In rotation: 1/4/21

UK | Vinyl sales surge again in 2020 as music fans enjoy records during lockdown: Vinyl albums now account for almost one in five of all albums purchased in the UK. Sales of vinyl and cassettes surged once again in 2020, as music fans spent much of lockdown discovering new favourites to add to their collections. The BPI, the organisation that represents the UK’s recorded music industry, reports Official Charts Company data showing that fans bought nearly 5 million vinyl LPs in 2020, marking a 21st century record and the highest total since the early Nineties. Cassette sales are set to double by the end of the year, their highest level since 2003, as artists offer their music in a greater range of formats. Both classic and contemporary artists enjoyed bigger record and tape sales, from Fleetwood Mac and AC/DC to Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga. While streaming still accounts for four fifths of music consumption, fans appear to be looking for other ways to enjoy their favourite music.

US | Vinyl Album Sales Hit New Record High in Christmas Week 2020: Vinyl LP sales at indie record stores also reach single-week Nielsen Music/MRC Data record. As predicted, U.S. vinyl album sales hit another historic high, as 1.842 million LPs were sold in the week ending Dec. 24, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. That’s the largest week for the format since Nielsen Music/MRC Data began electronically tracking music sales in 1991. The previous high was set only a week earlier, when 1.445 million were sold in the frame ending Dec. 17. Furthermore, vinyl album sales outpaced CD sales for the week: 1.841 million vs. 1.671 million. It’s the fourth time that’s happened since 1991, and all four instances occurred in 2020. Vinyl LP sales at independent record stores were also record-setting, as 733,000 copies were sold via indie stores in the week ending Dec. 24 — the biggest week for the format at indies dating to 1991. The previous record week came during Record Store Day 2019’s week (673,000; week ending April 11, 2019). Vinyl LP sales received a holiday boost in the week ending Dec. 24, as the tracking frame captured the seven shopping days leading up to Christmas Day (Dec. 25).

St. Louis Park, MN | SolSta Records brings new sound to St. Louis Park: December marked a new beginning for SolSta Records. Phil and Hannah Borreson, the husband-and-wife team that owns the business, packed up their popular south Minneapolis shop and moved to their new location on Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park. “Moving had been in the plan for a couple of years,” Phil said. “We had everything ready to go a couple of years ago. It was about finding the right space.” 2020 certainly was not a year most businesses could have planned for or anticipated as COVID-19 left no industry untouched. “Every week gets a little different between different restrictions and shopping habits,” Phil said. “We’ve changed from a store where someone comes through and digs through records to a place where you mostly shop our online inventory.” Fortunately, the online surge was something SolSta Records was prepared for.

Newtown, PA | Newtown Book & Record Exchange Under New Ownership: After 40 years, store owner Bobbie Lewis is handing over the keys to the shop to a longtime employee. Forty years is a good run for any business, let alone a book and record store, which is a dying breed in modern America where small business owners struggle to compete with retail giants like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Bobbie Lewis, who opened the Newtown Book & Record Exchange at 102 S. State Street in 1981, is placing her trust in one of her longtime employees to keep the business running for another 40 years. After four decades as a business owner, Lewis is calling it quits. Fortunately for book and record lovers in Newtown, her store will remain open for the foreseeable future. “When Newtown Book & Record Exchange opened in 1981, little did I know it would be almost 40 years later before I would be announcing a new owner!” Lewis posted on Facebook last week. “This has truly been a labor of love for me and I will miss seeing you as many of you are like family to me. Without you and your support we would never have survived for so many years.”

