Mike Pleau, owner of the influential Megatunes music stores, suffered a fatal heart attack on September 28 in Calgary at the age of 54. He left behind his wife Joni, their two daughters and thousands of grieving Alberta music fans. Pleau opened Megatunes at its 17th Ave. S.W. location in Calgary in 1988 during an era when independent music stores like The Record Store were vanishing. Twenty years later, Megatunes and its Edmonton sister store, which opened in 2003, continue to flourish. Megatunes will be recognized in March as Canadian Independent Record Store of the Year during Canadian Music Week in Toronto.
It would be difficult to find a music fan in Alberta unfamiliar with the stores. Pleau broke the tradition of tucking a few token local artists in a back corner; local independent artists’ albums were prominently racked at the front of the store and given generous airtime on the stores’ influential sound systems. Over 100 Alberta artists are listed on the stores’ website. The Megatunes Top 30, which runs prominently in Fast Forward Weekly, is something of a buy-it bible for fans and artists alike.
Whether he was sliding in a disc for you to hear at the store or having a pint in the folk fest beer garden, a few minutes chatting with Pleau was always enriching, even for people with broad musical knowledge. “He did as much as anybody’s ever done for independent music in Calgary. To take care of indie artists on consignment, that’s a lot of work. Megatunes is an icon for anybody who likes music,” says Calgary singer-songwriter Tom Phillips, who adds the store sold hundreds of his CDs.
Crescent McKeag, who drummed for Calgary all-girl punk band The Virgins in the ’80s, worked a few doors down from Megatunes at Decadent Desserts. “I used to take a break and go and hang out there, and he would always be able to tell you what was good. If Mike said it, you listened to it. He didn’t suffer fools gladly — if someone came in and said ‘Do you have the new LL Cool J?’ he’d just wave them off and go ‘Fttt — it’s not worth my time.’
“It feels like the end of an era.”