Record Store Day celebrates vinyl and basks in growing sales

 Isaac Williams puts a record on at AKA Music in Old City. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Isaac Williams puts a record on at AKA Music in Old City. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Tomorrow is Record Store Day — when vinyl devotees pay tribute to the independent shops which in a digital world manage to keep their groove on.  This year’s observance is celebrating a milestone.

Record Store Day was fruit of a brainstorming session during a record store owner’s meeting in 2008.  Members were concerned that the LP had been pronounced dead.

“We knew that wasn’t true, there were hundreds of independently owned record stores  serving their communities all over the country, and we decided to have a big party,” said Carrie Colliton from Raleigh, North Carolina and the co-founder of Record Store Day.  To mark that first celebration nearly 20 artists released new albums.

That number has certainly grown over the past seven years, even though first CDs and then mp3’s were supposed to make turntables obsolete.

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“Vinyl never became like the eight track or cassette, it was always there,” said Pat Prince, editor of Goldmine Magazine which may be the Bible of vinyl records. “When mp3 sales killed off the corporate chain that invested heavily in CDs, the indy record store, many of them survived because they were still supporting vinyl as a format.”

That would be stores like AKA Music on Third Street in Old City, Philadelphia.  On the day I visited, Simple Minds was playing throughout the store, on a record of course, and customers are thumbing through the bins packed with 33s and 45s.  AKA is just one of dozens of shops throughout the Delaware Valley who will be participating in Record Store Day.  

IMG 2513Isaac Williams sorts through the vinyl  at AKA Music in Old City. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“Were going to get a limited edition stuff which is a host of 45s, a host of reissues,” said Manager Isaac Williams, describing what’s on tap for tomorrow. “Then also a first offer of albums that will be released over the next couple of months for indies only so that we get a chance to put stuff on the shelves that’s a new issue that hopefully we sell before the big guys do.”

Record Store Day co-founder Colliton says other shops are planning more elaborate celebrations.

“You never really know because across the U.S., we have 1,200 stores and every one of them plans their own party, every one has their own thing, they have live local bands, they have food trucks, whatever you can think of is going on at Record Store Day,” she said.

As the event has grown, so too have vinyl record sales.  Billboard Magazine reports that vinyl numbers were up an eye popping 52 percent in 2014, most of it done through independent shops such as AKA and much of that snapped up by millennials such as 27 year old Ian Simms of Philadelphia

“I was into hardcore and punk earlier probably when I was in my late teens and I saw that a lot of those bands were releasing it and I got curious and it turns out it sounds a lot better,” Simms said. “It’s collectable, it’s a lot more fun to actually have and own than a CD or something like that, and mp3s are pretty much out of the question.”

Attracting new converts such as Simms makes AKA’s Williams optimistic.

“The maintain presence of vinyl despite the attempts to put it out of its misery about 20 years ago indicates that it is never going to go away for sure,” Williams said. “I feel like we’re at the top of a crest of vinyl popularity and presence so we can only cross our fingers and say we hope it keeps going.”

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