Friday, March 7, 2008

Forget MP3s, some teens turning to vinyl records

On a recent afternoon 15-year-old Graham Saylor popped into Decatur CD to check out new releases. But he sprinted right past the CDs, stopping, instead, at the six bins of vinyl records.

Saylor prefers to listen to his favorite new acts, such as TV on the Radio and the Black Keys, on the black 12-inch platters. Some classmates at Decatur High School have become vinyl fans as well.

So what attracts the teens to a musical format that was proclaimed landfill fodder years before they were born?

"I just dig vinyls more. The tone is warmer. I'm not much of a digital guy," explains Saylor.

Building his collection since sixth grade, he bought a turntable on eBay for $60 and inherited audio equipment from his dad, Lance.

Saylor, according to last year's Nielsen SoundScan numbers, is hardly alone. The retail sales service reported that 990,000 vinyl albums were sold in the United States last year, up 15 percent from 858,000 in 2006. That accounts for about 2 percent of all music sold, compared to CDs and downloads. Still, it's impressive for a format that began a sales slide in 1983.

Decatur CD owner Warren Hudson is taking notice. In December he added one bin of vinyl. By February, he had six and was scouting out space to add more.

"I honestly never thought we'd see vinyl in stores again," he said. "But a lot of our customers are kids who never bought records the first time around. "

Music Direct, which specializes in remastered vinyl and record player sales, reports its vinyl sales are up 300 percent since 2005.

"This year, we will see more albums being released on vinyl since the year 1980," says Music Direct rep Josh Bizar. "If you're a band that skews to young people, a vinyl version is a necessity."

Indie acts such as Vampire Weekend, Cat Power and Atlanta's Black Lips routinely issue a vinyl version of their releases, along with MP3 and CD editions. Some artists even offer coupons for free downloads of albums when you buy the vinyl format.

And while Saylor downloads music, it can't compare to his vintage vinyl copy of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," which had been stored in his grandmother's attic in upstate New York.

Last year, Barbara Notaro, 60, a lifelong rock fan who attended Woodstock, let her grandson take "Dark Side" and 200 other old albums back to Atlanta.

"It's totally my prized possession," Saylor said.

He finds listening to records with friends more fun. "Nobody is ever going to look at your iTunes library and say 'Nice collection you got there.' "

Lance Saylor, 44, supports his son's vinyl fascination, but says he won't be returning to records.

"Why would you go back to listening to static?" he said. But after picking up a piece of shrink-wrapped vinyl, the dad's perspective softens. "The artwork is what I miss. There would be certain records where you would memorize every image, every letter."

Big record companies like Columbia and Atlantic are also getting back into the vinyl groove as demand increases. One glitch: Most major labels sold off or converted their vinyl pressing plants decades ago. So new pressings of their classic catalogs, including albums by Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan, are being licensed out to boutique vinyl companies like Sundazed, 4 Men With Beards and Classic Records.

Classic Records is offering detailed re-creations of masterpieces such as 1959's "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis, with original artwork. Price tag: $30.

At Wuxtry Records in Decatur, owner Mark Methe and employee Richard Kuykendall have taken note of vinyl's quiet comeback but point out the 30-year-old store and its loyal vinyl-loving customers have never gone away.

Most of Decatur High senior Breton Randall Jordan's collection came from Wuxtry, including classic albums from Richard Hell, Devo and Black Flag.

Jordan cites the shop's "vinyl coolness" and long ties to the Georgia music scene as reasons he buys there.

While audiophiles argue that vinyl's sound is superior to compressed MP3 files and the sanitized digital mastering on CDs, Methe won't be dragged into the debate. "I can tell you this: Vinyl sounds awfully good. And we wouldn't be here 30 years later if our customers didn't agree."

Customer Andy Forbes, 33, of Little Five Points, has dragged his record collection and turntable through various moves over the years.

"It's the sound a needle makes when it lands on an album," said Forbes. "There's nothing quite like it."

He also likes the artwork and the lyrics on albums. Notable Peachtree Road resident Sir Elton John agrees.

"As a fan, I've always wanted to learn more about the artist and where they recorded it and who played on it," John told the AJC last year. "I was always sitting there with the gatefold sleeve. I do the same thing now with CDs. I just need a magnifying glass now!"

B-52's frontman Fred Schneider lugs vinyl from his vast collection to his weekly Sirius Satellite Radio show, where he plays 12-inch remixes and collectibles from his rare "outsider music" stash.

"There are just so many things out on vinyl that were never issued in any other format," he said, adding that "Funplex," the Bs new album, will be issued on vinyl.

Other record enthusiasts are buying turntables with USB cables for their laptops. The unit enables users to burn old vinyl onto CDs.

Collector Andy Forbes concedes the result is a little, well, weird.

Says Forbes, laughing: "There's just something a little out of place about hearing the snaps and pops of a vinyl recording in your car."

Source [AJC]

1 comment:

  1. Looks like dude in the green shirt is shopping for something else.