Spokane, WA | Vinyl is alive and well at Spokane record shops: Live music is on ice, but vinyl is hot. During the week of Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 1.253 million vinyl albums were sold in the U.S., the largest sales week for the format since Nielsen Music/MRC Data began electronically tracking music sales in 1991. “Music fans want vinyl,” Total Trash Records & Sound owner Scott Kellogg said. “There’s no doubt about that. People have been coming in here and buying a lot of vinyl.” Expect Spokane record shops to be even busier leading up to Christmas. What is selling locally? “Hip hop is king at the store,” Kellogg said. “It’s been that way here throughout the pandemic. It doesn’t matter what it is in the world of hip hop, whether it’s Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels or Kid Cudi or Tyler the Creator. Hip hop is the new punk rock. I never expected kids to come in and purchase vinyl like they are, but it’s so cool to see it.”

Cleethorpes, UK | Howlin’ Jacks Record Store planning to strike a chord in Cleethorpes: The new record store will sell new and used vinyl records. A brand new record store is set to open in Cleethorpes at the start of the New Year. Howlin’ Jacks Record Store will open on Saturday, January 9, and will sell both new and used vinyl records, as well as CDs and Blu-Ray discs. Based on the corner of College Street and Cross Street, Howlin’ Jacks is owned by Matt Driver, 46, who is moving to the area from Chesterfield after visiting Cleethorpes for many years. The shop will be open over the weekeneds due to Matt working through the week as a care worker, but he is hoping that the store will be popular enough to open through the week in future. The name, Howlin’ Jacks comes from Matt’s dog, a Jack Russell named Missy, who frequently howls and barks. He said: “People seem to be quite excited and are already following our page. “We will sell mainly used records at the moment, but I am getting new ones in, too.

Mankato, MN | Southeastern Minnesota Record Store Proves to Be Destination: If it wasn’t for an MTV contest nearly 30 years ago, Tune Town in Mankato may never have come to fruition. Owner Carl Nordmeier had been working in the music department at the Lake Street Target in Minneapolis in the early ’90s when an option to transfer to Mankato was on the table. But when he moved into an apartment near Minnesota State University, that job fell through. Nordmeier’s other source of revenue, as a weekend DJ, wasn’t enough to cover the bills. Frustrated with the corporate nature of Target’s music department, he had already started to consider opening his own music store when he was still living in the Twin Cities. But it wasn’t until he entered an MTV-sponsored contest to win a record store that the plan really started to take hold. “I said, ‘If I don’t win this, I’m going to move back home with Mom and Dad in Morristown, save up money and open my own record store,’” he said.

Miami, FL | Found Sound Records in North Miami Specializes in Used Vinyl: If you choose any year to launch a new retail store that produces bricks and mortar, that probably won’t be the case in 2020. But Rafael “Ralph” Pichardo finds his shop, Audio recordings found, has been thriving since it opened almost a year ago. “Records are the place,” he explains from behind the counter of his store in North Miami. “I’m sure a lot of people struggled, but I didn’t. People spend so much time at home; they buy more music. What else can people do?” This year’s “Maida’s Best Record Store” competition is held at the Anonymous Shopping Center, located at 123 Northeast Street, between the antiques store and the accounting office. It’s a well-organized mecca with about 8,000 vinyl records. The walls are lined with more expensive options, including Wilco’s rare presses Yankee Hotel Foxtrot at a price of a hundred dollars. Records in the best condition are arranged in alphabetical order in hand-level boxes, by genre. Below, hunters can search for $2 records to bargain.

UK | Cassette sales double in a year with Lady Gaga best-selling album on tape: Cassette tape sales are estimated to have doubled this year compared to 2019. The British Phonographic Industry, which represents record labels, projects 157,000 tapes will have been sold in the UK in 2020. That’s the highest number since 2003, when compilation Now 54 – featuring the likes of Busted, Girls Aloud and Oasis – was the biggest seller on tape. Now, the top sellers are Lady Gaga, 5 Seconds of Summer and Yungblud. So what’s behind the rise of cassette tape sales? Firstly, it’s important to note that cassette tape sales represent a tiny fraction of music sales this year. They’re dwarfed by the 4.8m vinyl albums sold, which is the highest since the early 90s, according to BPI.

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