MadCity Music has a new owner – Isthmus

Dave Zero is proud of his accomplishments at MadCity Music, where he has been employed for 27 years, the past 17 as its owner. But now he’s ready to hand over Madison’s oldest continuously operating record store to his right-hand man, Bobby Hussy, in a long-discussed ownership change between the two. The transfer will officially take effect on July 1.

Hussy, who has shoulder-length brown hair and rectangular glasses, describes himself as “an aging punk garage guy.” He recently returned from a two-week tour with the Whippets that traveled through the Great Plains states, Texas and parts of the South. A 13-year employee of Zero at MadCity, Hussy was instrumental in helping with the store’s 2017 relocation.

The store has been located in the Gateway Shopping Center on Williamson Street since 1989. Their current location is MadCity’s largest venue since it opened in 1981, and Zero believes they are “settling in the perfect spot.”

Business is good. Vinyl record stores, once frequented mainly by musicians, have seen a “renaissance” in recent years. Zero says the medium is “mainstream, but not bad.”

This description could apply to MadCity Music as a whole. According to the pair, the “spirit” of the store is to offer something for everyone, a philosophy that is evident when examining the display racks lining the walls. The latest Charli XCX album sits next to the Afro-Cuban collection, next to the Alice Coltrane record.

“I like mainstream artists and I like underground artists,” Hussey explains.

Alongside the rows of records are stacks of CDs, which Zero says are making a comeback. He saw many young people buying used cars with CD players, and some even installed one.

For all the in-depth looks at jazz and limited-edition garage band collections, there’s also “Certain Records” [a vinyl store] Need to have it,” Hussy said, listing Nirvana’s It doesn’t matter and Radiohead’s good computer as an example. “When you start looking into it, you realize there are a lot of albums like this.”

Young people are increasingly turning to vinyl records, with Zero speculating that this is a reaction to the “poor quality” of downloaded and streamed music. “People want something tangible,” he said.

Sometimes records would hang on the wall and be sold within an hour. “This store is doing very well,” Zero said proudly. More importantly, leaving “feels right” now.

“I feel ready,” he said. “This is the natural evolution of the store. I’m leaving on a high note.

Hussey doesn’t expect anything to change now that he’s in charge. “I think I’m going to keep the way it’s run very similar,” he said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

As a musician, Hussy continues the tradition of MadCity Music. Zero’s previous owner, Dave Benton, played in the Madison band Spooner, and the store has long been a gathering place for many local artists. Artists hand out flyers for upcoming shows, sell their records, and work behind the counter.

“‘Mad City’ is so ingrained in the scene that it’s easy to forget,” Zero said. “Musicians are an important part of our ecosystem.”

That seems unlikely to change under Hussey. He was excited about the opportunity and prepared for the many years he would spend with Zero. He may end up hanging more merchandise on the walls to showcase cool items. But most importantly, he wanted the store to be something for everyone—no matter their taste.

As for Zero, he’s excited to “go on vacation.”

He wasn’t sure what would happen next, but knew the record wouldn’t be sold. He wanted to spend some time listening to their opinions.

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