In the groove: Don't count the vinyl record album out yet
Recording artists, when they were in the studio mixing their new albums, used to have a saying: The vinyl is final.
To them, it meant that a control room sound mix could change dramatically, but once the music got pressed onto that slab of vinyl, there was no turning back.
The same could be said for a growing number of today’s music fans, for whom the vinyl record, which was rendered all but obsolete with the arrival of the compact disc in the mid-1980s, is making a dramatic comeback.
“If you have the setup — an average sound system that can accept a turntable — the sound is 10 times better,” said Andy Royo, who opened Sounds Good Music in Port St. Lucie in 2003.
“It’s much deeper, it’s warmer, the highs are highs and the lows are lows. There’s definitely mid-range and depth.”
As CD sales are slumping due to the popularity of digital downloads, manufacturers’ shipments of LPs (long-players, as they were known in the '50s) jumped more than 36 percent between 2006 and 2007. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, more than 1.3 million vinyl albums were shipped last year.
And it’s not just hard-to-please audiophiles, or middle-aged fans feeling nostalgic about flipping Side One over to Side Two, or being able to read a full set of lyrics without the aid of a magnifying glass.
John Clements, whose Confusion Records moved from its longtime base in Martin County to Lake Park (in north Palm Beach County) two years ago, said that his vinyl buyers — they make up 75 percent of his business — are pretty much in the 18-25 age range.
“By some strange osmosis, young kids have got hold of the vinyl concept,” Clements said. “Otherwise, their lives are so flimsy … if they drop the iPod down the storm drain, their whole musical history’s gone.”
The 12-inch square LP package, he said, “adds more pith and integrity to their lives — it documents their taste, in a way. There’s girth and weight; it ain’t just a download that came through the air. It’s actually a document. Sometimes they come with extra songs, posters and other stuff. Some manufacturers are even stuffing a CD of the album into the package.”
These days, the independent CD store is all but extinct. “You need a crowbar to sell a CD,” said Clements. “The doomed shops are the ones that sell CDs and call themselves record stores. Not the actual record stores.”
Both Clements and Royo sell new and used CDs, too, but both admit they wouldn’t be in business at all without vinyl sales.
Like a secret society, vinyl buyers seek them out — Clements has visitors from Japan and Europe who make a point of finding his store when they’re in South Florida.
“Records have a warmer sound, and the drums sound like they’re in the room with you,” he said. “The Beatles’ ‘Love’ is the new album I sell as THE REASON for buying a turntable.”
The CD may still be king, but the vinyl album — which was all but declared dead more than two decades ago — is still the medium of choice for some music lovers.
“You do get the people that come in getting the old Styx and Springsteen records, in nice condition, for five bucks,” said Royo. “But I get some that come in and pre-order vinyl, to make sure they get it, because they know some of the new stuff’s still being done as limited pressings.
“David Letterman holds up LPs three, four times a week to introduce his musical guests. When you consider that, it’s astounding how few people realize records are still being made.”
FINDING THE VINYL
Sounds Good Music
1026 Port St. Lucie Blvd., Port St. Lucie
848 Park Ave., West Palm Beach (Lake Park)