Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Vinyl records making a comeback

I enjoyed this article about the 'vinyl comeback' and I thought I would share it:

By Steve Adams

Reprinted by permission from The Patriot Ledger http://www.patriotledger.com/

Eclipsed by CDs and later by online music downloads, the vinyl album is experiencing a bit of a renaissance.

Some music stores are expanding their album sections to take advantage of rising sales. They’re tapping demand from audiophiles who swear by an LP’s sonic qualities, and members of the iPod generation who are discovering the novelty of records and turntables.

Year-to-date sales of vinyl albums are up 35 percent at the Newbury Comics chain, which has 27 stores in five states. The chain’s stores have been expanding shelf space for LPs, said Duncan Browne, chief operating officer of the Boston-based company.

“We only recently started concentrating on the category as something we ought to pour some gas on the fire for,” Browne said.

Newbury Comics first reintroduced vinyl around 2000 with a focus on 12-inch dance tracks, but scaled back because of weak demand. But after an increase in vinyl sales in 2007, the stores have expanded their record sections in recent months.

Vinyl selections at Newbury Comics are predominantly recent alternative rock releases by groups such as the Shins and time-tested classics such as “Led Zeppelin III.”

New releases are more likely to contain extra materials such as photographs, liner notes and bonus tracks.

The Dropkick Murphys’ latest album, “The Meanest of Times,” is available on vinyl in a “deluxe” two-disc set that includes two bonus tracks and a CD. It sells for $19.99 at Newbury Comics.

Boston alternative rockers Mission of Burma recently reissued three 1980s albums with bonus tracks. Like many new releases and reissues, the album is printed on 180-gram vinyl, which is thicker than the normal 140-gram vinyl used for albums and less likely to warp.

Planet Records has sold new and used LPs since 1983 at its original store in Kenmore Square and its current location in Harvard Square. Owner John Damroth said vinyl loyalists generated sufficient demand even as CDs and MP3 downloads became mainstream alternatives.

In the past year, however, Damroth has noticed a new kind of clientele showing enthusiasm for records.

“The people who seem to be coming to it now are a combination of late high school and college age people who got hip to it through their parents, and up into the 30-year-olds and older doing it from an audiophile perspective,” Damroth said.

Customers in their late 30s and up are the most likely to spend up to $35 for deluxe albums because they came of age listening to vinyl and miss the experience, said Richie Parsons, manager of Newbury Comics’ Braintree store.

One customer sold his turntable and most of his album collection last year.

“Six months later, he came in and said, ‘Why did I do it? The records sound so much better,’” Parsons said.

CD sales still dwarf those of records, with 990,000 new albums sold last year compared with 449.2 million new CDs, according to market researcher Nielsen SoundScan. But album sales did notch a 15 percent gain over the previous year.

Joseph Levy, founder of the Vinyl Tourist Web site, has tracked an influx of new record stores in cities like Montreal that have large student populations. Levy, who lives in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., posts store reviews on the site about vinyl-friendly cities such as Cambridge, which has a cluster of stores selling new and used records along Massachusetts Avenue.

“It’s undergone a resurgence in the last six years, mainly because of a lot of kids are discovering their parents record collections,” Levy said. “Maybe it’s just the novelty of having an album with artwork you can actually see.”

Vinyl buffs swear by the sound quality produced by records, describing it as warmer and more natural than CDs and MP3s. While digital recordings are made by encoding recordings into thousands of bits and reassembling them, vinyl recordings reproduce sound in a continuous wave format similar to how the human ear processes sound.

“There’s a natural tonality of instruments and voice (that is) more lifelike than any other format,” said Josh Bizar, director of sales for Music Direct. “There’s a warmth in the mid-range, and the high end sounds more natural and lifelike. The bass sounds like it does at a live performance.”

Chicago-based Music Direct has staked its fate on the resurgence of vinyl. Through a Web site and a retail store, it sells nearly 4,000 record titles.

Most of the sales are in the rock new releases category, which attracts the attention of the 16- to 27-year-old audience.

“They’re the group of people that are just now coming into analog, and that’s the most interesting part of this resurgence,” Bizar said.

Music Direct also sells nearly 100 turntable models ranging from $99 to $24,000. The newest twist in turntable technology suggests that vinyl enthusiasts can make accommodations with the digital era. Some models now come with built-in USB ports enabling listeners can upload albums to their MP3 players.

Reprinted by permission from The Patriot Ledger http://www.patriotledger.com/

This Date In Music History- April 29

In 1966, Bob Dylan, backed by the Hawks (better known as The Band), performed in Stockholm, Sweden. Six more weeks of dates follow across Europe in what will come to be regarded as one of rock’s most historic tours.

Tommy James ("Hanky Panky") is 61.

April Stevens ("Deep Purple" with brother Nino Tempo) turns 72.

Carl Gardner of the Coasters ("Yakety Yak") is 80.

Beach Boy Brian Wilson's daughter, Carnie (of Wilson Phillips) was born in 1968.

Composer Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born in 1899.

In 2003, ancient metal band Great White played their first gig since a fire at one of their Rhode Island shows killed 100 people. The concert is to establish a scholarship fund for the son of Great White guitarist Ty Longley, who died in the fire.

Mick Ronson, genius guitarist and arranger for Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase, died of cancer in England in 1993. He also played on albums by Bob Dylan, Ian Hunter, Morrissey, and even John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane."

After suffering the indignity of having an album rejected by their label in 1975, the Bee Gees released their career renaissance Main Course, featuring the disco hits "Jive Talkin'" and "Nights on Broadway."

Skiffle hero Lonnie Donegan was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1931. His biggest American hit was the 1956 No. 8 "Rock Island Line."

Songwriter and poet Rod McKuen was born in Oakland, CA in 1933. His more than 900 songs include Terry Jacks' 1974 No. 1 "Seasons in the Sun."

1980 - Black Sabbath began their first tour with Ronnie James Dio as singer.
In 1967,Aretha Franklin releases her interpretation of the Otis Redding song "Respect."

Otis Rush, one of the most intense and inventive guitarists of the post-War Chicago blues renaissance, was born in Philadelphia, Miss in 1934. Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, and Fleetwood Mac have covered his songs.

In 1970, George Harrison announced The Beatles will eventually reunite. He’s wrong about that one. George also discusses his plans for his first post-Beatles solo album, “All Things Must Pass.”

Having already appeared on both the covers of Time and Newsweek, Bruce Springsteen jumps the fence at Graceland in an attempt to meet Elvis. Security guards catch him. Springsteen tells them who he is but the guards are unimpressed and escort “The Boss” off the premises without ever meeting “The King,” who wasn’t home at the time anyway.

In 1960, with the payola scandal still in the news, Dick Clark relinquished the rights to music publishing that he owned. The value of those rights, Clark indicated later, amounted to about $80 million.

In 1963, 19 year old Andrew Loog Oldham signed a contract with The Rolling Stones, becoming their manager. Oldham had seen the band in concert the previous day at the Crawdaddy Club in London.

Cindy Birdsong makes her stage debut with The Supremes at The Hollywood Bowl in 1967, replacing the increasingly unreliable Florence Ballard.

In 1972, New York Mayor John Lindsay intervened in the immigration proceedings against John Lennon. Lindsay called attempts by the US government to deport Lennon "a grave injustice in light of Lennon's unique contributions to music and art." Lennon was granted permanent resident status in the US in 1976.