10/24/2019 12:30:00 PM In central Illinois is an unexpected vinyl revival
DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — When Blake Reynolds was a child, his grandmother spun tracks by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, introducing him to a world of music.
Now the 33-year-old Decatur real estate agent owns a collection of over 100 records, his favorite being a live performance by Sinatra at Madison Square Garden — something he can thank his grandmother for.
“There’s nothing as cool as vinyl,” Reynolds said. “I think there’s also something nostalgic and something entertaining about flipping through records.”
After being tucked away in dust-covered cardboard boxes in musty basements and living on shelves in thrift stores, vinyl records have dodged extinction and made an improbable resurgence. A format once on life support can thank a legion of music lovers, hipsters and older folks who prefer their music not through stream services, iTunes or electronic devices, but an actual, spinning analog recording.
What’s old is new again.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said John Anderson, who nine years has owned Reverberation Vinyl in Bloomington, which specializes in 7-, 10- and 12-inch records.
Across the industry, vinyl sales are set to surpass CD sales this year for the first time since 1986. Sales saw a 12.9 percent increase between the first half of 2018 and the same 2019 period, to about $224 million, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
Brian Abbott, owner of Speakeasy Records & Oddities in Decatur, said records are definitely his top seller, surpassing CD and cassette sales by a landslide.
“I think our generation still wants to own a physical copy of music and Apple Music and Spotify just can’t provide that,” Reynolds said.
Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Greatest Hits,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” and David Bowie’s “Legacy” are among the top 10 selling vinyl albums during the first half of 2019.
Among the top 40 vinyl albums sold during 2019 include a good mix of modern and oldies, with the Beatles self-titled record from 1968 all the way to present day with Billie Eilish’s “When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” from 2019.
Another group Abbott sees come in are middle-aged patrons who have always been into records and have always had them.
Jared Alcorn owns Waiting Room Records in Bloomington, and he has people ages 17 to 60 buying vinyl. Waiting Room sells CDs, vinyl, cassettes, DVDs and Blu-Ray. For new releases, CDs are still making popular sales.
“We do sell vinyl all day long,” Alcorn said, “And it’s every genre.”
Why the love? Some is nostalgia. Some is the sound quality.
Frenchman Edouard-Leon Scott created the phonautograph 1857, which used a vibrating pen representing sounds onto paper discs. The primary function of the device was to help people understand the characteristics of sound.
Thomas Edison didn’t only contribute to the invention of the light bulb, but he lit a spark in the music industry. In 1877, he tinkered with Scott’s device and turned it into the phonograph, a machine capable of replaying sounds it recorded.
After inventors worked to evolve devices and fiddled with new technology, the first Long Play record, or LP, was created by Peter Goldmark in 1948. The 12-inch disc allowed 21 minutes of tunes to play on each side, playing at 33 and one-third rotations per minute. RCA shortly picked up the idea and created their own 7-inch disc, which played at 45 rotations per minute.
Vinyl popularity declined when compact discs spun their way onto store shelves in 1982, making listening to music efficient. After four decades, CDs are out of fashion.
During the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019, CD revenue moved less than 1%. Vinyl sales on 8.6 million units are just less than $24 million less than CD sales on 18.6 million units, according to the report from the Recording Industry Association of America.
Vinyl sales are growing, but digital streaming takes the cake. From the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019, revenue grew over 26 percent from $3.4 billion to $4.3 billion.
“It’s just so much more work to play vinyl. I think it sounds the best, but to say that I use it more than I use streaming apps would be a lie,” Reynolds said.
While streaming skyrockets and vinyl sales are seeing growth, digitally downloaded purchases dropped 17.7 percent from the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019, with a nearly $100 million decline.
Kristy Cattrell, assistant manager at Positively Fourth Street Records in Charleston, said she’s not really surprised vinyls are taking off. The shop sells new and used records to people of all ages, college-aged patrons being the most prevalent.
Take Austin Schmohe, 21, of Sullivan. He recently got into collecting vinyls and building a collection.
“It’s just a cool way of having the music in a physical copy and also the sound is a lot different than digital,” he said.
Abbott said his biggest growing group of customers seeking vinyls are 25 years old and younger, and “this group is mostly dominated by girls.” He said there are guys too, of course, but groups of girls would visit the old location and make it a half-day excursion by hanging out, sipping coffee and browsing through records.
Still, other formats aren’t going so easy. Gary Laskowski, co-owner of G-B’s Books & Records in Decatur, said CDs are still hanging on and he gets plenty of customers for those.
But records are unquestionably getting attention as well. Twenty-somethings are stocking up on classic vinyls, like The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.
“Good music is good music,” Laskowski said.
The classics are also popular at Reverberation, Anderson said, but typically the age group buying these vinyls are 40 and older.
“People really want the popular, mainstream stuff,” he said, also listing The Beatles and Stones as examples. But the crowd he sees purchasing them are people seeking the music they owned in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, Anderson said.
Reynolds’ collection today ranges from Dave Matthews Band to Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z.
Pointing to his records, Reynolds said, “I’m going to have these forever. Vinyl will never go out completely.”