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Criminal Records Legally Infiltrates Queen West


The prices at Criminal Records are like getting away with murder.

Walking along Queen a few weekends ago, west of Spadina, I noticed the shiny new space had opened up blasting the new Sloan. Great, I thought. Another overpriced record shop - just what this city needs.

Not the case.

In fact, co-owner Paul Simcoe tells me that they barely sell above cost with their CDs and vinyl. So you can buy new releases for $11.99 and an Iron Maiden picturedisc for under $25.

But besides music formats, Criminal supports promoting local acts in clothing-form - I flipped through a newborn baby-sized shirt that read, "My first concert was the Stars." Broken Social Scene and Alexisonfire bags and sweaters line the wall. Not to mention tees and lunchboxes from classics from the Clash, Stones, Zeppelin to more contemporary artists Bright Eyes and Sufjan Stevens.

To this day, Criminal is the only store in the world that sells merch from Arts & Crafts, Sup Pop, and Asthmatic Kitty. For dozens of other record labels, including Saddle Creek, and Drag City -- they're the only Canadian merchandise account.

To artists that choose to stock music at the store, Criminal is now the only indie music store in Ontario that reports to Soundscan. "Your CDs and records will be counted when sold."

Simcoe and his business partner Josh Leonard opened the doors of their 2,000-square-foot space in August, standing as one of the largest indie music stores in Toronto, with over 5,000 new CDs and LPs, thousands of shirts, bags, stickers, patches, buttons and posters.

"We get asked often why we chose the word 'legal' in our name," explains Simcoe. "It's because we wanted to point out to everyone that no matter how 'accepted' society thinks it is to steal music, that when you are in our store, and you buy a CD or LP, that you have just done your part, to help support this store, the artist, and the record label. We reward all music purchasers with a button that has that sentiment printed on it."

Enough reasons for music geeks to rotate this newfound gem.

Criminal Records. 493 Queen St. W. 416-364-5380. www.myspace.com/criminalrecordstoronto


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