Criminal Records

Atlanta, Community

Criminal Records appeared in Atlanta, GA, in the hip shopping district, Little Five Points, in August of 1991. The store moved from Daytona Beach, FL, lock, stock and barrel with its owner, Eric Levin. He had worked at a mom-and-pop record store since his early teens and parlayed his personal collection of LP’s and CD’s, in lieu of finishing college. His personal mission might have been to avoid the rigors of higher-learning, he wanted Criminal Records to be a place where he, and all comers could immerse themselves in the finest of pop-culture.  To that end, Criminal Records has been a purveyor of CD’s, Records, Comics Books and Magazines, along with DVD’s and Blu-Rays, Toys and collectibles, printed collectibles and everything else that caught his eye over the decades.

As a community center and resource, Criminal Records has been a gathering ground for artists to perform and interact with their audience before and after shows. 

From raucous midnight outdoor events (The Black Lips record release pictured) to family affairs like several honorable visits from Rep. John Lewis, where he autographed copies of his comic auto-bio “March.” (pictured).  Atlanta bands have been represented front and center, with multiple performances by Butch Walker, Mastodon, Indigo Girls, Goodie Mob, Saul Williams, Danger Mouse (aka Brian Joseph Burton), Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover), Coathangers, Janelle Monae, Puddles Pity Party, Lonnie Holley, Killer Mike / Run The Jewels, DJ Jelly, Deerhunter, Manchester Orchestra and so many more. 

National acts, like Meat Puppets, Krist Novoselic (Nirvana), Moby, Modest Mouse, Dinosaur Jr., Drive-By Truckers, Girls, Daughter, Sleater Kinney, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley, Wedding Present, Spiritualized, Beck, Rodriguez (aka Sugar Man), Frightened Rabbit (who released a live at Criminal Records album), Teenage Fan Club, The Charlatans, Mute Math, The RZA, Alt-J, Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses), The Cardigans, Fishbone (pictured on RSD 2015 and with Eric Levin in 1991), Questlove (The Roots), Boris and Yo La Tengo.

Criminal Records has been used as a location for many film and television shots, including Baby Driver and Disney’s Let It Shine, Emily Kinney from The Walking Dead showed off her singing chops (all pictured). Fine artists like Jim Woodring (pictured) made appearances along with other monumental artists like Pete Bagge, Daniel Clowes, Seth, Adrian Tomine.  Comedians, like Brian Posehn (pictured wearing a Criminal Records t-shirt), David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Silverman spent many hours at Criminal Records while filming “Run Ronnie Run!” in Little Five Points and Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis and Posehn helped celebrate Criminal Records 15th anniversary with a free show at the Variety Playhouse.  Criminal Records hosted a Scott Pilgrim vs. The World event featuring stars Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman and director Edgar Wright.  Edgar later told us that he wrote Criminal Records into the beginning of Baby Driver because he enjoyed his time so much.

Along the way, some true childhood heroes came out to play, like Mick Jones from the Clash in a historic visit and a reunion of sorts, upon Eric’s first visit to Atlanta in 1991 he got to meet hero Angelo Moore from Fishbone and decided that Atlanta was the place to be.  In 2015, he got to invite Angelo Moore to the Criminal Records stage.  An unknown lifetime achievement was getting rocked in Bootsy Collins’ loving arms as he could not stop crying while introducing the legend and his hero to a group of fellow record store owners.

Speaking of which, along the way, Eric formed the Alliance of Independent Media Stores, a coalition of like-minded independent retailers across the country. He leads them to this day.

In support of this group, Eric co-founded Record Store Day which is celebrated globally and has changed the fortunes of 1,000’s of independent retailers, artists and the labels and distributors who support them.  Some have proclaimed Record Store Day as the foundation that supported the vinyl resurgence, but Eric would demure, saying that the foundation was already there in the record stores and their communities and in the new ones that have had the opportunity to open in a new era of vinyl production.  He continues to manage Record Store Day, sitting on the board and directing projects and initiatives as pique his interest.

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Statement by Omar El-Sabrout