David Valancy thumbed through crates at Hear Again Music and Movies in downtown Gainesville for a new Kanye West vinyl.
It was sold out.
Valancy, 21, is a proud new record player owner, a graduation gift from his parents. He said he only has five or six records right now, but hopes to build a larger collection soon.
“There’s something about owning the music and the album art,” Valancy said. “You put it to the needle, and it definitely sounds better.”
Vinyl records are often viewed as things of the past. In today’s digital age, to the displeasure of Hear Again owner Andrew Schaer, music is frequently bought and shared online.
But local record stores aren’t losing hope. In fact, Schaer said business is going well.
Vinyl sales in the U.S. are up 260 percent since 2009, according to Nielsen. There were 9.2 million vinyl sales in 2014, up from 6.1 million in 2013, Nielsen reported.
The overall demographic of customers purchasing vinyl records is also changing, according to Jim Fulk, manager of Wildwood Antique Mall in Ocala. Perhaps back to the target audience when records were the new fad.
“The vinyl records are very popular with the younger generation,” Fulk said. “Most of the people buying them are buying them to listen to, they’re not buying them just to stick on a wall.”
Even in an antique mall, Fulk said the vinyl record customers have been overwhelmingly younger people, the oldest being in their mid-30s.
A New Wave Of Consumers
This trend is not unordinary.
The popularity of records among youth is on the rise, according to local record store owners. There are two stores devoted to selling vinyl records in Gainesville – Hear Again Music and Movies and Arrow’s Aim Records. They sit about three blocks from each other in the city’s downtown area.
Schaer has been the owner of Hear Again Music and Movies since 2006. He relished the chance to own a proper record store.
Business has grown, and crates of new and used records fill the small storefront waiting to be perused. Schaer said he sees people of all ages in the store on a regular basis.
“During (the University of Florida’s) graduation, there were students in here buying records with their parents, and it wasn’t just like the parents were buying their students records or anything like that,” Schaer said. “They were literally in here shopping together, and the students would come up with stuff that they wanted. The parents would come up with stuff that they wanted. And that’s awesome.”
Effect On Businesses
Schaer said experiences like that are very telling of what the record business is becoming. He works the front desk and is constantly signing off on delivered packages of new records or receiving calls from people interested in selling their used records.
He regularly greets familiar faces as they walk in to peruse the merchandise – many customers know him by name.
“Our sales are increasing by the year,” Schaer said. “It’s been working out.”
Nearby, at Arrow’s Aim Records, Daniel Halal has noticed the same trend. The 30-year-old tattooed owner called it “strange and cool” that teenagers and young adults are coming into the store to buy records more and more.
“They either want modern stuff that they’re excited about, or they want classic rock like Beatles, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd,” Halal said.
Due to what Halal called a rise in demand, Arrow’s Aim Records recently upgraded and moved into a bigger store.
The new store is larger than the old one, but has the same feel –that of an old basement cluttered with a treasured record collection. Except, when you look carefully, you realize the clutter is actually organized. One row of crates is dedicated to punk rock, another to heavy metal and so on.
Reasons For The Popularity
“It was just so busy all the time that we realized what a huge demand there was,” Hala said about opening the store.
That demand for vinyl has yet to lessen.
Halal, Schaer and Fulk all agree the reason for the popularity of records among younger audiences is the pure sound quality vinyl records offer. That, and being able to physically own the music.
“It’s for various reasons outside of the sound quality, which is far superior, but at the same time you get something tangible,” Schaer said. “There’s a certain pride that’s coming back in having a record collection.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Aaron Lind is a frequent visitor to Arrow’s Aim. He said he’s been collecting records for about 10 to 12 years.
Lind has a collection of about 1,000 vinyl records. He likes the ritual of collecting records and growing his collection by trading with stores like Arrow’s Aim.
“You have to sit down and contemplate it. It’s not easy to put together a huge mix of things that have the same theme or feel to it,” Lind said. “It kind of forces you to slow down a little bit and think about what you’re doing. It’s more aligned with an enjoyment than, I would say, consumption.”