The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) is saddened to hear of the death yesterday (April 2) of former Chairman Paul Quirk. He died at home after a short battle with cancer.


ERA CEO Kim Bayley said, “ERA is indebted to Paul Quirk. Not only was he a strong and passionate voice for music retailers for more than three decades, he was the longest-serving Chairman of ERA itself, a prime mover behind Record Store Day in the UK and a mentor to countless people across the industry. He will be missed right across the business for his enthusiasm, humour and passion for record retailing.  On behalf of everyone at ERA, I would like to send our sincere condolences to his family and in particular, his beloved wife Sheila”

A consummate indie, Paul Quirk, with his brother Rob, transformed his family’s electrical retail store into a chain of five well-regarded record stores centred on Ormskirk just outside Liverpool. 

As Quirks grew, so did its reputation and Paul became known throughout the industry. 

Former Millward Brown Charts Director Bob Barnes – himself a former indie retailer – remembers meeting Paul for the first time on a promotional trip to Rio de Janeiro laid on by EMI Records. “We got on immediately,” he says. “It seems another world now, but this was a jolly for Record Tokens and they laid on a reception for us with the British Consulate!”

 When ERA – then known as the British Association of Record Dealers – was first formed by the biggest players in the industry, then including the likes of Woolworths, Our Price, Boots, WH Smith and Menzies, Quirk was a sceptic. 

“He didn’t see why he should sit around the table with people who were trying to put him out of business,” says Barnes. “But he came along, realised that his issues were the same as theirs and soon became more and more involved.” 

Quirk’s profile increased dramatically through the Nineties when then Music Week editor – now consultant to ERA – Steve Redmond commissioned him to write a regular column, Paul’s Quirks. 

“We were introduced by Factory Records’s Tony Wilson,” says Redmond. “You can’t imagine two more different people – Tony, a TV presenter, an intellectual, the arch Mancunian and Paul, the chippy, Scouse, indie retailer – but they got on well.” 

Paul’s Quirks detailed the highs and lows of life behind the shop counter, often attracting the ire of the then-titans of the record business. “He loved to wind them up,” says Redmond, “but there was never any malice about him.”

 His fellow Music Week columnist Jon Webster recalls, “Paul was always a tenacious advocate for the rights of the retailer. I always liked you could have a straight conversation with him – and you very often did!” 

Paul Quirk joined the ERA board in 1997, becoming Deputy Chairman to Chairman Steve Knott, then of HMV, in 2003. 

Says Knott, ““Initially an unlikely pairing - me from the big corporate, Paul from the Indies, me a staunch Man Utd supporter, Paul Liverpool through and through - we became a very close partnership sharing the common goal of nurturing music and entertainment retail across all of its many guises. We remained firm friends from that point onwards. A more genuine, knowledgeable, dedicated and warm person you could not wish to meet. My heart goes out to Sheila and his family - he will be sorely missed.

Quirk met current ERA CEO Kim Bayley in 2002. She says, “I worked alongside Paul for 16 years of my 17 years at ERA and he was not only a sharp and knowledgeable chairman, but a true friend who was unstinting in his support.”

He became Chairman in 2007, had a year off in 2008, then was again Chairman from 2009 to 2014, before taking another year off and becoming Co-Chairman in 2016-17. Along the way he became ERA’s longest-serving Chairman. His tenure included some of the toughest years physical retailers had ever known, as CD sales were eroded first by piracy and then by the growth of downloads. It was a period in which retailers seemed under attack on all sides, notably when newspapers began giving away full-length covermounted CDs. 

Quirk came into his own delivering this memorable riposte to Prince’s decision to give away his latest album free with the Mail on Sunday: “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores.”

In 2008, Quirk was presented with a special recognition award for services to music retailing at the Music Week Awards. Little did anyone know it then, but 2008 marked a turning point for independent record retailers for it was then at the very low point for indie record shops that Record Store Day was born.

Alongside RSD’s UK instigator Spencer Hickman of Rough Trade and Steve Redmond of ERA, Quirk took on the role of driving the first Record Store Days in the UK.

Says Bob Barnes, “Paul chaired ERA in its transition from a bricks-and-mortar-dominated association through the growth of digital, but he soon spotted the potential of Record Store Day. He supported the indies passionately and gave so much to Record Store Day even though by that time he had no shop of his own and nothing personally to gain from it.”

When Quirk stepped down as Chairman of ERA in 2014, his successor Raoul Chatterjee, then of 7digital (now of Soundcloud) said, “Paul Quirk has been an exceptional Chairman of ERA, a doughty fighter for the interests of retailers and has guided ERA as it has transformed itself into a diverse campaigning organisation representing both physical and digital retailers and digital services. In particular he deserves praise for embracing Record Store Day and helping turn it into the most successful new music promotion for at least 20 years.” 

He may have stepped down as Chairman of ERA, but Quirk continued to work with ERA’s independent members on Record Store Day for another four years. 

Record Store Day coordinator Megan Page says, “I met Paul on my first day at ERA 6 years ago and worked with him closely ever since. He was a passionate supporter of the indie record store sector, a huge driving force behind RSD but most importantly a loyal mentor & friend to me personally. I’m so sad and will miss him dearly.” 

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