On April 16, 2016, the world celebrated the 9th annual Record Store Day. Several thousand record stores around the world participated with special releases and in-store performances. Shure Artist Endorsers got involved in the fun, too. Kacey Musgraves gave a rousing performance at Lunchbox Records in Charlotte, NC, while Mumford and Sons brought the house down at Vintage Vinyl in St Louis, MO.
Vinyl is making a comeback in a very strong way. When compact discs supplanted records as the most popular music delivery system, it looked like record collections would soon be a thing of the past. But now, in this world of digital downloads and the ability to stream almost any song anywhere, analog sound quality and the beauty of a dusty album on the shelf—an actual physical manifestation of the music—is gaining appeal. And the numbers show it. A recent Fortune article cites the following Recording Industry Association of America statistic: in 2015, vinyl sales were up 32% to $416 million, the highest level since 1988. And Paper Magazine reports that since 2007, vinyl sales have gone up by over 800%.
I spoke with several Shure Associates who are vinyl aficionados to get their take on Record Store Day and the what owning albums means to them.
Peter Carparelli, Customer Service Representative
“For RSD 2016 I ventured out and browsed a few of the stores that I frequent. Sadly, there weren’t any releases for this year that I felt I needed, but I did buy a few must-have records that I found while digging through the bins (Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and Trilogy! SCORE!). I’m part of the group that thinks vinyl never died; instead, it just took a dive when the demand went way down thanks to the innovation of cassettes and CDs. Both of the alternative formats might have been more convenient, but I can’t fathom enjoying the quality of either of those more than I do vinyl.
There’s something really magical about putting a record on your turntable and blasting it through a nice pair of speakers (bookshelf-sized preferred, not just for volume, but for that rock and roll experience!). Recordings just seem to have more room to breathe on vinyl and, come on, who doesn’t love poring over the album jacket’s artwork, reading the lyrics on the insert and feeling like you’re preserving a part of musical history by keeping the BEST format alive? Besides, shred records just sound best this way, and solos soar that much more majestically when you know it’s on a vinyl LP!”
Gino Sigismondi, Senior Manager for Systems Support
“Vinyl definitely appears to be making a comeback. If you are the kind of person who likes to possess the ‘artifact,’ vinyl is far and away the most satisfying format. That wonderfully large surface, particularly with gatefold albums, allows you to immerse yourself in the artwork. There’s plenty of space for lyrics and liner notes, usually in a readable font size! Some current releases have really creative packaging, too. Bowie’s Blackstar has a die-cut front cover in the shape of star that lets you see the black vinyl disc through the hole. The latest Anthrax, For All Kings, is a double album, but there was only enough music to fill three sides, so the fourth side has pentagram artwork etched into it. Just don’t try to play that side!
People debate sound quality, but there’s little doubt that there’s a uniqueness to the sound reproduced from a needle tracking grooves on a spinning disc that isn’t captured in digital formats. Many people feel that CDs are more ‘accurate,’ but vinyl offers a more ‘pleasing’ listening experience. Plus, what’s more fun than spending an afternoon pawing through bins of dusty LPs at your local record shop? It’s treasure hunting for music geeks at its finest.”
Matthew Kordonowy, Technical Content Specialist
“Rather than go to a store for Record Store Day this year, we had a record swap in our backyard, alongside a barbeque and bonfire. People brought records they wanted to sell for a few bucks or swap. We had a portable record player playing all day and night. I was able to obtain several old King Crimson records, the Clockwork Orange soundtrack, and my friend’s band Restroy’s latest 7″ release.
I love owning records because they’re the right size: too big to lose (unlike a CD or download card) but thin enough to flip through 100 in 5 minutes. At about a foot squared, an album cover is the perfect canvas for artwork. The length pretty much coincides with the amount of time it takes to present a complete musical idea (30–40 minutes). Also, considering that most of the vinyl that exists today is from previous generations, you have an opportunity to discover eras of incredible musicians, songwriting, recording techniques, and other weird zeitgeist aspects. Sometimes the outdated elements are the best parts.”
Jason Walker, Global Content Manager
“For Record Store Day this year, my Monkees tribute band (The New Candy Store Prophets) played at Reckless Records on Broadway in Chicago. I had never participated in RSD before and wasn’t expecting much, but I was blown away by the enthusiasm. The place was packed with people. They filled the aisles watching us and shopping for vinyl. I didn’t buy anything at the time; carrying my unwieldy gear made it difficult to do any shopping, but I’ll be going back for a beautiful Light In The Attic reissue of Here Is Barbara Lynn on 180-gram vinyl with a gorgeously printed gatefold sleeve.
After the big promotional push toward digital, a whole lot of people forgot why they loved their records: the warm sound, beautiful packaging and gratifyingly tangible nature. Vinyl simply does the job better than anything else ever invented. Sometimes you have to lose something to remember how great it was. Fortunately, thanks to a few people who wouldn’t let it die, we’ve all got a second chance to discover it.”
Paul Crognale, Retail Marketing Manager, Shure UK
“I run a couple of vinyl labels. The last two years, I have released a record on Record Store Day and have been in Soho, London, for the day; they have street parties and the like. I took a year off this year, but there is no doubt it is a bigger occasion now, and that can only be a good thing. I have a few friends who have started buying records again as a direct result of Record Store Day.
I’ve been collecting records for 20 years, and I still get a smug grin on my face when I get a copy of a rare record—for example, one that only had 300 copies pressed and no digital format. The 12″ format is the perfect canvas for a piece of art; I have lost count of the number of records I have bought at boot sales for the cover alone. In the days before computers, not everything that was released was ‘polished and perfect’ so for me 70’s vinyl recordings, especially African ones, have a certain kind of magic that you really just don’t get anymore.”
Steve Sobanski, Audio Electronics Engineer
“I have this theory. If it weren’t for internet music, I think vinyl records would be much closer to extinction. People who enjoy the collecting/rarity aspect of it kept vinyl alive during the early 2000’s, but eventually average music listeners like me found a purpose in vinyl that makes it the most rewarding format to purchase, even for modern music.
Once I started getting all my music from the internet, something felt wrong to me. I missed walking into a record store and buying the authentic material of my favorite bands. That’s when I considered buying vinyl. In the last year, I have had five friends ask me for first-buy turntable recommendations. It was so satisfying to help them out and watch them experience music the natural way they remembered from CDs, but in an even better way that you get with vinyl.
The vinyl format gives music the attention it deserves. It takes a certain amount of commitment to place a record on the turntable and position the cartridge. It feels like a rebellion against today’s music attention deficit where we jump around songs 30 seconds at a time. Like a Hollywood film, that 12″ round piece of art was created with intention to be listened to from beginning to end. It really is the most engaging music format.”
I personally haven’t owned a record since leaving behind my Sesame Street Disco 12″ eons ago. But as I sit here transcribing the words of my fellow associates, I’m starting to think that maybe I should raid my parents’ basement and liberate it, along with a couple of my dad’s Zeppelin and Who albums. After all, I happen to know a place to get some great needles and a cartridge. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a quote from our good friend Henry Rollins from his column in the LA Weekly a few weeks ago:
“This should be a weekend of sonic epiphany, of high-volume revelation. Your turntable is no mere component! It is a magic machine that sends vinyl into orbit so the stylus can travel for miles and miles, delivering you nothing but the very best moments of human creation. Hopefully, parties will erupt all over the world as people take turns spinning records they scored only hours before. Hurrah for all of us.
There is one sanctioned worldwide Record Store Day. But as far as I’m concerned, every day is Record Store Day.”