By Scott Williams
Last month, The Wall Street Journal proclaimed the “Biggest Musical Comeback of 2014” was not the rebirth of a singer/songwriter, but instead was the rebirth of the vinyl record.
Jeff Burke, owner of the Record Connection on Route 422 in Niles, said he hasn’t seen a resurgence of vinyl quite like this in some time.
“I never thought records would come back,” Burke said. “I’ve owned this store for 34 years, and I can certainly tell you, however small, [vinyl] is making a comeback. It is bringing in new customers and is driving sales of both new and used.”
Burke claimed the year 2014 was the small shop’s strongest year of the 2000s. While he said he is hopeful this trend will continue, he is not certain.
“The kids get a new record player and their friends get jealous and go out and get a record player. A lot of it is fad, I believe, at this point. I’m not thoroughly convinced that it is here to stay,” Burke said. “A good example of why I believe this is because the industry only produced 9.2 million new record sales last year. They can’t track used records, however. So, the industry only sold 9.2 million. There were bands in the 1970s selling 19 to 20 million easily, so it is still very small. It’s kind of a niche.”
Holly Lacusky, a Youngstown State University alumna, said vinyls offer something distinct from other audio devices.
“I still play vinyl while cleaning around the house,” she said. “Nothing beats the character and the texture of the sounds.”
Burke said he couldn’t agree more.
“Vinyl is the best fidelity that you could possibly get — bar none. You got that needle trapped right down in that groove — you’re not going to get a better sound,” he said. “To me, that is the way music was meant to be recorded and heard.”
These two are not alone as The Wall Street Journal reports a 49 percent increase in vinyl sales from 2013 to 2014. It’s a new generation of buyers who are just being introduced to this method of entertainment.
Burke observed that the bulk of their business is from younger people.
“We are seeing age groups as young as 13 to maybe 30 years old. Those are strong buyers right now; however, I wish they had more money, and they could be even stronger buyers,” Burke said. “There are still collectors, then you have your casual buyers, but the predominant buyer now is young females for the first time ever, that I know of, in the history of the business. I never would have guessed.”
One event that helps push business for vinyl records and independent record stores is “Record Store Day,” which falls on the third Saturday of April.
Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently-owned record stores in the U.S. and thousands of similar stores internationally. Special vinyl, CD and various promotional products are released exclusively for the day. Hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances to celebrate the day.
A store participating in Record Store Day is defined as “a stand-alone brick and mortar retailer whose main primary business is a physical store location with a product line consisting of at least 50 percent music retail. The company must not be publicly traded, and their ownership must be at least 70 percent located in the state of operation.”
“Independent Record Store Day is really helping out. The third Saturday in April is now our biggest day of the year,” Burke said. “It is exciting for somebody who has been doing this as long as I have to see the amount of people pouring in the store that day.”
One of the draws of records, other than playing them, is collecting them.
“Building up my library of albums has been a joy. You can always show them off and they make great conversation pieces,” Burke said. “I have between 5,000 and 6,000 records in my personal collection. Stop on in and give it a shot. What do you have to lose? Come see what this is all about.”