A Record Renaissance: Vinyl Albums Regain Popularity, Business Owners Say

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Although digital streaming is the quicker and more convenient way to listen to music, many music fans are making a gradual switch back to vinyl and CDs.

Gaining attractiveness to a younger generation of college and high school-aged students, local record stores in New Paltz are beginning to see an increase of vinyl sales.

Tom Whalen, manager of Rhino Records in New Paltz, said the ages of their regular buyers now span across all generations. Regulars can help in assessing the music tastes and trends of consumers which aides the store in purchasing the right records.

Whalen said people are always interested in the cheaper, older albums of ‘60s and ‘70s punk, classic and jazz rock. These albums usually cost less for the store to acquire. However, putting expensive records of newer music on the shelf is taking a gamble on whether people will spend the money or not.

“Sometimes it is kind of like throwing darts,” Whalen said. “We want to try and predict what people are going to want to buy based on trends. It is hit or miss, and if we guess wrong the album kind of just sits.”

While people ages 30 or older are more likely to buy CDs and vinyl, Whalen said that college-aged or high school-aged kids mostly stick with purchasing vinyl. It appears that CD purchasing is not in the same vein as vinyl when keeping with the new trend.

Jack’s Rhythms record store owner John Lefsky said that his regulars come from all over the Hudson Valley. These music fanatics visit a variety of record stores when searching for a certain album. Lefsky said he will often redirect customers to another store if he does not have what they are searching for.

Lefsky said his influx of younger buyers is most dense when school begins, and eventually becomes a little slower. He attested this to college students running out of money for records as the year goes on.

“I also get a lot of people from the city or Long Island when the weather gets nice, or ‘leaf peepers’ as they are called,” Lefsky said.

Jack’s Rhythms purchases records from wholesale distributors like Matador Records, a company that represents many indie artists such as Perfume Genius and Cat Power.

Pricing is dependent on certain factors, such as the rarity or nuance of the album, according to Lefsky. Albums from Nick Drake, an artist who did not become popular until he passed away, will sell for $50-$60 because of their scarcity and uniqueness.

“Sometimes LPs are more valuable because of their limited sales,” Lefsky said. “The misconception is that every Beatles LP is worth a mint, but they are pretty common.”

Many records are sold with a vinyl code on the inside of the album. These codes can be used to download the album for online storage. Lefsky interpreted this as helpful to the trend of younger customers buying albums since it is a middle path between solely using vinyl or solely using digital streaming.

“I personally don’t have Wi-Fi or an iPod device,” Lefsky said. “I’m here in the store six days a week using my laptop. When I’m home, its kind of the last thing I want to do.”

Although record collecting is an expensive hobby, Whalen said that embracing the culture of music with a physical vinyl liberates listeners from the “unmagical,” invisible characteristic of digital streaming.

“People are yearning for some kind of connection to their music,” Whalen said. “A change from the sterile, intangible nature of listening to a [digital song] will make you feel like you are hearing your favorite song for the first time, it is something to believe in.”