Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The Vinyl Resurgence

While back in the U.S. for my Mom's funeral I was able to return to a favorite record/CD shop in New Jersey. In the past my husband and I have spent many long hours combing through the used CDs and albums there. How many of you have fond memories of hunting through the browser for that rare album? I'm sure many readers have favorite record shops from their youth?

When I was a teenager I used to look through the import and the alphabetized sections hoping to come across an unusual album. My husband also had the experience of being able to visit over 30 record shops in his adopted home town, tramping miles to hunt through the sale bins for imported and cut-out albums. It was not unusual on some occasions to come home with 30+ albums tucked under his arms.

Since the introduction of the CD in the 80's and more recently the explosion of the MP3 (and similar) there is now a generation of young people who didn't experience firsthand the discovery of new bands as a result of perusing through vinyl. There are many who opine that the sound of vinyl is warmer than the digital option. Also with album covers being much larger you end up with a much bigger visual treat, a greater package and some genuine works of fine pop culture and yes, art!

When I was back in the U.S. I saw an ad for turntables being sold in 2 separate record/CD shops. This is the first time that I had seen a renewed interest in turntables despite the fact that the one shop has always sold new and used albums. The second shop where I saw turntables being sold was in the university town of Ithaca. While there (at 'Volume') I had a conversation with one of the co-owners of the shop in regard to the sale of vinyl. He said there was definitely a strong interest in the black plastic way of listening to music and that the college students wanted the artwork, the lyric sheet, the inner sleeve and moreover: 'the real thing' when it comes to purchasing music.

Vox Pop on Twitter
On Twitter recently I asked a few people if and why they purchase vinyl. Reasons ranged from "I like the warmer sound of it. Nostalgia, maybe?", "There's also the cover art and the cool gatefolds. Artists were able to do some great things with the larger canvas." Other responses included "there's something about the depth and warmth of sound on vinyl that I really like." and "I'm purchasing vinyl because I like the feel, the big cover art and the sound and it will be more durable and valuable than a CD."

Commercial Rise
Amazon's recently launched vinyl store now has over 250,000 titles in stock. In the next few months Oasis, Kings of Leon and Bob Dylan will be releasing new vinyl titles. U2 and Van Morrison will also be re-releasing their back catalog on vinyl. On September 2, 2008, Capitol Records released the first in a series of vinyl reissues of albums from some of their biggest artists, featuring classic releases from the Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" and Steve Miller "Greatest Hits 1974-78" alongside more recent blockbusters from Coldplay "Parachutes" and Radiohead "OK Computer". Subsequently, Capitol followed up these 13 launch titles with the September 30 release of Jimi Hendrix' 1970 album "Band of Gypsies" and John Lennon's popular "Imagine", and on October 28, the iconic label will release albums from The Band, Megadeth, Roxy Music, and Paul McCartney & Wings.

L.A. indie label HackTone Records, will issue its first vinyl release, "Ready for the Flood," from former Jayhawks Mark Olson and Gary Louris this fall. The Pretenders new release called "Break Up the Concrete" came out recently on October 7. The vinyl version of the album, to be released on September 23, features two 10" discs with a gatefold, die-cut to shape and debossed with concrete texture with a full Album CD in Mini Jacket.

In addition to old material appearing on vinyl, 180 gram releases of new material are being marketed too. Ben Folds new album "Way To Normal Package" will contain: a CD, 180 gram vinyl, 24 page booklet, bonus DVD and Bonus CD with live 9 live songs.

Despite the fact that the 12 inch vinyl record was in decline for the past 20 years, worldwide sales of LP records doubled in 2007 after an all-time low in 2006. Turntable sales in the U.S. have increased more than 80% from 2006-2007 and are expected to rise again this year according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

One of the great things about the new vinyl movement, it's an independent phenomena - so far the big corporates have not climbed on the bandwagon and stomped all over it with their ugly size 13's - to much extent so far!

The Hunt
For those of you who are just now discovering vinyl you may wonder where the best place is to find those obscure vinyl treasures. I highly recommend the following places:

Used record shops
Record shows
Garage sales
Flea markets/car boots
Thrift stores
Ads in local newspapers
Ads in magazines such as Goldmine or Record Collector -UK
Internet forums
Library sales
College radio stations

For new and older vinyl:
Amazon , Rhino , and Sundazed are recommended.
This author has compiled a fabulous list of worldwide vinyl retailers.

If you need a creative solution for your new acquisitions once you start collecting vinyl here are directions for making a record holder

Recently I read Vinyl Junkies by Brett Milano. Not only does he delve into the reasons for obsessive hunts for vinyl but he also did extensive research into the habits of serious music collectors such as Peter Buck of REM and Roger Manning of the band Jellyfish. I highly recommend the book.

Further Reading
Vinyl Gets Its Groove Back

Cut Outs in the UK - Many shops were seasonal and set up just to sell American imports which came into the country as ballast from freight ships. The albums were supposed to be junked after they reached the UK's shores, but of course many of them were not, and were sold to unscrupulous wholesalers who would then sell them on to retail outlets for very little. Lucky for us collectors here, they were - a good proportion of my collection of American material is made up of these cut-outs - containing rarities and fabulous albums that soldin tiny amounts which have since allowed me to discover great
artists which would have otherwise be lost. MrQ


musicobssesion said...

It's really nice to look at those vinyl discs. I'm having fun collecting them right now.

jlizzy said...

interesting thoughts. there is an old "record" shop in Odessa, Endless Horizons. My dad shopped there for his music...It's eclectic and old and wonderful. However, they have no records, no shiny vinyl, only cd's. They do have a great collection of used cd's and last time I was in I perused through the stack to see if I could, perhaps, find new music this way. And I did!

I imagine that vinyl would provide a unique listening experience. I may have to find an old turntable, snag my mom's records (John Denver, Sheena Easton) and set it up while I'm firing glass...

On some level, the real thing is usually preferred and often worth the expense and trouble.

Patty said...

Happy to hear vinyl is back - I'm not surprised. Listening to records somehow feels more romantic. :) The downside of vinyl for us: every time we move it's a big deal - my husband has 16 crates of records - crazy heavy.

Peter S said...

I have very fond memories of browsing through boxes of 7inch discs at the local record shop when a teenager. One by one, they closed, leaving a gap in the social itinerary - Saturday mornings were never the same again.

ShutterBugGeek said...

What a great post. It's nice to now that younger Gen-Xers & Gen-Y have the opportunity to use vinyl. I was happy to try new media & get away from the "popping", but some songs put that old school sound on the recordings to add a nostalgic flavor. I especially love hearing classic jazz on vinyl. I am fortunate enough to live in a town with a record store, and it's quite popular! Thanks for writing this!