Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chicago vinyl record stores survive digital music era

Written by Katie Schweiker, Jeremy Mikula and Leah Hendrickson

Dave's Records photo by Katie Schweiker

Audio Slideshow:Chicago On The Record – A visit to three Chicago Record Stores

In a world of iPods, Zunes, .mp3s, .wavs, .flacs, .aifs, .rms, .snds and other digital audio formats, 33 1/3 revolutions per minute still counts to some.

Despite Apple’s announcement that the 10 billionth song was downloaded from iTunes in February, many Chicagoans still listen to vinyl Long Play (LP) records from both new and old artists.

“.mp3s were really cool, and they still are,” said Dave Hofer, a new products buyer at Reckless Records’ Wicker Park location. “You could fit so many of them into a little thing, you know. You don’t have to carry a book of CDs in your car anymore, for example. But there’s just something about vinyl that draws people in.”

Reckless is a music store with three Chicago locations that sells new and used vinyl – LPs, 45s, and 78s – and used DVDs and CDs. In spite of the era of readily available digital media and an economic downturn, they still do a pretty good business, Hofer said.

“We have people who come in and only look for used DVDs and CDs,” Hofer said. “However, if we didn’t have vinyl, we’d go out of business. People come in with their old records because they grow out of stuff and are amazed that people are interested in [their old records]. I have people who come up and ask when we put out new stuff and I always say, ‘All day, every day, dude.’”

“No CD’s. Never had ‘em. Never will.” This sign hangs on the door to Dave’s Records in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. For owner Dave Crain, there is no other alternative to the sound of vinyl records. Dave’s, “will always be a store where vinyl is king,” Crain said.

Dave's Records photo by Katie Schweiker

Dave’s Records is one of the few strictly vinyl shops in Chicago with 40,000 titles to choose from. When you walk in you are greeted with the sweet, musty aroma of vinyl. The floor tiles beckon you further into the store with their checkered pattern. The walls are lined from floor to ceiling with vinyl. Each record in its spot is watched over by Crain as he sits at a raised counter.

These include new albums by new artists, used albums, imports, reissues and even albums that are out of print and difficult to find. Hand Crain a record and he will throw it on the store’s turntable for a spin to help shopper’s make an educated decision. Dave’s makes sure that if you can’t find what you are looking for in their store, they will send you to another local record store.

Crain said Dave’s is for “people who love records. They are part of the ever evolving and ever revolving world of record shoppers.”

Dusty Groove America is a hub for certain niche music lovers: jazz, soul and funk are what the store specializes in. Customers appreciate the specific target audience compared to other music providers.

Dusty Groove America photo by Leah Hendrickson

“Best Buy is trying to cater to a broad audience,” said Phil Garrison of Chicago while he thumbed through a stack of records. “It’s going to be hard to find obscure items. That’s the main reason why I come to places like this.”

According to Nielsen SoundScan more than 2 million vinyl albums were sold in 2009. That is an increase of 35 percent from 2008.

While record sales are on the rise, CD sales continue to fall. Even though CDs cost nearly half as much as their vinyl counterpart, their sales have dropped 20 percent this year, according to Nielsen. However, vinyl record sales only account for about 1 percent of all album sales.

vinyl at Reckless photo by Jeremy Mikula

Statistics show that digital music formats aren’t going away, either.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the digital music industry grew internationally by about 25 percent in 2008, making $3.7 billion. Digital platforms now account for nearly 20 percent of all music sales, a five percent growth from 2007, IFPI said.

One reason for these figures is the ease and portability of things like the iPod, whose numerous models can store anywhere from 500 to 40,000 songs.

“iPods were a crazy new inventions when they came out, but I think the novelty of them is starting to wear off,” Hofer said. “.mp3s and digital music, even CDs, are functional but that’s about it. They’re like decorative buttons on a sport coat. Whereas something like an LP comes down to being able to hold it and having a thing, like buying a book that you really like instead of just reading it on the Kindle. If I were to sum it up in one word, I’d say ‘physicality’ plays a big part in it.”

