In the urban haven that Berlin has become to all things hip, vinyl culture is a big part of the alternative scene. Although it’s been more than 20 years since the medium died as mainstream, records have gained an extensive following in the past years. Casual listeners, avid fans or mere aficionados make up a broad community that has kept vinyl sales on the rise, leading to the apparition of more and more record stores in the city at a time when others around the world were closing their doors. The consequential impact is easily noticeable – there are countless events, fairs or synchronized record store happenings, while the quality and quantity of the releases you come across is a lot more sensible. Anyone knows Berlin is one of the best cities to go crate-digging or just record shopping, in the world.
Among the throng of record stores here, there are some that are community staples, bringing like-minded people together and always going the extra mile to make them feel at home. OYE, named after Tito Puente’s ‘Oye Como Va’, is one of these places, having been around for a whopping 13 years now in two locations across town. Whether you choose to visit the small shop in Kreuzkolln or its hefty three roomed sibiling, OYE is known for its vast and tasteful selection of music from all genres, with a propensity for fresh good house and techno. Amidst the celebration, we’ve asked Markus Lindner aka Delfonic, co-owner of OYE to tell us a bit more about what goes on behind the curtains of one of Berlin’s finest and cosiest places for music hunting.
LSD: First off happy birthday! OYE is officially a teen. Clearly there must have been some good but also some hard times, to get to where it is today – one of the most beloved Berlin music nerds’ hangout.
ML: Thank you. It was and it is a great journey ….
LSD: Can you walk us through the history of the places and how you got involved?
ML: First Lovis founded the shop in Prenzlauer Berg in 2002 with more brazil, latin, funk & soul and jazz records, when this area was totally different and the club and music scene was located there. We are still there, but opened more rooms for customers and stock way more records right now. But still we have the philosophy about beeing diverse and nice to people, whatever they want or ask for. And we try to filter out the best of a lot of genres for our cutomers, which is a hard job to do.
Now we have two stores in Berlin. The second one is in Neukoelln and we are there now for 3 years now.
I started to work at OYE in 2006 while I was studying. Tinko was working behind the counter and one day he asked me, if I wanna play with him once a month at Roter Salon, because he saw what kind of records I buy and thought it would fit well together.
After a while I was asking if I can have a job there to get records cheaper and after two years working together, Tinko & I became partners.
Now we have around 10 employees and we built up a record store, which gets a lot of great feedback from all around the world. A dream came true, seeing how we started and what we have managed to achieve with our colleagues, customers and partners.
LSD: How do you manage to stay on top of your game? I remember the first time I was in Berlin, OYE was on top of everyone’s recommendations. It felt really warm, unlike other places where I felt rather awkward at times.
It was always our motivation to be one of the best record stores and Berlin is one of the best cities were you can meet and hang out with DJs, producers, label managers & promoters. Our intention was always to be more than a record store. We were related to a lot of labels and still we are doing some club nights as well. Right now we’re doing one with Hotflush every 3 months at OHM Club.
I think when you are nice and professional, people will remember and will come back for more. Also you have to be always one step ahead in the music business to know what’s hot or which records are really important.
LSD: Working there you must get a very real feel about how digital sales affect vinyl. Could you give us a brief description on how vinyl sales were throughout these years and what’s it like now?
ML: Vinyl sales were really low in 2007, but since then it’s still growing. The digital side effects have also a positive side to vinyl, because people have a better chance to dig for music they like and at the same time they go to a record store and are keen for more vinyl. The feeling is different in many ways: people still love to touch and collect something, especially luxury things like vinyl.
The haptic of vinyl is unique and you can’t copy the feeling of getting a vinyl that you had been looking for so long and finally got it for a fair price. This feeling, when a DJ plays this record out is priceless and you can hear it in the DJ sets as well.
LSD: What are the timeless records people always bu yand who’s hot right now?
ML: Nowadays we sell more house & techno than ever. The best selling records are thelabels we are distributing like Box aus Holz, Money $ex, Abayomi, XK Records, Disco Halal, Rose Records, Tartelet etc… But also the afrobeat influenced music is a big seller right now.
Young people are now looking for a lot of older classics, that get repressed step by step, which is great. And when there is a new Moodymann or Theo Parrish record out, then everyone is going crazy about it.
LSD: I know you also had some more special events, of which I wrote about your Beirut pop up shop, and the crew are pretty present in a lot of events..
ML: We’re still doing some events or take part in records fairs in Berlin. Next one is for Krake Festival and for the Festival „ City of a Thousand Suns“ we are going all together to have a little time out with the whole OYE Crew, which feels like a family vacation.
LSD: What secrets is OYE hiding in its backroom?
ML: Ohhh – a lot of 2nd hand records we try to put out step by step every week. So it’s worth it to show up regularly to not miss some hot gems!
LSD: I know you’re also taking care of the distribution of quite a few labels through OYE, give us the scoop on that.
ML: We are helping around 20 labels to press their releases and we have been exclusively distributing quite frew labels in Germany: Box aus Holz, Money $ex, Abayomi, XK Records, Disco Halal, Rose Records, Tartelet, Fasaan, Hot Shot, Roots by the Order, Soul Clap & TORBEN.
It’s great to see how the label & distribution work is gradually growing together with these small independentlabels.
And until end of this year we’re gonna release the Max Graef Band Album.
LSD: The 13 year celebrations take place Friday, August 31st at the notorious Berghain club. What’s going to happen there?
ML: We feel really honoured, that Berghain/ Panorama Bar asked us last year to host a night there once a year. I mean, what other record store is able to do such a great party night at one of the best clubs in the world!
So we invited some friends to play there for the fans and us to celebrate the vinyl culture a little bit. Also we have some premieres: Glenn Astro, Florian Kupfer and Tinko are playing there for the first time. All the Djs will represent the OYE sound, which means that there could be something more happening besides the usual house & techno biz.
LSD: What’s in store (ha) for OYE in the next year(s)?
ML: We have a lot of plans for OYE, but until now nothing is confirmed yet. We will see what the future brings . . . definitely more great records.
Keep up with OYE at