BY JULIA CIRIGNANO
Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in vinyl records sales throughout North America. Hipsters are credited with bringing the trend back in the hopes of preserving the authenticity of vinyl. Now, this trend has become part of popular culture again.
In 2015, sales of vinyl records were up 32 percent to $416 million, their highest level since 1988, according to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). Unlike the 1980’s, records are now sold practically everywhere, not just in record stores but in places such as Urban Outfitters, Barnes and Noble and even Whole Foods Market. Businesses make decent money selling vinyl and continue to stock and advertise them.
Since people still appreciate the authentic, sweet sound of vinyl and hope to preserve it for generations to come, Limelight Magazine recently spoke with 10 record store owners throughout New England about the rise in vinyl record sales and why they believe this is happening.
Burlington Records (170 Bank Street, Burlington, VT 05401)
Jacob Grossi, owner of Burlington Records in Burlington, VT, believes that there has always been an interest in vinyl but it has recently risen due to the substitute not being good enough. Vinyl was replaced by CDs so that music could be more mobile but not everyone is looking for a mobile way to listen to music. Many people still love vinyl records and hope to savor their originality.
Grossi has personally seen an increase in vinyl sales at Burlington Records and talked to Limelight about what he has experienced.
“We’ve had a vinyl only store for ten years. The change over the last ten years though was that we got more new releases,” Grossi said.
He explained that people not only want vinyl records as collectables but they want new and upcoming albums to be available in vinyl format.
Grossi’s favorite album to listen to on vinyl is (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay by soul singer Otis Redding. Grossi also made sure to also specify that he’s talking about the original cut.
Cheapo Records (538 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139)
Allen Bay has owned Cheapo Records since the ‘70’s. Over the past few years he has seen a sudden increase in vinyl records sales.
“A few years ago I realized that we’re actually selling more vinyl than CD’s and now we’re selling a lot more,” he said.
Bay talked about the value vinyl records have and how this has changed over the years.
“Records were something you had to have 50 years ago or even 40 years ago. Now, I think it’s more of the fact there are so many young people with disposable incomes. It’s a great hobby. It’s not addictive and it doesn’t put people out on the streets. I think vinyl is great. Young people who are into analog sound, buying old used records, get to hear things the way they should have been,” he said.
Bay also gave his opinion of why he thinks vinyl sales have increased.
“It’s a fad,” he said. “50 years ago everybody who listened to music had to have records. Now it’s an upper middle class, mostly white male, trend. Although I do have some dieheard female customers.”
Bay also talked about another different between vinyl records now compared to what they used to be.
“Not too many people are just buying everything,” he said. ”They’re getting into this, they’re getting into that. I think the internet drives both the interest and the titles.”
Bay mentioned some of his favorite records to listen to on vinyl.
“I grew up as a teenager in the ‘50’s so I like what we called rock ‘n roll,” he said while giving examples, “Ladders, [The] Flamingos, and The Black Keys.”
In Your Ear Records (462 Main St., Warren, RI 02885)
Reed Lapplin, co-owner of In Your Ear Records spoke briefly about why he believes people are interested in vinyl again.
“They’re all bored with their computers,” he said. “They’ve all been staring at their screens too long.”
Lapplin said that he has noticed this rise in popularity within his store.
“Well it’s been going on for a while,” he said. “It’s not the first vinyl revival. It’s happened four or five times already.”
Joe’s Albums (317 Main St., Worcester, MA 01608)
Limelight Magazine spoke with Joe Demers, owner of Joe’s Albums, about the increase in vinyl record sales. He said that he has seen an increase, “Definitely over the last couple of years, especially the last year. There’s been significant increase that’s coupled with the customer age rang getting a lot broader than it used to be.”
Demers gave his opinion on why he thinks this resurgence in vinyl is happening.
“It might be a push back against downloading music and not physically having anything,” he said. “Vinyl is a bit more of a tangible experience to hold something, put it on the table itself, and maybe sit and read the record sleeve while you’re listening to it. Also, I think you listen a lot more rather than just having music as background noise if you’re streaming or just have something on shuffle.”
Demers had two more possible reasons for the increase in vinyl record sales and interest.
“People in their 40s and those age ranges who grew up with vinyl are now getting back into it,” he said. “Honestly, I also think that the industry is behind it a little bit and pushing it because I don’t believe they make much off a 99-cent or less download and vinyl records are kind of pricey.”
Demers said that his favorite record to listen to on vinyl is Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd.
Music Connection (1711 S Willow St., Manchester, NH 03103)
John Benedict, owner of Music Connection in Manchester, NH, has seen “a steady increase” in vinyl sales and he talked to Limelight Magazine about why he thinks this is happening.
“I think it’s the physicality,” he said. “I think the other reason is that it’s a way to get away from your device. It provides a comfort and solace away from all the other things that take up your time. It’s a getaway.”
Benedict believes that although CD’s once replaced vinyl, streaming music is becoming the most common way to listen now. With devices such as Pandora and Spotify, anyone can listen to a variety of music for free. Benedict talked about why experiencing vinyl is better than streaming music.
