ACE Business Award winner has ensured local musicians always have a stage

ACE Business Award winner has ensured local musicians always have a stage

CHAMPAIGN — A dozen music acts in seven days.

That's not the lineup at a big-city venue. It's the local record store — Exile on Main Street.

The circular stage at the store — a 10-foot replica of Side One of the 1972 Rolling Stones LP "Exile on Main Street" — is busy in a seven-day stretch that began Saturday with five local performers and a touring act, Lowkeylife, a hip-hop group from Chapel Hill, N.C.

It continues Wednesday, with a single release party featuring a national touring singer and two more local musicians. On Friday, four more acts, including a touring group from Detroit, will play there.

Raised on the local-music scene in Champaign-Urbana, store owner Jeff Brandt said it was always part of his original business plan to have as much local music as possible — both on the store's shelves and its stage.

"Sometimes it works out better than others," he said of the crowds that come out. "I like having the space for musicians to play."

So much so that when Brandt moved his store from its original location at 1 Main St. to its current, larger space in the old train station at 100 N. Chestnut St., he had the permanent "record" stage custom built.

At the old, smaller site, store employees had to do major set-up, even moving product outside to the sidewalk, to set up an area for live performers.

"It's made it a lot easier in the new space," said Brandt, who also dedicated space on the ceiling for a large mural by former local artist Langston Allston.

Although selling vinyl records is what really makes his record store spin, Brandt has remained committed to supporting the local music and arts scene, and for that, Exile on Main will be honored with this year's Business ACE Award from 40 North on Thursday night.

Brandt said local musician and singer Mike Ingram has been instrumental in keeping the store's local-music selection stocked and organized, as well as lining up the live performances. That has allowed Brandt to focus on the everyday operation of the business.

"With the university here in town, there's constant changeover of kids starting bands; there's usually a lot of different stuff going on in town," said Brandt, who has worked exclusively in record stores since the early '90s, starting at Periscope CDs and Tapes. He opened Exile in 2004.

Ingram, who used to work at Exile, "has been instrumental in keeping music happening here. He's been unbelievably helpful."

Ingram said he has the unique perspective of knowing what it's like on both sides of the local-music section — the store trying to market its product and the musicians putting their music out for consignment.

"It's a pretty big undertaking," said Ingram, adding that the local section of a music store is where he wants to go any time he visits a new town, because that's where you'll find something unique. And with C-U's vibrant music scene, Ingram said he wants the local section at Exile to be well-maintained.

"I want us to be representing the hell out of that," he said. "I very much want places like that to exist."

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