But while the idea of having physical media is important to some, comparing things like audio quality and physicality is like comparing apples and oranges.

Reckless Records Wicker Park photo by Jeremy Mikula
“Are [records] better? I don’t know,” said Stephen Sowley as he shopped in Reckless’ Wicker Park location. “For me they’re better, but for others .mp3s are better. ‘Better’ is a relevant term, you know? You can’t take a record player with you when you go jogging.”

A special thank you to the authors (Katie Schweiker, Jeremy Mikula, Leah Hendrickson) for the exclusive rights to reprint their material.


Back from the dead: vinyl makes a comeback

Written by Tampa Rock Music Examiner Heather Clark
It has been said by many that trends come as quickly as they go. That what was once considered a popular gotta have it item eventually becomes labeled as "uncool" and goes out of style never to be seen again. Or so we thought. Because all it takes is for a few decades or so to pass and then this trend that had supposedly gone out of style ages ago suddenly re-emerges again. Just as popular if not more popular than ever before. This couldn't be more true when it comes to vinyl records.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl began making a national comeback in 2007 when the American music industry saw a 46.2 percent revenue increase for vinyl sales. During this same period CD sales dropped by 20.5 percent. Though vinyl sales account for less than 1 percent of total album sales, reports that the numbers of records sold in 2008 jumped to 1.88 million from 988,000 in 2007.

So why now after once being considered as dead as the eight-track tape are vinyls making such a startling comeback? Collectors say it's because vinyl records put the experience back into music. It makes an industry that has almost been completely drained of its artists with originality and passion for their music seem genuine once more.

One of the most recognized difference between CD's and vinyl records is the quality of sound. CD's are thinner and flatter, it is simply a compressed format that spins quickly while a laser reads it. But with a vinyl it is larger, spins slower, and there is an actual needle playing over the groove. Enthusiasts argue that listening to a record is hearing the music the way it is supposed to sound.

It also seems that record stores are becoming more prominent once again and easier to find in almost any city. Right here in our own backyard lies Bananas Record Warehouse, the worlds largest record store that has been open since 1977. Collectively Bananas has over 14,000 sq. feet of space shared between two warehouses that are across the street from one another. Their two story warehouse is where nearly three million vinyl LP's are stored and sold to the public. Across the street in their smaller single story warehouse they cell CD's, movies, vinyl singles, and hundreds of vinyl LP's for as little as $1 a piece.

So how is it that in our present day and modern age something as simple as a vinyl record, not so long ago considered an extinct medium of commercial music, could become so popular once more? Maybe it's because although music has gone digital all we really want deep down is something that feels tangible, human. Or maybe this whole vinyl thing is just a trend that will have its day and then once again be gone "forever". Or maybe, just maybe, it's because in these pressing societal times people are nostalgic for the good ole' days and are once again using the music on the vinyls as an escape. If only for a little while. I personally hope the later of these maybes is true.

A special thanks to Heather Clark at for the exclusive rights to reprint this story.

Music News & Notes

Doors' Guitarist ROBBY KRIEGER to Release New Solo Album

Robby Krieger returns with a new instrumental solo album, 'Singularity', on Oglio Records, a Fontana/Universal distributed label. On 'Singularity', Robby continues to explore his unique flamenco infused jazz-rock sound as heard on his previous album for Oglio Records, 'Cinematix'. 'Singularity' was produced by Robby Krieger and Arthur Barrow, features an original Krieger painting as the cover art and will also be available on vinyl.

During his time as The Doors guitarist, Robby wrote some of the band’s best known songs including “Light My Fire”, “Love Me Two Times”, “Love Her Madly” and “Touch Me”. He was also voted in at #91 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time and in 2009, Robby partnered with the Gibson Guitar Corporation to release his very own limited edition signature guitar, the ‘Inspired By Krieger SG’.

Robby Krieger rejoins his fellow The Doors member, Ray Manzarek, who also released his own solo record, “Love Her Madly” on Oglio Records, in their group Manzarek-Krieger for a new tour beginning May 27th.


