Marching to a different beat

How Beatnik Records amassed an amazing collection of Israeli music records and why people are buying more record players than ever before.

Left - Elad Eisenstein and Guy Grinberg, owners of Beatnik records. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Left - Elad Eisenstein and Guy Grinberg, owners of Beatnik records.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘Did you know records are made as a by-product of oil production?” asks Beatnik Records owner Guy Grinberg. “In the 1970s there was an oil crisis and the prices of oil went up. This had a bad effect on the quality of records being produced because the companies wanted to save money, so records became thinner and they began using recycled materials in the pressing of new records. In Israel, for example, they stopped laminating album covers after 1973 in an attempt to reduce costs.”
Clad in a black T-shirt, long-haired and sporting gold earrings and a heart-shaped arm tattoo, Guy looks the part of a musician-turned-record shop owner. “I was in a rock band actually,” he confesses. “We were called ‘Binder and Duntat.’”
His business partner, Elad Eisenstein, is wearing a blue David Bowie fan-shirt and describes the long journey the two took until they opened Beatnik. Elad was working as a manager in Tzelil, a record store chain that operated in the 1990s and was eventually bought by Steimatzky. This was also where Guy's wife used to work, this was how they became friends. “I used to run their store in Ramat Aviv.”
Surrounded by speakers, record players, music posters and piles upon piles of records it’s easy to see why a physical location was needed. They opened the shop in March 2015 and had to move to a bigger location in February 2017, in Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood. “We actually owe our existence to Facebook,” says Elad. “We started a social group called ‘Record Lovers in Israel – Unite!’ Soon we had thousands of members, 8,000 currently, and we began to sell at fairs and to show up at people’s home and eventually we just needed a store. It’s hard to carry so many heavy boxes full of records!”
Guy says people are buying record players more than ever before. “This store is not just for collectors but also for anybody who wants to enjoy good music. People are returning to the physicality of hearing records and turning away from the ghost of the digital, where every CD sounds exactly the same.”
The reason this isn’t the case with vinyl records, explains Elad, is that records can only be pressed 800 times before the stampers, which contain the negative impressions that create the groove in the record itself, have to be changed. This means that every biscuit, or a heated vinyl patty, comes out a little different.
“Another thing is that people in Israel love musical traditions, songs they heard on their daddy’s knee, so to speak,” Elad says. “It doesn’t even have to be their own daddy! There are Israelis who are looking for Greek records, Iranian psychedelic records, or Turkish rock, without hailing from these cultures themselves.”
The store serves everybody, regardless of age or musical taste. “We have clients in their 50s who are buying a record player like the one they once had, and we have 15-year-old kids who buy a record player to listen to hip-hop. We have people who only buy new records and people who only buy used records. We even have a guy who only buys Israeli records made before 1964. This is the year in which he lost interest I suppose,” Elad says, adding that Beatnik enjoys the largest collection of Israeli records “in the universe.”
The age of social media means that the days of the snotty music store clerk that would belittle clients who were not hip enough are long gone.
“People rarely come into a record store seeking new music,” Guy says. “Usually they come with a shopping list and sometimes they can surprise even us. Some kid comes with a clip from YouTube on his phone, and that is new to us as well. However, very often we’re able to connect with people in ways that Spotify just can’t. This is why people come here, they like having a physical space to see and hear records, they enjoy having people to talk records with, and we can offer them the same prices if not even lower prices than what they’re asked to pay online. So why would they risk having the Israeli postal service break their new album in shipping when they can just come to me and know it’ll be in pristine condition?”
They sell records, speakers, record players, needles and straps – and they “also offer cleaning services for free. But we do ask people to show up only with two or three records, not their entire collection,” laughs Elad. “After all, I can’t stand here for hours washing and drying records. The stacks won’t organize themselves!”
Beatnik will be one of the record stores taking part in the Romano Record Fair on Saturday June 30, between noon and 8 p.m. on 9 Jaffa Way, Tel Aviv.
Beatnik Record Store
38 Abarbanel St., Tel Aviv-Yafo
Opening hours are Sunday to Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday: 10 a.m to 4 p.m; Saturday: 7-10 p.m.