“You literally have to physically place it on the machine and be an active participant,” he said.” I think that’s something that’s a novelty to a younger generation. It’s a conscious decision. I mean, there’s the cool aspect but also if you’re on Snapchat or Instagram or any of those things you need a break and I think vinyl provides that break.”
Benedict talked about the relationship that vinyl creates between the musician and the listener that he believes can’t be replicated with streaming music.
“The other thing is, if you’re dealing with a larger graphic platform you have a 12 by 12 inch place to put artwork,” he said. “You can put little trinkets or extras. You can make the vinyl a different color. You can do glow in the dark covers. There are just so many things you just can’t do with a stream or a download that make it a little more special and make a statement from the artist to the listener.”
Benedict talked about his favorite albums to listen to on vinyl and why.
“It’s Revolver by The Beatles,” he said. “To me, it’s one really great listen. I never get tired of it. I always hear something new and fresh. I hear attention to detail. The songwriting is strong. There’s experimentation. The cover’s black and white and it’s a pen and ink drawing with photos. I just think it’s pretty amazing.”
Nuggets Records (486 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215)
Stewart Freedman, owner of Nuggets Records in Boston, MA, spoke with Limelight Magazine about why he thinks vinyl has had a sudden comeback. While he has definitely noticed this trend, he isn’t sure why this is happening. Here are his thoughts.
“It could be the movie High Fidelity,” Freedman said. “Also, some customers think that it might be Jack White the guy from The White Stripes because he has his own record store and really pushed it. I thought that was a little far-fetched but maybe. Also, a lot of kids come in here and tell me that a few years ago they were finding their parents albums in the attic or something.”
Freedman talked about his personal connection with vinyl records.
“I don’t know specifically why but I always thought they were cooler than CD’s,” he said. “When I was a kid you’d have your friends over to look at an album and you would pass around the cover and play the record. I don’t know if people really did that with CD’s. I don’t think they would pass around the booklet because they are so small you can’t really read them.”
When asked what he favorite vinyl album was, he answered, “I like the older stuff like [The] Beatles, [The Rolling] Stones, [Bob] Dylan and there are a lot of good bands out now too that I like such as The Decemberists.”
Round Again Records (278 Wickenden St., Providence, RI 02903)
Limelight Magazine spoke with Steven Kotler who has owned Round Again Records for 36 years. His store has had great success, although he described it as, “a little 600 foot mom and pop store.”
Kotler doesn’t know exactly why people are suddenly interested in vinyl right now but he has a clear idea about why vinyl has lasted as long as it has.
“Vinyl records sound better,” he said. “They’re tactile. It’s something you can actually hold in your hand. It’s got a great cover.”
Skeletone Records (50 N Main St., Rochester, NH 03867)
Todd Radict, the owner of Skeletone Records, talked to Limelight Magazine about the rise in vinyl popularity and why he thinks this is happening.
“Because it sounds better,” he said. “CD’s always have a high tone pitch that to me is very irritating. Vinyl has a warmer feel. It’s also that you can see the artwork. With CD’s you can’t really see what’s going on. It’s more of a luxury than a CD is. You have to take care of it. If you don’t take care of the record you might not be able to get another one because it might sell out.”
Radict explained the rise he has been in vinyl sales at Skeletone.
“That’s our biggest seller in the store. We have over 100,000 records in the store,” he said.
Spun Records (6 Grove St., Dover, NH 03820)
Mark Matarozzo owner of Spun Records, spoke about his opinion on why there has been a sudden interest in vinyl records again. Matarozzo said that he has seen both an increase in vinyl sales and an interest in vinyl again at Spun records
“I think there’s a couple different levels of it,” he began. “There’s an interest through the kids that are hearing about it more and then there’s an older generation that hears ‘oh, the thing that I liked when I was younger is back’. I’ve actually have people here in their mid-forties getting back into vinyl.”
Matarozzo explained a common reason why people prefer vinyl: it’s physical qualities.
“I also think that part of it is that people like to have something tangible,” he said. “Something you can actually hold and unless you get into buying new records, the price for used records is actually pretty reasonable. You can come in with twenty bucks and walk out with six or eight records.”
Matarozzo also talked about his favorite album to listen to on vinyl.
“I usually go with something like Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs. I really enjoy that record and also some of the stuff I listened to when I was in school and younger. I’ve always liked Tool too.”
Sunset Records (1232 Wilbur Ave., Somerset, MA 02725)
Bob Boyer, owner of Sunset Records, spoke about the current resurgence in vinyl sales. He talked about how this sudden vinyl popularity is within many different generations. Because of this, he gets many young people experiencing vinyl for the first time instead of older generations revisiting vinyl.
“A lot of my customers are kids so it’s new to them,” he said. “They’re listening to things that were pre-digital like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.”
Boyer’s personal favorite vinyl record is an acoustic album by the late Sandy Bull titled Inventions. Bull is a folk singer who Boyer believes has created some amazing music even though he was never very well known. Although he wasn’t a big act, Boyer explained that his music sells well to this day, possibly due to the quality of the acoustic sound on vinyl.