What do flea markets, concerts, swap meets, and music events all have in common? “Music and flea markets go together because at their fundamental levels both are about community and bringing people together,” says Stephanie Ogozaly, an organizer of the WFTE Punk Rock Flea Market in Scranton, Pa. “Both things are about discovery and making connections with other human beings, even if it’s just in some small way.”
Ogozaly elaborates on that idea, explaining, “Not only are we bringing people out to support local crafters, vendors, and sellers, but we are also exposing them to a part of their own community that they might not be aware of — and that’s the music.”
In a down economy, what brings people together, says Guy Petty, president of music product wholesaler SHS International, is the entertainment value proposition. “I think the popularity of flea markets, especially music-themed ones, is that you can do a lot at one place,” he says. “And it is entertaining at that. People make a day of it.”
Petty says that at events, kids are primed to buy products that are related to the performers they are enjoying. He emphasizes the business opportunity of music at swap meets. “Kids want to get started playing, tug on mom’s shirt and say, ‘Mom, I have to have a guitar.’ ”
And those guitars can be lucrative. “We have customers who take our products to festivals and markets and set up booths,” says Petty. “The best sellers are impulse and entry level items. We have guitars that sell from $49.95 retail and up. Strings, straps, and drumstricks are good accessory items that are point-of-purchase flea market impulse-type buys.”
But to make it work, you have to have music, and you have to have vendors. A fellow named Utmos, who has been running the Beat Swap Meet in California for the past three years, brings together 50 vinyl record vendors, 50 vendors of other merchandise, DJs spinning records, and live bands every three months. He keeps his market on theme by vetting his acts and vendors. “We don’t just let anyone come in to sell,” he says.
“Part of the appeal is that the swap meet becomes an event,” says Utmos. And aggressively promoting that event, with marketing that is more suited to a concert than a retail store, is key. “We make it to the forefront of the youth community and are aggressive with that,” he says. “We hit every event, put fliers in front of people. We go out and aggressively appeal to people.”
According to Stephanie Ogozaly of WFTE, an appeal to both shoppers and music fans is an inherent strength of the music flea market. “Of course there’s the actual logistic of ‘the flea market starts at ten, but bands don’t start playing until one,’ but I don’t think that really matters. It’s the vibe that matters, and having the music as a presence helps to create that vibe,” she says.
For some practical tips on how to add music to a flea market, check out FleaMarketZone’s interview with Dee West, owner of the Sasser Flea Market & Antiques Mall, who runs regular concert programs with major acts at her Georgia venue.