By Katie Warchut
Tim Cook / The Day
There was a time when everyone thought records were dead. The aging and suddenly cumbersome technology was seemingly left for obsessive collectors or those just clinging to nostalgia.
But vinyl sales have been growing, jumping 33 percent in 2009 over the previous year, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and younger pop stars have embraced the format - Justin Timberlake saying he likes the sound better, and Taylor Swift releasing her latest album, Speak Now, on vinyl.
The 2.5 million vinyl units is still just a tiny piece of the 1.5 billion units sold, but the audience for records appears to be growing, even locally.
A new music store opened in New London over the summer, The Telegraph, featuring new and used vinyl, run by music promoter Rich Martin and his wife, musician Daphne Martin.
"I learned from Mystic Disc back in the day," Martin says. "(Owner) Dan Curland had always railed against CDs... I thought he was just an old curmudgeon."
But Martin quickly became a vinyl devotee.
"Viscerally it's much warmer and a better way to go," he says. "Everybody's got their own ear for it… you feel it around you more. On digital, the sound dissipates quicker, it's more treble-y."
Tara Wyatt, the owner of Niantic's record store, Tumbleweeds, loves the vintage sound quality, "the crackle and pop," which she says younger people can appreciate from inheriting their parents' collections.
Though Martin still sells (and owns) CDs, Martin believes they made music less valuable and more disposable.
"A plastic CD feels like a piece of trash. I have a bag of them in the back of my car and they kinda get wet sometimes," he says.
In contrast, you can still find records from the '40s in great shape that have retained their value, he says.
A record, Martin says, is simply "more engaging by its nature."
"Instead of throwing it in and forgetting about it, or putting your iTunes on shuffle... you're there with the record," Martin says. "You listen to it halfway through and then flip it over. You're thinking about it and talking about it."
Wyatt agrees that records are a more social way of listening to music.
"I have an entire room in my house that's all vinyl," she says. "You can connect with the artist and how the process took place."
Of course, older technology is much more limited. You can't carry it with you or listen in the car. But record companies have helped vinyl advance by including free download codes in albums so listeners can enjoy music in both formats.
Two out of every three vinyl albums sold, according to Nielsen, were purchased at an independent music store.
The Telegraph boasts more than 5,000 records, about one-third of which are new. Although the store has an indie vibe - most recently advertising new albums by Fleet Foxes, Belle & Sebastian and Deerhunter - Martin tries to cater to all types of music lovers. He carries music from crooners to motown to classical to country, in addition to the local music scene, along with record players.
He has a John Coltrane album that collectors would value at $300 to $500, and, he says with a smile, "We have some Toto records I'll sell ya for two bucks."
There's also a certain pleasure in browsing the racks and checking out the album art, lyrics and liner notes.
Karrie Bulger, who helps out in Martin's store, says she recently heard someone on NPR reminiscing about the artwork on a Flaming Lips album grabbing them, even though they didn't know anything about the band.
"They wonder, 'Does that happen anymore? Do a lot of the kids even know what an album looks like?' It's such a tangible thing. It's romantic to buy an album and read all the stuff that comes along with it," she says.
Martin actually didn't set out to open a music store. He needed office space for his small record label and came up with the idea when landlord Frank McLaughlin suggested a retail side. But what he now values is the museum-like atmosphere record stores manage to retain.
"You talk about everybody's personal experience, when they first heard a song, when they saw them live," he says.
He hopes it can also be a new place for musicians to find inspiration, he says.
Reprinted By Permission www.theday.com/