Vinyl resurgence by Patrick Cossel
As much of the music industry sees declining or flattening sales, there is one medium bucking the trend.
In 2010 vinyl records saw an increase in sales by 14 percent, according to Neilsen SoundScan, an industry analysis company. According to this report, vinyl was the fastest-growing format with 2.8 million units sold.
But those numbers need to be taken in perspective. Even with this increase, vinyl only accounted for less than one percent of the year’s total album sales.
Still, this format that was once the norm, seems to have remade its mark on the industry.
In Cheyenne, Wyo., Ernie November has been selling records for 15 years.
Located in the heart of Wyoming’s capitol city, the store is a bastion for those who are looking for something interesting and new for their ears.
The store front is covered with posters of bands and shows, giving shop-goers a treat before they ever step inside.
Opening the door tends to fill people with the smell of incense, the sound of whatever music is playing and the sense something unique could occur at any moment.
Manager Keith Coombes, arms covered in tattoos, ears pierced and often wearing a Dickies style work shirt, mans the counter waiting to help people with their purchases or to discuss the new releases for the week.
Coombes has been at the store for all but four months of its existence. He started working there part-time and eventually took over as the manager.
With so much experience in the store, he is pretty tuned in to the local beat. Coombes says the market for vinyl in Cheyenne has always been pretty good. Especially in the last two years.
“There has been an upswing in the last two years,” says Coombes.
Coombes says the reason for the upswing is the downfall in cds. According to market analysis, cds have been decreasing in sales since 2000. In fact, according to Neilsen, those numbers are around 52 percent.
Much of the decrease in sales is attributed to shareware sites like Napster where people can download music for free, albeit illegally.
For those who prefer to walk the line on the side of the law, ITunes has cornered the market in digital sales of music.
But for Coombes, the music provided by digital means and by cd is not the same as you get on vinyl.
“The music is more rich. It is not nearly as perfect and slicked up,” Coombes says.
Coombes adds when bands play live they are not perfect and slicked up. Vinyl is a closer representation.
Coombes says recordings from a long time ago till about 10 years ago were done in analog. With digital recording, Coombes says the sound has changed.
“Digital recording is stale, non-human,” he says.
Despite his personal feelings, Coombes knows vinyl will never return to its heyday.
“It’s not ever going to be for the masses,” Coombes says, “for the serious listener and the music collector they will continue to collect.”
To keep up the excitement for collectors, many albums are released as a limited pressing and sometimes with different colors or artwork on the album.
Coombes said on the third weekend of April, his store, along with many independently owned stores, will celebrate the fourth annual Record Store Day. This event was created to celebrate the unique culture surrounding indie owned record stores.
Many of the special release products for the day have been preordered by Coombes and he is expecting a decent turn out.
“It is an underground thing, but it is gaining in popularity.” Coombes says.
Coombes says this year the store will have the most titles ever for the event.
“My supplier has told me there are over 300 titles being released this year,” he says.
Coupling the new products Coombes says the store will have specials on current stock of vinyl.
In Kimball, Neb. Greg Reinninger has been collecting for more than 20 years. Reinninger said he doesn’t collect colored vinyl or picture discs to date, everything he has is the standard black vinyl.
Reinninger’s first purchase was Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Since then he just hasn’t stopped.
“I have crates and crates and shelves of them, probably 500 if I had to guess,” he says.
To Reinninger records are much different than cds. He compares the sound between vinyl and cds to a classic car and a new car.
“Take a Model A Ford and a 1990 Ford. When you are driving that Model A you get these Lucky Louse who want to look at you and see what you have done to the car,” Reinninger says.
“When you play a record compared to a cd you get people who look at you and are like, ‘what’s going on?’,” he says.
Reinninger says he will never get rid of, nor stop collecting records. He owns a couple of record players but would like to get a nicer one set up to better facilitate the sound.
When it comes to purchasing new records, the collector says he often gets them from pawn shops or second hand stores.
Reinninger says he never sets out looking for a certain record. Instead, he purchases boxes of them at a time and enjoys going through it.
“I’ll take the whole box. I don’t know what’s in it, but I will take the whole box,” he says.
“I end up with a lot of holiday and Christmas stuff, but it’s all good.” he says.
For others, records are kept even if they don’t have a way of listening to them.
“Still have quite a collection of records. Still love them. But, have nothing to play them on,” says Wanda Milton of Kimball.
Others, who responded to the question “Why do you like or dislike vinyl?” on a Facebook post had the following to say.
“Vinyl has that old hiss and pop to it, each crackle sparks a memory of childhood be it while listening to Fleetwood Mac or the Blues Brothers,” Rob Maes, Cheyenne, Wyo.
“Some of my favorite memories are tied to an LP or 45. I had a tiny record player and played “Cherokee People” over and over till it drove my mom nuts! Graduated to a big Lloyd system - first one paid for with my money - and my grandmother bought me Chicago 10. Just picked up Emmerson, Lake and Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery. I like the imperfect things you catch because mixing wasn’t fake like it is now. If there was no quality to the voice on vinyl, you knew and it wasn’t masked,” Cindi Shroyer, Pine Bluffs, Wyo.
“Vinyl brings me back to my teen years hanging out with my two best buddies listening to their dad’s collection while becoming part of their family,” Christopher Moss, Oregon.
“Vinyl is being in my best friend’s basement, listening to the Beatles and the Stones,” Gabriel Mintz, musician, Washington St.
Even with all these accolades for the medium, there are those who disagree.
“Listening to vinyl brings back good memories from my childhood. Having said that though, from a purely audiophile standpoint, CD/DVD’s offer a person a chance to hear the more subtle nuances of the music. The audio range the laser can pick up is greater than the audio range a needle can pick up,” Alan McLean.