essential part of what makes Soundscapes one of the best record stores you'll ever walk into."

Soundscapes partnered with the library on its Local Music Scene program since the store first opened and the store has helped the library "choose recordings, plan events and host shows," it said.

Added Liberbaum: "We are looking at putting a lock on the door by June 1st."

Liberbaum has been working at Soundscapes for more than 17 years. He is the only full-time employee apart from Davis. The store still has one part-time employee.

Customers took to Twitter on the Easter long weekend to express their gratitude for the store.