STONE TEMPLE PILOTS Release First New Album in Close To A Decade

Atlantic recording group Stone Temple Pilots has announced details of their upcoming North American headline tour. The hugely anticipated dates will begin Tuesday, August 10th at Denver, Colorado’s world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre and then continue through early September. Joining Stone Temple Pilots on all dates will be special guests Cage the Elephant.

'Stone Temple Pilots' – the Grammy Award-winning band’s first all-new collection in close to a decade – is currently the #1 rock album in the country

Stone Temple Pilots – who will spend the early part of their summer on the other side of the Atlantic, hitting Europe for a series of long awaited headline shows and festival performances – heralded the release of the acclaimed 'Stone Temple Pilots' with a rare club appearance at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre, followed by headline performances at a number of early summer radio festivals.

Among the album’s many highlights is the raucous first single, “Between The Lines.” The track has proven a rock radio sensation, recently spending four weeks as the #1 track at Mainstream Rock radio outlets nationwide, as well as three weeks atop the Modern Rock airplay charts. In addition, the “Between The Lines” companion video can be seen regularly on MTV2 and Fuse’s No. 1 Countdown. The clip – as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes footage – is streaming now at Furthermore, a new single, ”Take a Load Off” is set to impact at multi-format rock radio outlets everywhere later this month. A companion video is currently in production.


Iron and Wine, Dan Deacon Contribute to Suicide Squeeze Singles Series

Singles series go hand in hand and with independent music and artists and is a proud indie tradition. The Seattle record label Suicide Squeeze is no stranger to this tradition, having released groups of 7"s since the mid-90s. In 1996, Suicide Squeeze began releasing 7-inch records as lifesblood, singles, mostly from Pacific NW bands appeared, documenting some of the most influential music of that time: Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith, 764-Hero, and Pedro the Lion: each played an important role. The label broadened its reach over the years (as well as its series of singles), continually releasing music by a diverse, yet select group of musicians, including The Melvins, Of Montreal, HEALTH, Black Mountain, School of Seven Bells, and many more...

Now add Iron & Wine, Memoryhouse and JEFF The Brotherhood to that list of names... Along with The Coathangers, and their EP of remixes (by Dan Deacon and Judi Chicago), each artist's 7-inch will be released in a limited addition of 500 black vinyl discs and 250 color. The Coathangers and JEFF the Brotherhood will release the first entries in the series on July 20. The Coathangers' single features remixes from Dan Deacon and Judi Chicago.


Dr. Demento Ends Radio Show After Forty Years

It's the end of the line for Dr. Demento, at least it is for his radio listeners. After forty years and with a dwindling supply of stations purchasing the show, the good Doctor and Talonian Productions, who distributes the program, have decided to stop offering it to radio effective with the show for the weekend of June 5.

The following is the official announcement that was posted on the Doctor's website last Sunday:

June 6, 2010

This weekend, the Dr. Demento Show will have its final broadcast on KIYU, KLOO, WLVQ (QFM96), WRKH (The Rocket) and KOZT (The Coast).

This was a very painful decision for the Doctor...he really hates to let it go after almost 40 years...but he has come to agree with his manager and his family that it's necessary. The broadcast has been losing money for some time.

THE GOOD NEWS -- Dr. Demento intends to continue producing new shows every week for for the foreseeable future. A new one will be available Saturday morning, June 12, and more new shows will be posted every Saturday thereafter.

Also...if you live in or around Amarillo, TX, you're in special agreement and due to contractual considerations, a version of the internet show will be heard weekly on KACV-FM there, at least through the summer.

The Doctor wishes to express his grateful appreciation to everyone who's been listening in Alaska, Oregon, Ohio, Alabama and California, and hopes all of you will give the broadcast a try.

Stay deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemented!


Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax To Play 'Historic' Gig
Live in select movie theatres...

Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax are set to play a “historic” gig via satellite. The concert, on June 22, will be broadcast live from into select movie theatres from the Sonisphere festival in Bulgaria.

It is the first time all four metal bands have performed together on the same bill.

Cinemas in London, Manchester and many other major UK cities and towns are due to broadcast the gig in HD.