By Joe Layton
The hunt for a gem, feeling the music in your hands, true analog versus digital reproduction, physical artwork and lyric liners, are the qualities contributing to a “renaissance of vinyl” as John Kunz, owner of Waterloo Records says.
For Kunz’s store, vinyl sales went up 20 percent last year and now account for near a third of his stores total sales. Half Price Books and Breakaway Records also report increased vinyl sales recently. Despite the convenience and portability of MP3s, vinyl is becoming more popular with music aficionados who demand sound quality, says Kunz.
Independent record stores noticed a demand for more vinyl began slowly building and collectively presented the idea of producing more vinyl to independent record labels about five years ago, says Kunz. He believed that independent labels would be more receptive to the idea, and as more customers are interested in vinyl, the major labels are catching on and producing more vinyl.
Drew Wilson, an employee at Half Price Books known as “the vinyl guy,” says that the volume of vinyl moving through the store has accelerated lately. He says that vinyl offers many things that CDs or MP3s lack, but that people mostly just miss the sound of a record.
Kunz agrees, saying: “The analog sound reproduction is a big deal because the listening devices we have on the side of our heads are analog devices and they weren’t designed to listen to 0’s and 1’s mimicking music.”
Alex Davidoff, a University of Texas at Austin student and vinyl enthusiast, says he spends time meticulously combing the bargain bins at record stores around town because he relishes the sound quality. After searching through innumerable Barbra Streisand and John Denver albums, he may find a gem. “The sound is way more pure, especially on a good system, it sounds like you’re in the studio with the musicians,” says Davidoff. “Live albums sound much better too, the crackle you hear is almost like when you hear the hum of speakers at a live show.”
In 1984, Chad Kassum, started Acoustic Sounds, now the largest vinyl distributor in the world, believing that vinyl would make a comeback. He says that because a vinyl can only fit 22 minutes of music per side, artists would produce 44 minutes of killer music, as opposed to 75 minutes of music that might not all be that great. “The consumer is buying vinyl because it sounds better and feels better, its physical,” Kassum says.
Acoustic Sounds, headquartered in Salina, Kansas, just added another vinyl pressing plant to their business, which Kassum says is proof of the resurgence of vinyl. He also says many new people are getting into the business because they recognize that there is money to be made off vinyl. While Kassum is excited about all this hype, he has always been in the business for the sake of the sound.
“I never would have thought 8 to 10 years ago we would be having this vinyl renaissance now,” says Kunz “and frankly most indie record stores wouldn’t exist if not for vinyl.”