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Monday, March 7, 2011

Vinyl records spin back into style - 11Alive.com | WXIA | Atlanta, GA

                    CEDAR CITY, Utah -- As both a music lover and record store owner, Tim Cretsinger is excited about the recent resurgence of vinyl record albums.

"This is my favorite thing to do - hold a batch of records like this," Cretsinger, owner of Groovacious in Cedar City, Utah, said as he hugged a stack of new records close to his chest. "It reminds me of the old days."
The old days are making a comeback.                                                                                                              
According to recent Nielsen SoundScan numbers, vinyl was the fastest-growing musical format in 2010, with 2.8 million units sold, the format's best year since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.
Vinyl's increase in popularity is providing a beacon of hope for independent record stores - an industry that has suffered with the increase of digital downloads this past decade.
When Cretsinger moved his business from Keiser, Ore., to Cedar City in 2000, there were two other record stores in the college town of about 28,000. Now, the closest independent record store is in Las Vegas, 175 miles away.
"Vinyl seems to be the light at the end of the tunnel for those of us who have hung in there," he said. "It's kind of a surprising light at the end of the tunnel. It's incredibly exciting."
Not only have vinyl album sales picked up, but the interest in record players has increased as well. Cretsinger said he got tired of directing his customers to other businesses where they could purchase turntables, so he began offering a small selection at his store in January.
Like Groovacious, Plan 9 Music stores in Richmond and Charlottesville, Va., are fairly new to the turntable market, but have offered vinyl records since the first store opened in 1981, said owner Jim Bland. Although he never quit selling vinyl, Bland said sales were slow for many years as CDsdominated the market.
However, as CD sales plummeted in recent years, Plan 9 Music found itself with some open space on the floor. That empty space is now back to the basics.  
"It's filled in with vinyl," Bland said.
As a way to promote their businesses, 700 independent record stores across the nation have joined together since 2008 to celebrate Record Store Day on the third Saturday of April. Record Store Day regularly features limited-edition CDs and vinyl records available only at independent retailers.
"Last year all the cool stuff was vinyl," Bland said. "People were lining up to get it."
Like Record Store Day itself, Cretsinger said, listening to music on a vinyl record is an event. It forces listeners to sit down at a turntable and listen to the music, giving them an opportunity to enjoy the cover art and read the liner notes.
"There's something organic and historical about playing music that way," he said. "It sounds better."
The scratches and pops often associated with the vinyl sound are all part of the "warmth" vinyl offers, said John Kunz of Waterloo Records in Austin.
Kunz said CDs are more convenient than vinyl and easier to manage, so they had their place in the music industry for a time. However, Kunz sees a change in his customers' taste from the digital soundof Internet downloads to what the classic vinyl format offers.
"I think there was a pendulum swing back to the analog sound," he said. "It's sound waves rather than zeroes and ones emulating a sound wave."
Terry Currier, owner of Music Millennium in Portland, Ore., said vinyl aficionados treat their passion as art, as opposed to a product.
"People didn't interact with CDs the way they did with vinyl," Currier said. "I think people lost that interaction they had with the vinyl."
The music lovers buying these records aren't necessarily those who grew up with them in the 1960s and 1970s.
"There are tweens, teens and twentysomethings looking through Mom and Dad's record collection," he said. "All of a sudden Mom and Dad are a lot cooler than the kid might have expected."
Currier said it's almost like vinyl appreciation skipped a generation. Now purchasing vinyl is "cool" for younger customers because it's "retro." For the youngest of the customers, it might even be something their parents never experienced.
Bland agreed, "It's cool; it's hip. My 14-year-old's even getting into it."
Among Cretsinger's customers at Groovacious in Cedar City is Matthew Montgomery, a 25-year-old Web developer, freelance music journalist and student at Southern Utah University. Montgomery said he began to seriously get into vinyl about two years ago, and now it's practically his exclusive musical format.
He said there is an "aesthetic difference" in the sound of vinyl records compared with the digital downloads purchased by many others of his generation.                 
"I think vinyl is incredibly exciting," Montgomery said. "To see a resurgence in it is beautiful."
Montgomery said the act of walking into a record store to purchase his music is part of vinyl's allure as well.
"To me that represents a cultural idea that is incredibly attractive," he said. "It's a place you can explore and learn and talk to people."
While vinyl sales help independent stores stand apart from nationwide retail chains, even Best Buy seems to have noticed the popularity of vinyl records.
About 100 Best Buy stores now carry a small selection of new and classic albums following a test period that began in the fall of 2008, said Best Buy spokeswoman Erin Bix. Best Buy also offers 14,000 vinyl titles online.