Vinyl music gives record stores a boost in a digital world

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Robert F. Bukaty / AP

n this April 19, 2012 file photo, Chris Bown poses in Scarborough, Maine, with a copy of “Live in Los Angeles 1978” by The Knack. Brown of Maine-based Bull Moose Music came up with the idea for Record Store Day, the annual event to celebrate local record stores.

PORTLAND, Maine – Record stores haven’t just survived the onslaught of pirated music, digital downloads and online streaming services. There are now more and more of them.

Several hundred independent music retailers have opened their doors in the past five years in the United States, largely thanks to the resurgence of vinyl records, according to industry officials.

“Stores are popping up in small towns. There are enough vinyl companies to back them up. You have a lot of young entrepreneurs who see this opportunity, ”said Wes Lowe of Alliance Entertainment Corp., the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of CDs and DVDs. and vinyl record albums.

This gives music lovers to celebrate as Record Store Day celebrates its 10th anniversary on Saturday in stores from Maine to California.

The annual event pays homage to the neighborhood music store, the place where people have long gathered to flip through vinyl records or cassettes. In the 1970s, every community had at least one, but hundreds went bankrupt at the start of the digital music revolution.

The number of independent record stores stabilized at around 2,000 before growing over the past five years to closer to 2,400, Lowe said.

The resurgence of vinyl sales is contributing to this.

A new generation is in love with old-fashioned vinyl albums and turntables, joining older listeners who grew up with record albums and audio purists who prefer the full, warm sound of albums to modern compressed digital audio files.

Vinyl album sales have grown from less than one million records per year in 2005 to over 13 million in 2016, according to Nielsen Music.

And money is being invested in increasing production capacity. Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer Jack White jumped into the action by starting a vinyl pressing plant earlier this year in Michigan.

Record Store Day had a boisterous debut with heavy metal band Metallica in San Francisco in 2008, but the story begins off the beaten track with an independent record chain operator in distant Maine. Chris Brown of Bull Moose Music came up with the idea in 2007 for an event that began the following year with 200 stores and grew to 1,600 participating record stores on Saturday.

The new vinyl releases are the hallmark of the event. This year’s tributes to two stars who died in 2016 include several extended 12-inch mix hits from Prince and an early release of a demo album used to promote David Bowie before he rose to fame. Others include Elton John’s reissue of his favorite concert recording dubbed “17-11-70”; a live recording of The Doors; a flexi-disc by Emerson, Lake and Palmer with extracts from “Brain Salad Surgery”; and Toto’s “Africa” ​​pressed on a continent-shaped album.

There’s also the second annual Record Store Crawls, a 12-date tour by Warner Music that will take participants by bus to local record stores. It will debut in New York on Saturday and will also visit Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Artists include Savoire Adore, Craig Brown Band, Angelica Garcia and others.

Brown doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the growing popularity of vinyl records has coincided with the creation of an annual event to celebrate vinyl stores. “They call it the ‘vinyl resurgence,’ but it started with Record Store Day,” Brown said.

Almighty Music Marketing, a market research company in California, estimates that more than 500 stores have opened since 2010, and believes the trend will continue.

Its chairman, Vince Hans, added that part of the growth is due to independent stores filling in the gaps left by the closure of big box retailers.

New stores are not always conventional. Nowadays there are combo stores selling comics and records. And there are even restaurants and bars that sell records.

“You have to innovate to be successful now,” said Michael Kurtz, co-founder of Record Store Day and chairman of the world’s largest coalition of independent record stores.


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