Vinyl records-the new things?

Jamie Shearer

Note: I have actual (national) sales numbers, but I thought it was already percentage heavy, so maybe we could do a graphic with the numbers? Also, I thought it was interesting that all three record stores are close to each other, so maybe we could do a map? Let me know if you want the numbers!

Peter Freeman, owner of The Vinyl Underground in downtown Kent, isn’t surprised vinyl record sales have been increasing for the past four years.

Sales increased 15 percent between 2006 and 2007, 89 percent between 2007 and 2008, almost 33 percent between 2008 and 2009 and 9 percent for the first half of 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan reports.

“I saw it coming,” Freeman said. “I’m in that in-between crowd of old collectors and new collectors, so I’ve always been collecting and I’ve kind of seen it come about.”

The 30 year old grew up in a family that collected vinyl, and when he was about 8 years old he started going to flea markets and yard sales to find records.

“That was the CD era, so people were dumping their record collections for pennies on the dollar ‘cause they were upgrading everything to CD,” he said. “And now many of those people are kicking themselves in the butt.”

CD sales have dropped almost 18 percent for the first half of the year, according to a Nielsen SoundScan report.

Even though Freeman hasn’t looked at his sales numbers for the year, he said business is steadily increasing.

And Phil Peachock, owner of Spin-More Records in downtown Kent, said there’s been highs and lows during the 30 years he’s been in business, but there’s definitely a resurgence of vinyl LPs. He noted some of the popular ones being The Beatles, The Ramones and Bob Dylan.

According to Nielsen, The Beatles and Bob Dylan both ranked in the top ten selling vinyl records in 2009 at 38,800 and 24,500 copies sold respectively.

Randall Law, a manager at The Exchange, said he’s noticed younger people buying vinyl.

“I think just in the time I’ve been here it seems like… a lot more college students have been looking for vinyl now than in the past,” he said.

Law and Freeman both attribute some of vinyl’s new popularity to collectability.

“You get a tangible product as compared to MP3s or whatever,” Freeman said. “You get something that you have ownership of and you can’t really trade in MP3s. Vinyl retains value to an extent and sometimes appreciates in value, so it’s somewhat of an investment.”

But vinyl records aren’t just for anybody.

“Vinyl is more for people who actually want to sit down and experience their music,” Freeman said. “You know, have the patience to flip the record and put different records on.”

One perk of buying some newer artists on vinyl is getting the to download the album for free.

Digital music still dominates the market. It accounted for 40 percent of music purchases in 2009, and there were more than 1.2 billion digital track and album sales combined, according to Nielsen reports.

But going digital isn’t for everybody, either.

“I have an iPhone, and I have no songs on it,” Freeman said. “So that tells you that.”