The next time you visit your local record store, you may notice a red-and-white pamphlet on the counter, sitting by the cash register. The pamphlet contains a list of all the independent record stores in Seattle, describing the stores and what types of music they sell. Created by Sonic Boom co-owner Nabil Ayers, the pamphlet is part of a unique advertising partnership to help independent records stores thrive in a town filling up with Sam Goodys and Barnes & Nobles.

Sonic Boom and 21 other independent records stores, including Easy Street Records in West Seattle and Orpheum on Broadway, have partnered up to let people in on the "other" music stores in town. All 21 stores chipped in to have 15,000 pamphlets made and distributed all around Seattle. Besides the record store listings, the pamphlet sports a map of Seattle and advertisements for local stereo shops. "The ads help offset our printing costs," says Ayers. "Besides, people are always asking us where to get record needles and stuff."

Ayers got the idea for a partnership in 1997, when Sonic Boom was first getting started and Seattle businesses, especially those downtown, were being bought up by chains. The only criterion for being in the partnership: You have to be independent. Matt Vaughan, owner of Easy Street Records, says he and Sonic Boom occasionally collaborate on ads to promote both stores and to keep costs down. In fact, Vaughan would like to see even more collaboration among Seattle's independent record stores. "We're fortunate here in that all the smaller stores really get along," says Vaughan. "I'd like to see us go in the direction of CIMS as well." (CIMS, or the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, is a national organization of indie record stores that shares advertising on a large scale.)

The new partnership is in its infancy and looks promising, but Ayers isn't sure how far it will go. "It's a lot of work to call everybody and get things coordinated," he says, crammed between computers and boxes of records in his office above Sonic Boom. "Hopefully one of the other stores will take over calling everyone," he laughs.

pat@thestranger.com

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