By: Ray Hidalgo
UHF has no mobile desk where specialists can get the hook up for customers on the latest deal with smart phone data plans; no video game kiosks for kids to play one of 2 unlocked demo songs for Rock Band 3; and no litany of impulse - keychain, trading card, USB key, or R/C helicopter - buys lining the checkout line. If there’s one thing that the Royal Oak, Mich. record store does have, though, it’s plenty of 12-inch vinyl. But in a world of iTunes, Pirate Bay, and Best Buy, why should it matter?
At the very least, the gramophone and vinyl record are icons. No Blu-Ray disc or cassette deck has been immortalized in trophies that are awarded to best-selling albums and outstanding artists every year.
And in every classic record in existence is a story that is etched in every little needle prick accumulated over time; narrated through the photographs, art, and lyrics that adorn the cellophane-wrapped sleeve it calls home.
Yet, in the face of the unstoppable MP3 player, the allure of walking into a record store and browsing for hours in search of the Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or the limited edition EP for Radiohead’s “My Iron Lung” can be reduced to a few keystrokes and mouse clicks through the iTunes Store. In a technologically innovative society where the commodity of time is taken for granted the MP3 wins. Not to mention, that a record player isn’t the most portable piece of hardware around.
It’s certainly a bulky, inconvenient medium for the music that we need on the go for a jog or in our car. But remember that scene in Dazed in Confused toward the end (no spoilers, promise!) when Mitch Kramer throws a Foghat vinyl on his record player, puts on his oversized headphones, and falls asleep to the dulcet tones of “Slow Ride?” That experience in itself is more enjoyable than allowing ourselves to succumb to the impulse to move to the next song after 30 seconds.
Behind the counter at UHF, Henry Pardike says, “If you buy vinyl, you’re more apt to listen to it; you’re actually going to sit down and listen to your record…you’re actually paying attention.”
It may be a subconscious sort of complex, but with a vinyl record, the music is literally in your hands. You can hang the cover art on your wall, scratch it up on a turntable, and you can outright read the lyrics on the sleeve. And nothing beats the hunt through the crammed aisles of a record store while you rapidly search to find that one rare copy you’ve been looking for…no matter how long it takes.
But is vinyl compelling enough to a generation that already has cellphones in middle school? Put it this way – In 2007, 1 million LPs were sold in the U.S. Five years later, Nielsen Soundscan (via Digital Music News) confirmed that 4.6 million LPs were sold in the U.S. in 2012. It’s the most significant development in the vinyl industry in nearly two decades. And while record stores are continuing to close around the U.S., Pardike says nothing has changed and that the stores that closed were too big, mismanaged, or had the wrong music inventory.
Whatever the case, vinyl records are increasingly available online, and with favorable Nielsen figures, more modern bands may start looking to vinyl as a medium for their music. As the first format for music, vinyl has a rich heritage – it might not be nearly as prolific of a product as it once was, but like a broken record…history can repeat itself.