The Other Music Documentary Pays Tribute to a Sacred Gathering Place

Little did the filmmakers know that so many similar businesses would suffer similar fates.

With Other Music — our documentary about the beloved New York City independent record store that closed in 2016 — we set out to make a movie about the loss of a physical space, and thereby the community that it housed. We knew that losing a place like Other Music was not just a matter of losing bricks, paint, wood, and merchandise. We knew that these places mattered in a much larger, more human sense. When Other Music closed in 2016 we lost a particular place that was important to us and to many others, but our motivation to make a film was not just to preserve the memory of one specific cultural institution. We hoped that in portraying the loss of one community we might inspire others to support and try to save similar cultural hubs that mean something to them, whether those are record stores, book stores, video stores, art house theaters, concert venues, or neighborhood coffee shops. Little did we know just how badly things would be in need of saving in 2020.

When the United States started to go into lockdown in late March, we were getting ready for the planned theatrical release of Other Music. It was going to be shown in April at theaters like Miami’s O Cinema, the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, London’s Regent Street Cinema, and at IFC Center in New York — just a short walk through Washington Square Park from where Other Music existed for over two decades. The movie was even going to be playing on a loop at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland all day long for Record Store Day on Saturday, April 17! Suddenly there wasn’t even going to be a Record Store Day at all, and the theaters that had planned to show our film had shut their doors and furloughed staff. Many of them were already running GoFundMe campaigns to try and pay their rent and hopefully stay afloat until the storm passed.

As excited as we were about having our first movie play in theaters, we realized very quickly that there was no point in being disappointed that things were not going to go as planned. We were all in the same boat. Everyone’s life and work was disrupted, and like everyone else we had to adjust our expectations, improvise and adapt to the new reality. We were very fortunate to have a distribution partner in Matt Grady of Factory 25 who was proactive and didn’t just delay things indefinitely and wait for the pandemic to go away. We all decided together that if people couldn’t physically be in record stores on Record Store Day, why not give them the opportunity to spend an hour and a half at Other Music via our film? We offered the film for rent online starting the weekend of what was supposed to be Record Store Day, in direct partnership with record stores all over the globe as well as some of the movie theaters that had intended to show the film. Our “virtual cinema” release raised a total of over $25,000 for these small businesses — a drop in the bucket compared to the overall losses they faced, but at least we were able to use our film to help in a small way in a time of extraordinarily great need. And we heard from strangers as far away as Japan and New Zealand who told us that they’d rented the film and fallen in love with Other Music, in spite of never having set foot inside it. 

Now, four months later, most of us are still stuck at home and there isn’t an end to this pandemic anywhere in sight. The businesses that were suffering back in April still aren’t close to anything that could be called “normal.” Record stores are selling their merchandise online or opening for a handful of customers at a time, and a delayed version of Record Store Day is finally happening in a scaled-back, socially distanced way starting on August 29. Live music venues that haven’t been able to operate at all since the pandemic began are lobbying Congress for a bailout so they can reopen someday, but so far without any real success. As time has passed we have sadly started to become numb to the unfathomable losses that are happening every day and everywhere. For example, what comedy fan could have imagined back in January 2020 that not even halfway into the year the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater would no longer operate in New York City?

Envisioning what the world may look like whenever we are all finally able to safely emerge from our homes and be near each other again is scary and sobering. It makes us realize that as sad as it was that Other Music had to close down, at least its customers were able to come into the store one last time to buy a record, say goodbye, and joyfully celebrate their long good run in-person with other people who loved the place. How many businesses won’t have the chance to do this? For us, it is a heartbreaking scenario.

(Photo Credit: Robert M. Nielsen)

As a filmmaking duo Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller were listed among Variety’s 10 Documentary Filmmakers To Watch In 2019. Puloma has been active in the film & TV industry for over a decade and has worked on many notable TV shows including Flight Of The Conchords and Bored To Death, and on films such as St. Vincent, The Namesake, and Arbitrage. Rob is a filmmaker and Producers Guild of America member based in Los Angeles, CA. Rob directed the documentary features Other Music (Tribeca Film Festival 2019) and Syl Johnson: Any Way The Wind Blows (Best Documentary Feature, Sidewalk Film Festival 2016). Other Music, which features interviews with Matt Berninger, Tunde Adebimpe, Animal Collective, Ezra Koenig, JD Samson, and many more, is available now on all major VOD platforms, including Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Google Play.

(Photo Credit: Lauren Randolph)