In rotation: 7/15/20

US vinyl album sales celebrate double-digit growth in the first half of 2020: Midyear stats prove record sales soared during lockdown. The mid-year figures are in and the big surprise (given the current climate) is that vinyl remains very much alive and kicking in the States. According to the new Nielsen Music/MRC Data midyear report, the U.S. music industry posted a 9.4 per cent increase, despite the very real COVID-19 economic downturn elsewhere. What’s interesting, however, is that music-lovers aren’t buying across the board. With some record stores shuttered for months due to lockdown restrictions across the US, CD sales actually fell a whopping 30.2 per cent, to just 18.5 million copies from the 26.53 million copies sold in the prior year. Meanwhile, digital album downloads declined 14.3 percent too, to 17.65 million from the 20.6 million album downloads in the first six months of 2019. Thus, with almost all independent stores closed (and with most consumers sheltering at home) CD sales dwindled – even as shoppers turned to Amazon and other online retailers for their physical music fixes.

Los Angeles, CA | First gentrification, now a pandemic. Can Highland Park’s fabled music scene survive? On March 7, Ryan Pollie threw the inaugural Highland Park Folk Festival, a free concert and comedy show held under the winsome tree canopy at Tierra de la Culebra Park. The show from the singer-songwriter (a resident of next-door Eagle Rock, and signed to powerhouse L.A. indie ANTI- Records) drew around 300 people to see more than a dozen local acts and comedians. It was, as the 31-year-old Pollie described, “one of the best days of my life, that a show like that could be feasible in one of the most beautiful places to live in the world.” Just four days later though, COVID-19 hit and local music got walloped. “There was no sense of what was coming. We had no idea of the effect it would have on our lives,” Pollie said. …the neighborhood, once Redfin’s hottest in the county, has also been ransacked by gentrification and real-estate speculation, much of it sold on the promise of one arts community at the expense of another that’s been around for decades.

Minneapolis, MN | Rock, Paper, Scissors finds new home at 24th & Lyndale: South Minneapolis gift and record store Rock, Paper, Scissors is finally getting settled in its new Whittier home after moving plans were disrupted by the pandemic. Couple Tes de Luna and Jason Hughes opened their first Minneapolis store at 48th & Chicago in 2018, but when their lease was ending and they saw the former Cliche space being advertised at 24th & Lyndale, they jumped at the opportunity to be closer to their home. The plan had been to open their new location in mid-March, but coronavirus-related retail closures statewide put a hold on that. The shop opened on May 27, only to board up its windows two days later as civil unrest swept over the city following the killing of George Floyd. In its first week back, Rock, Paper, Scissors donated 10% of all sales to local nonprofit Black Table Arts. So far, business has been better than expected, Hughes said, with people coming by to browse around and check out records and other goods. Locals have been supportive, and some have remarked how happy they are to be able to browse through a store again.

Waxing Poetic About the Majesty of Vinyl Records with Benmont Tench: Walk into Benmont Tench’s home and you’ll immediately know you’ve entered the dwelling of a musician. In the expansive living room belonging to the co-founder of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, flanked by walls of books, vinyl records and various instruments — acoustic and electric guitars, an Epiphone bass, a ukelele, Wurlitzer piano and a grand piano once owned by keyboard legend Nicky Hopkins — resides the soul and heartbeat of the room, his turntable. Benmont Tench is a devoted vinyl enthusiast, and we spoke at length about his appreciation of the medium. …Amoeba Records in Hollywood has always been great. I also really like Second Hand Rose Music in Manhattan because I spend a lot of time in Manhattan. It’s fantastic. The section of vinyl is really good. CD Trader is really good, but by virtue of its size Amoeba has masses of stuff so it’s the record store I go to in L.A. But I know there are tons of other record stores in L.A. that I haven’t gotten to.

Industry insider: Om Records label manager/partner Gunnar Hissam: We chat with Gunnar Hissam about putting together Om’s 25 year compilation and the constantly evolving music business. Om Records– one of America’s longest running independent music labels, is celebrating 25 years in the business this summer. While the celebration was supposed to be bigger, bolder and grander with parties and other events, which has obviously been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still looking to mark the occasion. They have released a new compilation Om Records, 25 Years that features 26 new tracks, unreleased material and Om classics. There are tunes from across genres by Kaskade, Mark Farina, People Under The Stairs, Groove Armada, Soulstice and others. However there is more to the label than just this compilation and struggling through a summer where the music business has been throttled by a pandemic. It has been a stalwart of independent music for 25 years, helping to launching careers like of artists Kaskade, while also pushing underrated underground releases across house, funk & hip-hop.

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