3hive Record Lounge owner and BYU graduate Sam Cannon said opening Provo’s only record shop last November was almost accidental. When The Mighty Baker moved from its spot on 500 North in Provo, the building owner let Cannon know the space was available if he wanted to set up shop.
“The next thing you know, I have a record store,” Cannon recalled, laughing while donning a sweatshirt with the words “Delicious Vinyl.” “I have a day job, so I need this to pay its way, but I don’t need it to make a living. And so it really is just a passion project of mine.”
Cannon didn’t open the 3hive Record Lounge on a whim, even if it may have been near accidental. He received encouragement from others in the Provo music scene, who agreed with Cannon’s belief that “a college town this size should have a record store,” and had success selling records both online and in pop-up shops.
“I think the reason that people buy records is not necessarily for the sound quality, certainly not for the convenience, but because it’s a physical object made by a band or an artist that you love,” Cannon said. “If you have an emotional connection with something, but you have nothing physical to show for it, that doesn’t kind of feel right. It doesn’t feel complete.”
If a record store was going to open in Provo, Cannon seemed like the ideal person to do it. Apart from his impressive record collection and background in music, he’s loved vinyl records since he was a child, a passion he’s passed on to his three teenaged children.
“I was interested in it from the minute … I wouldn’t say the minute I was born, although I do remember pretty early on messing with my parents’ records,” Cannon said. “I got my first record when I was 12 and really haven’t stopped.”
Cannon graduated from BYU with a humanities degree in 1993 and then worked as a music journalist. After switching careers to the advertising industry, he missed sharing music with other people, so in 2004, he teamed up with a few friends to start a music blog called 3hive.
“At the time, we were sharing mp3s, and so it kind of made sense,” Cannon said of the blog name. “That was the thing. Like, ‘Here’s a band we like, and here’s some mp3s that they’re making available,’ but we always kept buying vinyl.”
After the blog had been running for about a decade, Cannon and his friends decided to start selling vinyl online. They opened an online store as an offshoot of the blog, and it quickly grew faster than anticipated.
“It started with very modest intentions. We were only going to sell maybe 20 different albums at a time, just the bands that we were really into at the time. And next thing I knew, I had kind of a basement full of records,” Cannon said, laughing. “Because I’m kind of obsessive that way.”
At around the same time, Cannon and his family relocated to Utah. He went out to lunch with Velour Live Music Gallery owner Corey Fox, who encouraged him to open a record store in Provo and let him sell records at Velour on the weekends.
“People were coming out in droves,” Cannon said. “And so it really kind of validated the idea that that’s what we needed to do.”
One thing led to another, and Fox introduced Cannon to the owner of the building that is now home to the 3hive Record Lounge. The space became available, and Cannon decided to open his store.
Cannon said the “vinyl thing” wouldn’t have felt complete without opening a brick-and-mortar store. Part of the vinyl experience, he said, is looking through all the records and meeting people who can help you find new music and artists, an experience you can’t get when you’re shopping online and on a mission to find a specific record.
“When you’re in a record store of any kind, you just start rummaging through and you think you’re looking for an album, and then you see something that you hadn’t expected to see,” Cannon said. “And then that sends you down a whole journey of, ‘Oh, that reminds me, there was a summer I went to that concert. It was also the summer I got into this band.’ Next thing you know, you end up walking out with two records you didn’t plan on buying.”
Although the store itself is small, Cannon focuses on having a quality selection. He personally chooses every record that’s placed on the shelves. He likes a diverse range of genres, eras and styles — and it turns out, his clients do too.
“A lot of people will be like, ‘I can’t believe the selection you have for such a small space,’” Cannon said. “The small space is all I can afford, so that’s great that they’re finding something that they like.”
Cannon said he wants 3hive to be another node in the network of places to discover music in the Provo music scene, not just a store. 3hive frequently hosts local artists for concerts and record signings when they release new albums, including Mindy Gledhill and The Moth & The Flame.
“The ‘lounge’ in 3hive Record Lounge was a conscious choice to make this a friendlier, more inviting place where you could come and hang out whether or not you were shopping,” he said.
The sale of vinyl records has steadily grown in the U.S. since 2006, according to Statista. Last year, 16.8 million LPs were sold in the U.S., compared to 0.9 million in 2006 and 14.3 million in 2017.
BYU pop culture professor Scott Church said vinyl’s increase in popularity is a countermovement to the rise of digital music. He said people like vinyl’s warm sound, the imperfections that accompany the music and the tangible element of a record.
“It’s a sort of indication of status that you’re showing people, ‘Hey, I’m serious about my music. I’m serious about these groups that I like. I’m serious about exploring it,’” Church said.
Church said the return of vinyl may have started as an ironic joke in the age of digital media, similar to the current rise of cassette tapes. However, he said nostalgia is probably not a motivating factor behind vinyl anymore — people just like the medium.
“Maybe what starts at the margins, what starts as a kind of an ironic joke, over time developed into a genuine medium for music,” Church said.
Church expressed personal excitement for 3hive Record Lounge’s opening. He said he had just recently been thinking about how Provo didn’t have any good vinyl stores, which he said can struggle to stay afloat with big sellers like Amazon.
“To see a truly independent record store is always really exciting,” Church said. “I was really happy to see it here. It instantly made Provo a hipper place.”
Below: Listen to an audio interview with 3hive Record Lounge owner Sam Cannon.