Vinyl takes another spin
Analog recording attracts listeners
Sunday, February 16, 2014
While acquiring music via digital downloads is easy, vinyl records may be getting a historic encore from a nationwide audience enraptured by their sound quality and sentimentality.
In a report by Nielsen SoundScan, LP Album Sales were up in the first half of 2013 by 33.5 percent, compared with the first half of 2012. This report shows a startling increase in the sales of LPs, compared with a 14 percent loss in CD sales and a 2 percent loss in digital track sales.
Local LP sellers and aficionados alike remarked on the return of vinyl and its recent splash in the music marketplace.
Jamie Rector, owner of In the Groove Records, has observed the reverberations of the apparent vinyl comeback reflected in a recent sales uptick.
“When I first started my shop, it was getting popular, but nothing like it is now,” he said.
Rector sells used records that date from the late 1950s to the present era, he said.
Rector cited the production of vinyl records by current artists as a major factor influencing vinyl’s possible renaissance.
The combination of the production of a vinyl record by a current artist and mass media coverage bolsters the consumer’s interest in LPs, according to Rector.
“People are wanting something different, wanting to explore rather than pushing a button and downloading. More and more people discover it,” Rector said.
Though Rector referenced a passion for new LPs, many people are purchasing more vintage vinyl records of late, he said.
Rector has noted an upward sales trend over the past five years, and 2013 was “the best so far,” he said.
While iconic LPs such as those of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and AC/DC remain perpetually popular among customers, many will explore other varieties of vintage vinyl that are less common like blues and jazz, Rector said.
Archetypal classic rock bands “have always been popular,” Rector said. However, “as you go along, you learn more. You grab one (record) you thought you wouldn’t like. It branches off from there,” he said.
With the price of vintage records averaging around $5 compared with an approximate $20 average of new records, collecting vintage LPs does not necessitate a considerable budget, Rector said.
“You can buy records for a couple of dollars and discover that you like it,” he said.
Though the relative inexpensiveness and the album art novelty of LPs may entice music collectors, the sound quality of an analog recording also attracts listeners, Rector said.
“I guess people like the quality of records. Records have warm sound to them. They are more fuller sounding,” he said.
In addition to his newer inventory of recently released records, Rector hopes to acquire more reissued versions of vintage records, he said.
“The reissue quality is very, very good. It sounds better,” he said.
Although vinyl records are newly popular among an extensive age demographic, the majority of Rector’s customers age from their late teens to early 40s, he said.
Overall, the recent blossoming popularity of LPs has pleasantly surprised Rector, he said.
“I didn’t expect this to occur. It makes me feel good as the owner. A lot of people are getting into it and discovering it,” he said.
Lindsey Tanner, Hastings lifestyle manager, has also noted a rebound in the demand for records.
Contrary to In the Groove Records, Hastings sells new records, about half of which are of current artists, while others are reproductions of classic LPs.
“We’ve had fairly good success. People are really into it,” she said.
Hastings sells records primarily of the rock genre from classics such as The Beatles and Black Sabbath to current artists like Mumford & Sons and Lana Del Ray.
Tanner’s top-selling record of the past 25 days was Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, she said.
The record selection at Hastings often evolves from week to week as the store acquire new releases from a variety of artists, Tanner said.
Though Hastings has stocked records for the past several years, Tanner has seen an approximate 50 percent increase in their sales in the past two years, she said.
“When I first started, people were surprised to find out that we even carried records,” she said.
Tanner believes Hastings will further expand its record selection when it undergoes remodeling in April, she said.
Like Rector, Tanner believes the sound quality of records constitutes at least a portion of the appeal to vinyl listeners, she said.
“We’re all used to mp3 sound quality, which sounds crystal clear and perfect. Sometimes it’s just nice to get that … raw effect,” she said.
An an LP enthusiast herself, Tanner enjoys listening to artists such as Florence + the Machine and Johnny Cash on vinyl, she said.
“You get more of a sense of what he (Cash) was feeling while he was singing. Though it sounds scratchier, the music comes across more clear. It’s more raw and emotional,” she said.
Record collector Jordyn Wilson acquires records not only for their sound quality but also for the “… nostalgic feel of older things,” she said.
Wilson began amassing records when she found some of her father’s LPs, she said.
Wilson appreciates the palpability of vinyl records, compared with music downloaded on her computer.
“The coolest thing is building my tangible library. I have a real wall of music versus one that’s on the computer screen.
The tactility of vinyl records also adds another dimension to hosting, Wilson said.
“When I entertain, people will see the record player … and like looking through the music. It’s a more intimate experience actually switching our records and flipping the sides,” she said.
Wilson values the sentimentality resulting from the “old, real sound,” and she hopes her daughter will be able to do the same, she said.
“I’ve always been an old soul where I collect old things. I look forward to handing down my records to my daughter and her having nostalgic memories of listening to records,” she said.
Wilson foresees the longevity of the popularity vinyl records, she said.
“I definitely think there will always be a place for vinyl … it won’t ever die,” she said.
Chris Brant has a fondness for vinyl that he manifests in many areas of his life.
As a semi-truck driver who travels from Columbia to Eldon daily and often spends much time on the road, Brant patronizes In the Groove Records on his journeys through Jefferson City, he said.
Brant enjoys playing records on the numerous turntables and jukeboxes in his home, as well as on the turntable he has installed in his semi-truck, he said.
“There’s no way you can compare the quality to anything else,” he said.
Brant began collecting records when he acquired a jukebox from a vacant Pizza Hut where he worked in high school, he said.
Brant eventually procured an extensive collection, amounting to about 15,000 LPs at one time, he said.
“It’s the most addictive thing you could ever start because there’s no way possible you could ever collect all of them,” he said.
Brant began unearthing diverse genres of records soon after he began collecting, he said.
“When you collect records, you end up collecting almost everything. When I discovered the British blues, that’s what started my craze,” he said.
With the expansion of his collection, Brant has learned the progression of music through various eras, he said.
“I thought I knew a lot about music but I really didn’t. You go back and understand the evolution of music a lot better,” he said.
Though Brant’s favorite record is Fleetwood Mac’s “Black Magic Woman,” he cherishes his most rare LP, a 1920s recording of black spirituals.
“It would give you goosebumps on your toenails to hear it,” he said.
Despite the advent of superior sound equipment since vinyl’s inception, Brant recognizes the irreplaceable authenticity of vinyl and is unsurprised by its revival.
“It (vinyl LP) is an exact replica of the vibrations that created music in the first place. There’s been a huge surge in it in the past few years. I figured it would come back,” he said.
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