Not long after taking over Victrola in October 2019, CEO Scott Hagen considered moving the headquarters of the century-old turntable company from Port Washington, New York, about twenty miles west to Brooklyn. But in early March 2020, just before COVID-19 lockdowns swept the country, he began exploring other options, ultimately deciding to move the headquarters to Denver.
Hagen shut down operations in Port Washington, which is on Long Island, just outside of Queens, and his entire staff started working remotely. Over the past year, Victrola’s executive team has been based in different cities around the country, so shutting down headquarters didn’t impact business.
“We started operating more productively,” Hagen says. “And then what happened was that we started thinking, ‘Hey, if we can work remote, why not look at all the potential locations that we want to be in the future, if we don't think that we would lose our employee base by moving to another location?”
Hagen and his team began looking at nineteen different cities around the country, evaluating the financial implications of doing business in them. They were looking for places that appreciated the arts, invested in music, lived outdoor lifestyles, and where the company could recruit a healthier employee base, among other factors.
After narrowing it down to six cities, including Austin, Seattle and Park City, the team decided to set up shop in Denver.
“It was a no-brainer,” Hagen says.
In late January, the company moved into Shift Workspaces, which is housed in the former Fistell’s Electronics Supply in the Golden Triangle, but Victrola’s executive team is still sprinkled around the country, and some employees are still on Long Island.
Hagen says he’s essentially building a brand-new team from the ground up in Denver and hopes to have about forty employees by the end of the year. Half will be based in Denver, and he hopes to have nearly all of the company’s staff in the city by the end of 2022.
“It’s a progression, and frankly, because of COVID, everything is slower when it comes to hiring people and moving people,” Hagen says. “It's been a real learning experience for me.”
Hagen says there are two sides of Victrola's business: It manufactures and markets audio products, most of which are record players, while it also runs a record store with one of the largest online assortments of vinyl in the market.
“We have what I would call a bit of a bifurcated consumer segment,” Hagen says. “But I don't want you to think about it as like two different customers. I think about the same person. They’re just doing something different at different times.”
The company targets 18- to 35-year-olds, urban trendsetters who have become the consumers of vinyl over the past few years, says Hagen. Despite streaming dominating music sales, the vinyl industry continues to resurge in the United States. Earlier this year, the Recording Industry Association of America reported that vinyl sales grew 28.7 percent, to $626 million, in 2020.
Hagen notes that just a few years ago, vinyl sales were $200 million; he hopes they'll get up to $800 million this year.
While some vinyl buyers believe that records are the best way to listen to music with a critical ear and think the sound quality is superior to digital, others appreciate slowing down and enjoying the experience of sitting and listening to records.
“The audio quality has something to do with that, but it's not only that at all,” Hagen says. “That's not the core driver of the experience. The core driver really experiences this whole search and discovery, picking this physical thing up, putting it down, and actually sitting down and listening to more than one track.”
Hagen says some of the people in Victrola’s demographic might be digital music subscribers listening to music all day long, but they’re also finding a huge amount of energy, solace and fun in sitting and listening to records with their friends.
Also, some people in that age group are buying Victrola’s record players — which look nostalgic but are loaded with modern technology — for their parents; others buy them for their kids.
“We recognize that putting over a million record players into people's hands for gifts on an annual basis is a really good thing, because they're experienced in it,” Hagen says. “And they're actually then wanting to get a little bit more, maybe upgrade. But they're certainly turning into vinyl consumers and users, which is why we have the record store to help them. Once you buy three, you become this kind of collector and start buying more and more and more.”
Victrola’s mission statement is “We bring lifelong music memories into every home." And Hagen says the company’s products help empower the creation of memories.
“It’s also allowing you to reflect,” he adds. “What I mean by that is you play a record on a player and sit and truly listen to a song. And more often than not, you get some type of visceral reaction."
In the next few months, Victrola’s team will be working on completely rethinking the suitcase turntable and making it sound as good as the best Bluetooth speaker on the market today.
Explains Hagen: "We're bringing in new patterns and new technology to allow us to take the traditional turntable and make it sound massively better than what a consumer has ever heard before, by taking the understanding that I and others on our team have on acoustics and applying it to something that has been kind of ignored — a category that's been ignored for quite some time.”
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