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Music Millennium Still Spinning: Oregon’s oldest record store has serious cache 

click to enlarge 16.43-sound-music-millennium.jpg

Go to this store.

We’re launching a new series here at the Source. In the coming months, we’ll be profiling independent record stores across our great state of Oregon. The series will lead up to next April and perhaps the greatest holiday a music lover has to look forward to—National Record Store Day.

First on the list is the state’s oldest music store, Music Millennium in Portland. Since 1969, MM has been the go-to-spot for people who want to find music off the beaten path. Not only that, the shop regularly hosts live music and is a pretty great place to get some traction as an up-and-coming artist on the Portland scene. In 2009, Spin Magazine listed Music Millennium 9th among the 15 best independent record stores in America.

Originally owned by Don and Loreen MacLeod and Dan Lissy, MM has since passed to the ownership of one time employee, Terry Currier.  Along with maintaining the store as a hub for music discovery, Currier has also been a prolific voice in the fight to keep physical forms of music alive. In 1993, he staged a scene where he burned every Garth Brooks CD in his store in protest over the singer’s campaign to end sales of used music. To this day, you still can’t find a Brooks album in MM.

Though the digital age hit the record store industry pretty hard—even forcing Currier to close a popular expansion store in Northwest Portland, he continues to love what he does.

“Only crazy people own record stores,” joked Currier during a phone interview with the Source. “I kind of stumbled into the business by accident. I knew nothing about recorded music. Two weeks after I saw my first concert—a show by Leon Russell—and one week after I turned 17, I applied for my first job in a record store.”

It was during that first job that Currier realized he didn’t want to do anything else.

“I made up for lost time and became a kid in a candy store,” said Currier. ”I was going to go into college on a music scholarship. But then I thought, I’m 17 making $2.25 an hour and I’m the assistant manager of a record store… it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Owning a record store in today’s market means caring about more than money, though, said Currier.

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Music Millennium is Decemberists approved.

“The only people left in this business are people where music is their passion,” said Currier. “I’ve lost so much money in the last 10 years, but it’s the music that drives me to go to work every day.”

Spending time in Currier’s store can yield unexpected and magical results. You might find that out-of-print album you’ve been searching for or discover new music at one of MM’s listening stations. A variety of other products are offered, too, including a selection of concert DVD’s and classically weird greeting cards by local Portland artists.

For vinyl lovers, the experience is getting even better. Currier is closing down MM’s second location, which had been dedicated to classical music and re-opening it as a vinyl-only annex. The facility, located next door to the main store, will have an expanded selection of records catering to vinyl’s growth in popularity. The grand opening event is schedule to run Nov. 1 through 4.

At MM, the fun doesn’t stop with shopping. Just like record stores used to do, MM hosts performances by a variety of artists. Bands like Soundgarden, The Decemberists and others have been putting on free shows at MM for years and the store continues to be the best place in Portland for emerging local bands to get noticed.

Whether during events like the annual customer appreciation BBQ—with free bratwurst, beers and a mini-music festival in the parking lot, or spending hours listening to and finding great albums to buy, MM is a music memory waiting to happen.

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