In rotation: 3/18/21

Chicago, IL | Tone Deaf Records responded to the stay-at-home order with vinyl delivery: When the pandemic forced Tone Deaf Records to shutter last March, proprietor Tony Assimos began delivering vinyl straight to his customers’ doors. He saw it as a practical response to what he thought would be a short-term crisis, and a way to extend into lockdown the sense of community he’d cultivated in his Portage Park store. As he told Block Club at the time, perhaps optimistically, “People are going to be bored for the next few weeks.” The many forms of pandemic-induced isolation have lasted far longer, of course, but listening to new records is still a good way to stay sane. Deliveries remain a crucial part of Tone Deaf’s business mix today. Assimos keeps tabs on Chicago’s COVID-19 infection rates and makes decisions accordingly. When the numbers dropped last summer, he suspended delivery and reopened the store; when infections spiked around Thanksgiving, he reversed course, even though the city didn’t issue another lockdown order. “It was the right thing to do,” he says.

Chicago, IL | The much-needed affection of Neji the record store dog: The excellent record/vintage clothes shop Wild Prairie is one block from my pad and has been a godsend during quarantine. The small, very-easy-to-distance-within store has always felt safe, often with just one shopworker present (usually of the wonderful owner couple of Alex Gonzales and Natasha Rac) and there’s usually a shopper or two perusing the bins. They have a great selection of vinyl including house, jazz, soul, and loads of 60s psychedelia (making this guy VERY happy). Despite this plethora of ideal factors, there’s a running joke over at WP that people come into their establishment just to see their awesome pooch, and it’s hard to deny. The pup in question is a sweet, gentle Shiba Inu (one of my favorite breeds) named Neji. Neji used to sleepily hang in the back when I’d enter the shop, so I’d come to him for some petting-time, but these days he will run up and greet me as I enter the door (aww).

UK | ‘Love Record Stores’ event in Brighton and Sussex taking place on Saturday 4th September 2021: Last year, the music community launched a high-profile, global initiative known as ‘Love Record Stores’, to help independent record stores during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Record shops have always been an important part of the music community and their passion and enthusiasm are celebrated by #LoveRecordStores. Following the resounding success of the #loverecordstores campaign in 2020 and the subsequent ‘Love Record Stores’ event, which took place last June and resulted in over £1m of sales for record stores, the campaign organisers have announced plans for a second event, which will take place on Saturday 4th September 2021. Now an important fixture in the music retail calendar for UK record retailers, labels and music fans alike, ‘Love Record Stores 2021’ will be an opportunity for the independent music community to come together to support record stores who, like many other businesses, have faced difficult trading conditions throughout the pandemic.

Tokyo, JA | Vinyl record sales up more than 10 times from decade ago: On a recent Sunday afternoon in February in the young and trendy Shibuya district, Akira Nagai is one of the many customers record hunting at HMV Record Shop Shibuya, which mainly deals in vinyl. Nagai, 16, has started buying records by Hikaru Utada and other musicians on vinyl, even though the first-year senior high school student from Yokohama subscribes to a music streaming service. “The static noise produced when the needle is dropped onto the disc warms my heart, and it lifts my spirits just to see (the records) placed in my room,” Nagai said. In an age of digital online streaming services, promising libraries packed with tens of millions of songs for about 1,000 yen ($9.40) a month, analog record sales are off the charts. …In Japan, vinyl sales have increased by more than 10 times in the past decade. According to the Recording Industry Association of Japan, sales of analog records bottomed out at 170 million yen in 2010, but then by 2020, sales jumped by more than 10 times to 2.12 billion yen.

Oxford, UK | Like A Record Baby: Vinyl in the Pandemic …While I’m glad that we’re seeing a vinyl second coming, there can be no denying that the industry has morphed into something new in the last few decades. The fact that 40% of the 40 top-selling EPs of 2020 were released more than a decade prior shows that nostalgia is crucial to sales. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is widely regarded as an essential piece in a record collection, so it’s no surprise that this flawless album was the #1 best-seller. The idea of some albums being essential to a record collection extends nostalgia into a sense that when you’re buying a record, you’re engaging in a tradition. A tradition of forking out for a physical symbol of your dedication to a band, of being cautious with it as you lower it onto the turntable, and of listening to the crackle and craft intently. Admittedly, this experience is one that Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram are pretty familiar with. Yet, what does that show, other than that our generation loves to show off what we’re listening to?

Macon, GA | Record realness: Vinyl records are taking over the music scene… again! …Record stores are frequently found within the confines of a booming city. Luckily for Macon, there are various forms of record retail. Old School Music Headquarters, a Black-owned record shop that has been open for over 50 years, has a wide array of titles. The shop, run by former radio host “Laughing” Lafayette Haynes, has sold over 1 million records since its inception and does not plan on stopping anytime soon. Fresh Produce Records is another option for record shopping, with a wide variety of genres and styles. Within this variety, the store showcases a particular affinity for the folk-rock and rock genres. However, due to pandemic protocols, they are currently only available for website ordering. With the combined reinvigoration of vinyl records and an overload of retail options, there isn’t a better time to get into expanding your record collection.

Long Beach, CA | ‘Music is my high’: With live shows canceled, indie booker starts 7” record label: As the weather warmed during the spring of 2020, many were not working—laid off or furloughed—or had begun working from home as a result of the new COVID-19 pandemic. Such was the case with Jon and Julia Halperin. Now, if you went to a Chain Reaction from 2000 to 2006, Jon booked it. If you’ve been to The Glass House in the last 15 years, chances are, that was a Jon Halperin show. He has booked thousands of acts over the last two decades, from Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Eat World to Paramore and Weezer to Gwen Stefani and Thrice. He even started a small indie label in the ’90s. With businesses closed, live shows canceled and nowhere to go, the wedded music buffs took to listening to tunes on their balcony overlooking the Long Beach coast. Jon would grab his Panasonic boombox circa sometime between the founding of the Doobie Brothers and The Cure and a handful of cassettes and the two would enjoy the vibes and the views.

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