Obsolete: a word that, with everyday technology, has become increasingly familiar. First came the vinyl record, followed by the 8-track, the cassette, the CD and so on. So why is it that vinyl, one of the most seemingly outdated platforms of music, is experiencing such a revival?
Mike Voldeck, owner of East Grand Record Company on Grand River Avenue, has one idea.
“You just can’t beat that sound of the needle when it first touches a record,” he says.
The experience of holding and listening to a record isn’t something that can be easily replicated with a 99 cent song downloaded from iTunes.
A Nielsen Company study shows that vinyl sales have tripled since 2005, hitting $3.6 million last year. That is the highest sales have been since 1991, increasing by a quarter in just one year.
Another East Lansing business, The Record Lounge on Division Street, is sharing the experience of this resurgence.
“The last year and a half it’s just really escalated,” says owner Heather Frarey about her store’s vinyl sales.
Just like East Grand Record Company, whose small selection of CDs is displayed on a tiny shelf at the front of the store, The Record Lounge carries mostly vinyl records.
“We’re strictly vinyl except local band CDs,” says Frarey.
Many record shops also carry record players and player parts in their inventories. Although vintage record players are often preferred, both new and old can be found in most shops.
“I can’t keep record players in the store,” says Voldeck.
Record Stores Thrive Again
Once again shops can support themselves purely on the sale of vinyl records and the necessary products and services that go along with them.
East Grand Record Company is located in a basement on Grand River. The long room is brightly lit and filled with records; the walls are decorated with album covers and graffiti.
Every Monday afternoon the store hosts a free jazz show in its newly renovated stage, a dark room that has been built into the wall adjacent to the entrance. Additionally, the store acts as a venue for many other shows of all genres of music, all of which are free.
Likewise, The Record Lounge hosts an annual show on the date of the store’s anniversary, as well as acoustic sets on Wednesdays once a month.
Small concerts like this not only help local artists, but they also help promote the store, which is essential to a small business.
But small businesses aren’t the only ones catching onto the upward sales trend. Larger companies are beginning to carry records in their stores as well.
In recent years, Best Buy has started to sell records in their stores as well as online. Although vinyl makes up less than five percent of the store’s music sales, it is clear that the comeback of vinyl is making an impact.
Impact of the Economy
Unfortunately, small businesses struggle to make ends meet in a harsh economy. On Sunday, March 18, East Grand Records went out of business. Not only was East Grand the newest shop in town, but Voldeck also owns a small record label, adding to his expenses. Any records that were not sold by Sunday were given to Salvation Army.
Voldeck’s record label, also named East Grand Record Company, is going smoothly and will release its first album soon.
Despite one business closing, the other two record shops in East Lansing remain open, and both continue to see success.
As sales of vinyl records increase and stores open in cities all across the nation, only time will tell whether or not the trend will stick.
Mike Voldeck’s opinion?
“It’s here to stay.”
Related Articles & Stories:
Business Wire: Nielsen SoundScan
The Toronto Star: Resurgence of vinyl records means new business up their sleeve
Record Pressing: Top Ten Vinyl Myths