The Vinyl solution

How the music business got its grooves back

By David Cotner 04/15/2010

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Also Mark Twain.

Mark Twain also once wrote, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” As of the ’90s, the thing that everyone in the music industry knew for sure, was that CDs governed the state of the art and that vinyl LPs were rockin’ to their own death knell. Vinyl records — from 8 RPM all the way to 78 — were written off, by the general public as a moribund media. Compactness and convenience became hallmarks of the over-caffeinated ’90s, and CDs were the narcotics by which those urges were best satisfied. And yet, despite all that streamlined ease of better living, things — as records are naturally wont to do — began to turn around. Eternally apparent flimsiness of little shiny discs refracted through a prism of .mp3 ephemerality, shot through a downloading torrent and ultimately into a clarion call for substance and tangibility. Reports surfaced around 2005 that vinyl sales were actually on the rise.

It’s a popular meme. Almost weekly, there’s a new story on the resurgence of vinyl records, usually by a publication that can seem suddenly “with it” by simply re-stating what its editors knew all along. But is the vinyl revival evident in Ventura County’s record stores? Something’s afoot: Grady’s Record Refuge has a new-and-improved Web site; Buffalo Records recently moved to brand new digs. They have survived, staunch and stalwart, where Tower Records, Music Plus, Camelot, Moby Disc, Tempo, Musicland, the Wherehouse and Licorice Pizza have cratered and disintegrated before them. Eric Kayser, of Buffalo Records reports, “If it’s a brand-new release, I would say yeah, we’re definitely seeing higher sales. When I bought this business in 2006, vinyl and CDs were about 60 percent CDs and 40 percent vinyl, and now we’re probably the other way around. Vinyl sales continue to rise for us, although not dramatically, but it has continued to rise – and CD sales have declined in the same period.”

Mark Padilla of Wild Planet: “We’re selling all of our CDs, but we’ll still keep some vinyl. The owner gave up on CDs because everybody’s downloading.” Grady Runyan, owner of Grady’s Record Refuge has a different take: “I have to say that I don’t really see an appreciable uptick in vinyl sales at the store. In my opinion, the reason more vinyl is being sold [in general] is because more people are carrying it. Best Buy is selling 300 percent more vinyl than it used to because it didn’t sell any two years ago I would say they’re pressing more vinyl than they have since the ’80s.”

With presses at Camarillo record pressing plant RTI reportedly going full steam, and local groups like All Seeing Eyes, Franklin for Short and the Yay! and Mystic Records stables devoting energies to releasing their records on vinyl, there’s definitely something in the air — because the revolution’s here.

Saturday, April 17 is national Record Store Day. Many stores are having tremendous sales, so it’s a good time to crate dig.

American Pie Records, 1412 Tower Sq. #2, Ventura, 477-0083, americanpierecords.com

Buffalo Records, 92 S. Laurel St., Ventura, 648-3345, buffalorecords.org

Exotic City Records & Tapes, 971 E. Main St., Santa Paula, 525-6730, exoticcityempire.com

Grady’s Record Refuge, 2456 E. Main St., Ventura, 648-5565, gradysrecordrefuge.com

Peacock’s Record Bar, 333 W. 4th St., Oxnard, 486-5521

Salzer’s Music, 5777 Valentine Rd., Ventura, 639-2160, salzers.com

Wild Planet, 560 E. Main St., Ventura, 643-5238, wildplanetonline.com

 

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