Story/Joseph Lu Edited/Josh Nggilari
Music is a form of communication. Throughout the music industry, ways to deliver the sound has always been changing. From the 1930s when vinyl records first came out to tapes, CDs, online purchases, and now various online streaming services, the method has been replaced constantly as technology has improved. Yet, one form survived and continued to thrive, the vinyl record.
According to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the first half of 2015, the vinyl industry saw a 52% increase in shipment, which led to a $222 million sale. DNAinfo and Nielsen found that vinyl album sales had grown 260 percent since 2009 and in that 260 percent, Chicago accounts for 9.1 percent of U.S. vinyl record sales.
It may seem like the record industry is just making a comeback now but for David (Dave) Crain, the comeback has been happening a lot longer than they have been writing about it or noticing it.
Dave, who has been working in the record business for more than 40 years and the owner of Dave’s Record in Chicago said, “For 20 years, people have been walking into the door and said “wow, they still make new records?” Twenty years from now, people will probably still be saying the same thing.”
Both Dave and Sam Crain had noticed an increase in customers that are in their mid 20s. “What is interesting with the younger generation, I think more women are interested in buying physical music than they used to be. Which is an interesting change,” said Dave Crain.
While many argue that vinyl record inherently has a better quality of sound, the father and son both replied that it’s a personal opinion. Dave said, “It’s a debate that you can have forever. Everybody has a pair of ears and everybody hears something different.”
Even though it seems like there is a surge among music buyers in buying records, digital is still the dominant platform now. RIAA showed that even though vinyl records reached $222 million in the first half 2015, online streaming revenue was more than one billion dollars from paid subscriptions, ad-supported on-demand services and SoundExchange distribution.
Dave’s son, Sam, who works full time at a law firm after graduating from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2013, said, “It’s a way for me to connect with my family because everyone in my family buys vinyl and collects vinyl, but it’s just a convenience thing to play out of my iPod.” Sam Crain, who helps out his dad at the record store part time, said that he grew up with vinyl records and has his own collection of vinyl but he enjoys the convenient of online streaming.
Margret Barrett, a first-time customer at Dave’s Record, said, “It’s fun to just listen to an artist all the way through.” However, like Sam Carin, Barrett finds it easier to use Spotify to discover and listen to music.
Eighty one percent of the organization say that Internet and digital technologies are “very important” for promoting the arts and 78 percent say these technologies are essential for increasing audience engagement, according to Pew Research Center.
For many record buyers, though they favor vinyl’s sound quality, the sound quality is not the main attraction to them. Tom Brecheisen, who recently just got his turntable fixed, said, “When you download a song here and there, you just don’t get the full experience of the full album. I like it (vinyl records), it’s a documentation of time period.”
Julio “DJ Illanoiz” Calderon, who has been DJing since 1992, prefers vinyl not only because he started DJing with vinyl record but also the quality of the records. “Most of the vinyl pressed up from the 50s, 60s and 70s, a lot of people dig for, because it’s a lot of timeless music. You tend to find those music on vinyl and not on CDs or tapes,” said Illanoiz. “We (DJs) also think of it as our library of music.”
Technology is integrated in a majority aspects of our lives. However, there are things that technology just can’t replace. A record shop provides the humanistic interaction or the surprised feeling of finding that unexpected record, an experience that online streaming and online purchases can’t offer. The emotion and atmosphere a record shop and vinyl record creates is a personal experience and is different each time.
“I feel like I am at home when I listen to vinyl record. I do all my listening mostly in the store. I got to listen to whatever I want to, whenever I want to and however I want to. My whole day is spent with music. For me, vinyl is that home and calling cards toward connecting to the music and the musician,” said Dave. ###