Matt Bradish | Owner
Q: Why did you start your business?
A: In college, I always worked another job and I was going to be a high school history teacher. I did student teaching and worked at Wendy’s and it was hard. The school system made it so that during student teaching, I had to participate in lunch hall monitoring duty, which taught me absolutely nothing about teaching. One day during lunch hall monitoring duty, I realized I didn’t like teaching—I didn’t like principals and school administrators. I thought about this song “Found a Job” by Talking Heads and one of the lines was “If your work isn’t what you love, then something isn’t right.” I thought about what I wanted for a year, saved up $10,000 and got a $15,000 loan from my uncle. And so with $25,000 I started Underground Sounds.
Q: What are some key factors or decisions that contributed to the success of your business?
A: My business hasn’t always been a success… I’ve been open for 24 years. When I think about what’s kept Underground Sounds open, I think about diligence and hard work. For 20 years, I ran Underground Records while also working another job, mainly for health insurance.
Relocating from Ypsilanti, Michigan to Ann Arbor was a great business decision. Listening to my customers and stocking up on the music they’re into has also brought me success. A lot of the music in here I can’t stand, but it’s what the customers want.
Q: What are some challenging aspects of your business?
A: I deal with 20-30 suppliers a month and keeping track of all my records is hard. I have 21,000 unread emails; suppliers are always emailing me trying to sell me things. One supplier sends me 5 emails a day. Legal constraints are also hard. In the past, Amazon didn’t have to pay sales tax which made them very competitive and gave them an unfair advantage. Now they pay sales tax, but they are still a huge competitor.
Q: Do you feel you made any serious mistakes as you were starting or growing your business? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
A: Moving from my first location to my second location in Ypsilanti was a mistake. I found that Eastern Michigan University is more of a commuter college and Ypsilanti is less of a destination. I tried opening up a coffee shop alongside my record store to increase sales, but it just made things more complicated and didn’t bring me much success.
Q: What other advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
A: Nothing happens overnight. You have to be diligent and smart with every penny.
About Underground Sounds
New and used record store
"Listening to my customers and stocking up on the music they’re into has brought me success. A lot of the music in here I can’t stand, but it’s what the customers want."—Matt Bradish