In rotation: 3/15/21

Miami, FL | Nostalgia for vinyl records drives Miami stores during pandemic: The fever for LPs and vinyl records in the US has become a widespread phenomenon that began more than a decade ago, and has not waned during the pandemic despite the few record stores that exist in Miami employing ingenuity and a tempting catalog to reach your loyal customers. The physical format, despite the enormous distance that separates it from digital, with “streaming” colonizing 88% of the market, remains valid today. Vinyl is not an extinct world. Far from that, album sales in 2020 increased in the country almost 30% compared to the previous year. The pandemic, since its outbreak, has only nurtured this nostalgia for the album, which is also being targeted by a new generation of boys attracted by this type of analog format and sound. This vast minority of record hunters is responsible for vinyl sales in 2020 exceeding Compact Disc (CD) sales in the United States for the first time since the 1980s. According to a report by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), vinyl records accounted for a total of $619 million in music sales in 2020—CDs generated just $483 million.

St. Paul, MN | Black Business Spotlight: Urban Lights Music: Local record shop shines bright in the community. Upon entering the quaint Urban Lights Music (ULM) record store on a bright and sunny day, an uplifting gospel track titled “Better Days” by Le’Andria Johnson played in the background. An aroma of fresh incense lingered throughout the atmosphere. Local entrepreneur Timothy Wilson is the owner of the store, located in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood along University Avenue in St. Paul. The business is known as the only Black-owned record store in the Twin Cities. Wilson and his friends put their money together to acquire the business in 1993. “It was originally called Northern Lights; we purchased the store—changed it to Urban Lights because we wanted to be just a light in the urban community, in the neighborhood,” Wilson said. …Wilson added, “My locker at school was really a record store.” Classmates would come to his locker, make requests and purchase signature cassette tapes. “It kind of started from there.”

Madison, WI | Strictly Discs in Wisconsin, in a Pandemic: ‘The End Might Be in Sight.’ As vaccines continue to roll out, Angie Roloff looks forward to a mask-free future. 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. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Evers’ stay-at-home order in May 2020 — ruling it “unlawful” and “unenforceable” — the Roloffs and their employees reopened the store and have kept it running ever since. 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.

Amherst, NH | Vinyl Frontier: Amherst’s The Infectious Groove is a music lover’s spin city: Vinyl devotees rejoice. The Infectious Groove, 76 NH Route 101-A, stocks more than 6,000 new and used records and endless shelves of CDs, as well as turntables, receivers and speakers. Owners Richie Thorn and Tina McCarthy opened the store a year ago, and quickly managed to find an audience of audiophiles during the pandemic. “Last year was actually really good for us,” Thorn said. “What we’re finding is that a lot of families are digging out their old albums in their attics. With nothing to do at home, it’s really been good for us.” In addition to what’s on display and in racks, Thorn estimates that they have another 2,000 albums in the back storeroom. “We haven’t even gotten to them yet,” he said. “Every single one of them, we go through and thoroughly clean. New stuff we just put out.” When they first started, they had fewer racks and since then, they’ve expanded with another nine racks of vinyl bins. The Infectious Groove also buys back albums and CDs, though not as much as the latter.

Cinderford, UK | New spin on business for vinyl record trader: A MUSIC fan who runs one of the biggest vintage vinyl record businesses in the South West has won permission to move his growing operation from a shop to a town industrial unit. Steve Helsdown launched Forest Vinyl seven years ago in Cinderford, and it’s become so popular with old-style record fans he needed more space than his Holyhill Road premises could supply. So the 63-year-old has moved his heaving collection of LPs and singles to a unit at the Forest Vale estate. Steve told Forest Council planners he wanted to change the use of the unit for vinyl record wholesale, online and ancillary retail sales. He sells online to collectors in some 80 countries, including China, the US, Australia, Japan and across Europe, and also supplies smaller record shops as well as record fans who travel from far and wide. Steve said: “Our stock consists of over 30,000 vinyl records and due to its storage size, we need a large premises, which is unfortunately not available in the town centre.

Phoenix, AZ | There’ll Be Two Record Store Days in Phoenix This Year: Vinyl geeks accustomed to making an annual Record Store Day pilgrimage will have to roll with the flow again this year, as organizers continue to plan around the pandemic. Record Store Day is happening on June 12 and July 17 this year, rather than a single day. It’s a way to keep crowds at bay while still supporting the local vinyl scene, according to Jarrett Hankinson, CEO and general manager for Zia Records, which has multiple metro Phoenix locations. “The goal is to put this on as safely and organized as humanly possible,” he says. Record Store Day started in 2007 as a way to highlight and support independent record shops. Typically, it happens on a single day in April. But organizers broke that mold last year, replacing it with a trio of Record Store Days on August 29, September 26, and October 24. Some local stores participated in all three; others skipped the events altogether. Hankinson says the three-day format was a success, bringing 50 to 100 customers to the store those mornings, and robust online sales. Even so, he misses aspects of Record Store Days they’ve temporarily nixed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Kingston, UK | NHS workers in Kingston post selfies to Banquet Records: Banquet Records in Kingston sparked an outpouring of striking selfies from NHS workers in the region after offering to support them with free in-store vouchers. Dozens of nurses, doctors and other frontline healthcare workers with the NHS took pictures of themselves in full PPE gear and posted them underneath a thread started by the stalwart community record store earlier this week, who handed out £10 vouchers to every healthcare worker who responded. It was launched amid an ongoing clash between healthcare professionals in the NHS and the Conservative government, who were criticised for offering NHS staff just a one per cent pay rise in the latest budget despite their efforts and sacrifices over the last year. Banquet’s Owner Jon Tolley told the Surrey Comet he simply wanted to help out the people who continue to look after us during such a tough time. “I wanted it to be a chance for people to get praise from other people that they don’t know. It’s taking the time to do something nice,” he said.

CA | How Southern California record stores are spinning the pandemic into a positive: When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in California last year, record stores were among the businesses hit hard, with some closing for good and others turning to services such as GoFundMe as they faced an unsure future. Record stores are still facing plenty of challenges more than a year after the pandemic began, but many are finding ways to keep business going from ramping up their online sales, to creating custom music bundles, to offering a livestream akin to the Home Shopping Network. Some say that this year hasn’t been all that bad for them as they welcome in music lovers who are stuck at home and filling the void of not being able to attend concerts and festivals by purchasing vinyl. Bill Plaster, owner of punk rock record store Dr. Strange Records in Rancho Cucamonga, says it’s never been so busy at his store — and he thinks he knows why. “People have all the time in the world, they have nothing else to do, they’re bored and they actually have extra money,” he said. “They’re just coming out of the woodwork, so for me it’s been super, super busy.” Plaster added that sales have almost doubled.

A musician has made working DJ decks out of Lego: Musician and creative Look Mum No Computer, real name Sam Battle, has made working DJ decks almost entirely out of LEGO. The Danish toy brick company commissioned the Kent-based artist to build the turntables and shared a five minute video of the process. The whole setup is made out of LEGO, save for the circuit board, mixer and decorative LEDs. There’s even spiral-designed LEGO slipmats. 4000 bricks make up the outer case, four motors control the rotation of the platters, and there’s even sample pads hooked up to sound effects. The electronics are made from LEGO Mindstorms, a programmable robotics system designed to work with LEGO products. After Look Mum No Computer finishes the “long build”, DJ L.L.A.M.A performs a mini set on the decks, complete with scratching and klaxon sound effects. LEGO commissioned the project to promote its new LEGO VIDIYO app, which allows users to create and star in their own music videos using state-of-the-art augmented reality technology to bring miniature LEGO figures to life.

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