Young indie crowd takes vinyl for a spin
Novelty and nostalgia boost sales, as audiophiles argue that nothing beats vinyl's warm sound.
A few years ago, under pressure from spiraling rent costs, Jeff Loos shut his storefront in downtown Lincoln, Neb., and moved Backtrack Records onto the Web. The plan: Lower the overhead and increase reach. The outcome: a spike in vinyl sales, and a surge in new customers from as far away as Australia and Estonia – "that's in Eastern Europe," Mr. Loos says proudly – and as close as the next block.Skip to next paragraph
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By May 2007, business was sturdy enough for Loos to reopen a small brick-and-mortar store on North Cotner Boulevard. (He still maintains an online presence, at backtrackrecords.com.) By his estimate, Loos has since unloaded about 40 turntables and thousands of vinyl records to customers across a wide spectrum of tastes.
"It's crazy," says Loos, in an affable Nebraska drawl. "It's the young kids buying, the ones listening to the indie rock; and it's the older folks, the ones that want the box-sets; and it's the audiophiles; and it's everyone else who's stuck in the middle. I'm not saying there's a turntable in every house in the neighborhood, but vinyl is definitely having a resurgence."
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, a national trade group, shipments of CDs dropped precipitously between 2006 and 2007, losing a long battle with digital sales. At the same time, shipments of vinyl rose a remarkable 36 percent, leveling off at 1.3 million units.
That figure was a happy surprise for retailers such as Loos and Jason Figel, the owner of Music Matters, a record store in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, N.Y. On a recent afternoon, customers shuttled in and out of the cozy 7th Avenue space, rifling through a stack of vinyl that Mr. Figel says he regularly replenishes.
"It's pretty incredible," Figel smiles. "And there seems to be a real willingness on the part of labels to put out more material on vinyl – a lot of the time with some sort of tie-in." He points specifically to the self-titled debut from the folk-rock band Fleet Foxes. The vinyl edition of "Fleet Foxes" goes for about $16; it includes a code for a free digital download of the album. Here in Brooklyn – ground zero for many hipster collectors – Figel can't keep it on the shelves.