Ear Wax Records, a longtime punk and metal haven, has closed

The downtown record store calls it quits after 23 years.

The downtown record store calls it quits after 23 years.

Ear Wax Records, at 254 W. Gilman St., has decided to call it quits after 23 years of serving metalheads, punks, and lovers of local record shops alike.

“The landlord has other plans for the space,” owner Rob Cleveland said in October, while weighing the future of the store.


Ear Wax has been upstairs at its Gilman Street building, just off of State Street, for almost 20 years, and has occupied its current space for almost 10. In the last year, the building has come under new management and as of August 31, 2018, Ear Wax’s lease expired and was not renewed. Another shop in the building, A New Hope Comics, has already relocated to 444 State Street, while another tenant, Koi Sushi, has been struggling to hold onto its liquor license. The building’s property management company, NAI MLG Commercial, declined to comment on the future of the space or why Ear Wax’s lease was not renewed.

Back in September, Cleveland said that he was looking at relocating Ear Wax, and he’s clearly been trying to get rid of inventory. The shop has been running discount sales throughout fall. As with any move, sorting through the extremities is a priority. Piles of collectible Japanese hardcore 7-inches. Psychobilly CDs. Crust punk cassettes. In recent weeks, boxes of freebie CDs and posters lined the walls.

Last weekend, a photo circulated on Facebook apparently confirming the end, and the store’s Facebook page was taken down.

While Madison still has several other great record shops adapting in a difficult age for music sales—including B-Side, JiggyJamz, MadCity Music, and Strictly Discs—none of them is quite like Ear Wax. I went to high school in a small, rural Wisconsin town. When some friends of mine moved to Madison for school I would visit, and Ear Wax introduced me to a world of exciting new metal. I have a vivid memory of sneaking away from a UW-Madison-sponsored high school summer music camp to enjoy the wealth of possibility in this store and walking out with a CD from a now-disbanded Belgian hardcore act.

Cleveland also helped put out music from heavy Wisconsin bands including Pyroklast and The Antiprism, under his Barbarian Records imprint.

Another Madison record-store institution, Resale Records, closed in October 2017 after the death of owner Eric Teisberg.

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