In rotation: 11/18/20

Portland, OR | Photo Essay: Music Millennium Survived the Advent of Streaming Services. Now It’s Surviving the Pandemic, Too. Each month since reopening, sales have roughly equaled figures from the previous year. Founded in 1969, Music Millennium has survived Napster, smartphones and streaming. When the COVID-19 pandemic came, the store switched to curbside- and online-only service for 10 weeks but returned to limited in-store shopping in June. Now admitting up to 10 customers at a time, there is frequently a line to enter the store. Each month since reopening, sales have roughly equaled figures from the previous year.

Madison, WI | Strictly Discs in Wisconsin, in a Pandemic: New COVID-19 Closures Are ‘Getting Closer.’ In an “eventful week,” store owner Angie Roloff deals with a family tragedy, exploding coronavirus cases and the threat of new closures. In October 1988, Angie Roloff and her husband Ron opened Strictly Discs in Madison, Wisconsin, after Ron left a career in the biomedical research field to pursue his love of music full time. Nearly 31 years later, the couple made the difficult decision to shutter in-store operations due to COVID-19, roughly a week before Gov. Tony Evers forced a mandatory shutdown of all non-essential businesses. Now that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned Evers’ stay-at-home order — ruling it “unlawful” and “unenforceable” — the Roloffs and their employees have reopened the store. As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Roloff regularly to chronicle her experience throughout the crisis.

Richmond, VA | Musical Healing: Record Store Day offers a special release of a legendary concert at Plan 9 Records from 14 years ago. In the summer of 2006, the Richmond music scene was still reeling from the tragic murders of the Harvey family. On July 13, Plan 9 Records in Carytown held a rock concert to raise money for the Harvey family memorial endowment – a show that would go down in the history books of that Richmond institution. The sold-out event for just over 200 people started at 10 p.m. and raged on for two and half hours, about an hour longer than the band originally planned. Now others get to hear all its sweaty glory when a four-record vinyl set of the Drive-By Truckers’ “Plan 9 Records July 13, 2006” is released on Record Store Day this Black Friday – an album one national music critic is calling the band’s best live recording. As for its pay that night, the group received a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and two bottles of whiskey — all of which was consumed by the encore.

AU | Why are vinyl records making a huge comeback? Just when we roll our eyes at the fact that kids these days only listen to Spotify, we see news that the sales of vinyl records surpassed that of CD. Wait, what? Are we back in the 60s? Are vinyl records really back from the dead? Well first of all, vinyl never really died. It decreased in sales when CD became famous in the late 80s but there were still a bunch of people who are vinyl freaks. Vinyl sales dropped fast but it continually increased in sales years after, peaking in 2006 and it never stopped going up since then. Years later, here we are. The Recording Industry Association of America, LP vinyl records accounted for $232.1 million of music sales in the first six months of 2020, whereas CDs have only brought in $129.9 million. This is the first time since 1986 that vinyl has outsold CDs. Today, you don’t have to be a hotshot musician in order to release vinyl because one great benefit of the internet is that you can also find ways to lessen the risk of financial loss. Nowadays, you can make as few as 50 units and just sell it on your website or even do pre-order (they buy before you press vinyl) so you are sure every vinyl you press will get sold. Although vinyl is still relatively expensive to make, there are many tricks and tips for a cheap vinyl record pressing.

Norman Cook: ‘I would go out actively looking for strange old records I could take little tiny bits of.’ “…You know that that beautiful moment in DJing is when the whole room becomes as one like a collective euphoria and a collective abandon, which is a very powerful thing and if you can achieve that at arena level it really is quite an emotional thing to witness that kind of, the togetherness and the community within it… It started that I just had a big record collection so when I discovered a sampler and the fun you could have with it, I started trawling through my record collection. I was always a crate digger and I was always a vinyl junkie and that just kind of fed my habit that I could – when I was DJing abroad, I would always hit record shops in the afternoon and thrift stores and then yeah, so I would go out actively looking for strange old records that I could take little tiny bits of. So again it sort of fed my addiction of being a vinyl junkie but I was calling it my job because this was source material.

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