Monday, August 13, 2012
Local stores help vinyl records make a comeback
Shop owners are in the record business for the love of music, not money.
Some people keep their record collections in crates or cardboard boxes. Cliff West needs an entire store to house his vinyl catalog.
West, a.k.a. the “Record Hound,” looks around the Books and More at 1626 West University Drive and its inventory of more than 17,000 LP’s, 45’s and 78’s. “This is it,” West said. “This is my personal collection.”
West, who supplies records to Books and More and other local stores that sell used vinyl, began “hunting” records and music memorabilia in the early 1990s after he graduated from University of North Texas, where he studied ceramics.
“It was a hobby, actually,” West said. “It was a hobby that turned into a small business because the more you find the more you either store or sell.”
When West’s collection grew too large to keep at home, he began selling to Recycled Books on North Locust Street. Eventually, he realized he could make a larger profit and began selling records on Ebay and supplying vinyl to Books and More, where he splits the profits with owner Debra Newton.
Books and More opened 10 years ago primarily as a bookstore, but as its collection of used records grew, Newton said she noticed an influx of young customers coming in to browse the vinyl.
“I thought it would be older people, for nostalgia when we first got records,” Newton said. “I was surprised that younger people are very passionate about vinyl.”
As digital sales of music have skyrocketed and CD sales have nosedived along with overall profits in the recording industry, vinyl records are making a comeback: According to a report by Nielsen SoundScan, an information and sales tracking system, vinyl record sales in the U.S. are at their highest point since 1991. Almost 4 million vinyl records were sold in 2011, a 36 percent increase from the previous year.
Despite owning an mp3 player and a sizable digital music library on his laptop, drawing and painting senior Cameron Hinojosa said there was a unique appeal to listening to music on a record player.
“You have to pick up a piece of music and put it on the record player instead of just moving your mouse and pressing play,” Hinojosa said.
After inheriting 227 of his parent’s records, Hinojosa went to Mad World Records at 115 West Hickory to start on a collection of modern vinyl that he can pass down to his children.
“Playing a record, it will sound the same no matter what,” Hinojosa said. “I’m hearing the same tone that my dad used to hear. It’s kind of a view from that point and that time in their life, it’s more of a personal message.”
Mad World sells used albums and new vinyl from modern artists, including 25 local bands, as well as CDs, T-shirts and other music memorabilia.
Owner Mark Burke said it was difficult keeping a record store afloat. A 2011 report by California-based research firm IBISWorld found that about 12,000 record stores in the U.S. called it quits between 2000 and 2010, and that only about 3,000 are still operating.
“It’s not a business where you can make money anymore,” Burke said. “It used to be, but ever since iPods came along, it kind of killed it.”
Mad World’s customers include the young and the old, Burke said, with college students snatching up most new releases.
Burke said people were attracted to vinyl records because they have a deeper, richer sound than CDs and mp3s, and West believes the artwork on vinyl albums has also played a role in their comeback.
“To be able to hold it in your hands. To see what the artist actually looks like,” West said. “People want to see who it is, they want the art, they want the cover – not just the sound.”
Regardless of how many record stores go under in the coming years, Burke said he has no plans to shut Mad World’s doors anytime soon.
“When I think about shutting down, I’m filled with this guilt of putting a nail in the coffin of the record stores,” Burke said. “I’m doing it for other reasons, not to make money.”
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