In rotation: 3/4/21

Miami, FL | Ingenuity, Customer Loyalty Keeps Local Records Store Afloat During COVID-19 Pandemic: A local records store has had to rely solely on ingenuity and customer loyalty to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. Believe it or not, a national trend of nostalgia for vinyl records has helped a local store that counts on customers digging through the stacks to find that long-ago memory. Nationwide, in 2020, the sale of vinyl records increased almost 30% over 2019. The sale of CDs declined, the same for music downloads, like many small businesses, the key during the pandemic has been ingenuity and customer loyalty. Technique Records reopened in June, with five employees back to work, wearing masks and social distancing was just part of the rules of the house. “It wasn’t until we were ordered to shut down when every non-essential business had to close was when I said to everyone, well, that’s it!” said shop owner Mikey Ramirez. Ramirez said he took to his couch, thinking of his employees, his family, his home. “I am not sure what to do, to be honest, I’m lost like everyone else was,” Ramirez said.

Inverness, UK | Kind donations from a city centre record shop will provide 300 displaced families with safe drinking water: Union Vinyl, based on Market Brae Steps in Inverness, posted a message on its social media to say vinyl records they had passed to Oxfam had raised £3407 for the charity’s work. Saying the team behind the shop were staggered by the amount raised said it was delighted the vinyl records that it could not use could be recycled to support the charity’s work. Owner Nigel Graham wrote: “Just to let you all know, I got confirmation by email today of Union Vinyl contribution to Oxfam. “We often get collections in which through sorting fall below our standard for resale, or are artists that are not so sell able for us, so we set them aside in a box for Oxfam in Inverness. “We phone them to collect when it’s full, and some of you know that I recently moved house so a lot of stock needed to be shifted so Oxfam kindly picked them up. And some people randomly drop bags off to us to dispose of for them, they always go into the box. “The total raised by Oxfam through our donations at present is a staggeringly £3,407.00 wow.”

Evansville, IN | Vinyl records make a comeback: Despite the effects of the pandemic, vinyl record sales are jamming on both nationally and locally. This resurgence is shaking up the music industry. “Two years ago, pre-COVID, vinyl sales out sold CD sales in the first time in probably 20 years and not only are older people going back to collecting vinyl, but there’s a lot of teenagers and younger people collecting vinyl as well,” explained Jeff Osborne. He’s the owner of Secret Headquarters who started carrying vinyl records over the summer. “Any record enthusiast that has ever dropped a needle on that record, there’s just something magical about the sound, the highs, the lows,” described Patrick Holl, owner of Space Monkey Records. Holl said the way his customers became interested in vinyl is just as diverse and unique as the age range of the frequent shoppers. “It’s an interesting phenomena with vinyl because I’ve quite a few businesses over the years and I can honestly say that this is the only business where the demographic spans from the youngest people, 12-13 years old all the way to very elderly people.”

Austin, TX | Through Vinyl, Keeled Scales is Defying the Odds: Owner Tony Presley found new life at his indie record label thanks to records and other physical media. “The sky was falling,” says Tony Presley, owner of Austin indie record label Keeled Scales. Following national shutdowns last spring, the company’s monthly financial reports showed album sales down by two-thirds, and with people glued to the news, streaming numbers tanked. In those precarious first months of the pandemic, Presley pondered whether or not the label even had a future. But then the unexpected happened. In June, Presley started to process an inordinate amount of album orders, mainly of vinyl records. Comments were often attached, where purchasers left encouraging notes to the artists (Wish we were seeing you live this year, but this will have to do! said one to Will Johnson). “In the absence of artists touring, their fans and listeners wanted to actually hold the physical record while they’re listening to it,” says Presley.

Do albums matter in 2021? Peking Duk, Middle Kids, Kucka and more ponder if there’s still room for albums in today’s musical landscape. 20 years ago, just about every car had a CD player in the dashboard. Kids on their way to school clicked their favourite albums into silvery clamshell Discmans. And an artist’s album release schedule was a finely tuned science. In news that’ll shock no one, quite a bit has changed since the turn of the century: technology, the music industry, and most of all – listening habits. So how do albums fit into our lives in 2021? What even is an album?! It’s a great question. An album could be a slender seven songs or tip the scales at over twenty tracks. It could be 25 minutes or several hours, new material or repackaged old gear, the product of one artist or many. The definition of an album’s pretty loose – and that’s nothing new. Rachel Jones-Williams, who’s worked in A&R at record labels across the past six years, says that “it’s a format that’s still evolving… it’s not what it used to be.”

Vinyl revenue overtakes CDs for the first time since 1986: CDs and downloads continue to decline while the record rejoices. The RIAA’s year-end report on the state of the US music industry shows that revenue from vinyl sales has overtaken that of CDs for the first time in 35 years. Sales of the classic record format in the US have increased consistently since 2006, but last year it saw its biggest single week since electronic sales tracking began (in 1991), with 1.841 million vinyl albums sold in the week ending 24th December, according to the MRC data. Overall, vinyl sales in 2020 grew by 28.7 per cent to $626 million, while CD sales continued their long term decline, falling by 23 per cent to $483 million. The last time vinyl triumphed over CDs was in 1986. That year, though, the cassette was king, making up 54 per cent of all albums sold, and the biggest releases included Janet Jackson’s Control, Madonna’s True Blue and Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling – each sold three million physical copies – not forgetting the soundtrack to Miami Vice which sold four million.

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