A strange resurgence has taken place in the music industry as hardcore music fans hail the return to vinyl records. On Friday, Nov. 26, independent music stores across the country will be celebrating that return with the Back to Black Friday sale event.
Vinyl is back! Dig those old 45s out of your mom and dad’s basement, because your old double-sleeved LPs of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Songs In The Key Of Life” are now the hottest thing in the music business.
Don’t worry about Apple, though. The company’s ubiquitous iPods are in no danger of extinction, but a strange resurgence has taken place in the music industry as hardcore music fans hail the return to vinyl records.
On Friday, Nov. 26, independent music stores across the country will be celebrating that return with the Back to Black Friday, an extension of the Record Store Day event typically held in the spring.
The promotion includes the release of vinyl-only recordings of top rock, pop, alternative, R&B and country artists from past to present: U2, Metallica, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen, along with The Ting Tings, Cee Lo Green, Dr. Dog, The Black Keys, Iron and Wine, Gaslight Anthem, MGMT, Roky Erickson and the Black Angels and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.
Not that independent music stores regard Black Friday as a major retail coup. “Music is usually a last-minute gift,” laughs Richard Osborne, owner of Dyno Records in Newburyport, Mass.
Barrence Whitfield of the Record Exchange in Salem, Mass., says, “It’s just another day for us.” But both of the record store regulars are pleased that vinyl is getting the respect they have long deserved.
“Music used to be a collection. People now, they’re downloading their music for free, but honestly, they don’t have anything to show for it, other than a list on their computers,” Osborne said. “Vinyl records were an experience, something you could hold and touch. Records even have artwork — so much cooler than a CD.
“And there is a way of listening to a record that you are a part of: putting the needle on the record, sitting down and listening to it. This ‘iJunk,’ where your music just goes with you, rather than you go to the music, isn’t as much of an experience,” Osborne said.
“These days we are selling more vinyl than CDs, to young and to old,” said Whitfield, who is also a renowned R&B singer. “People are still fascinated by vinyl.”
“This whole vinyl thing is bringing people back into record stores again,” Osborne said.
Mike Dreese, CEO of chain Newbury Comics in Mass., seems to agree with Osborne and Whitfield’s assessments. In a recent interview, Dreese said, “Music now is so much more of a background activity. It’s something you listen to while you’re watching YouTube, while you’re texting, while you’re in GChat.
“When we were young, we played a record, everyone knew what the good and bad side of an album was. Sometimes you’d flip it over. It was much more of an active activity,” Dreese said. “Now kids have their earbuds on and their heads down. So the resurgence is a lot more fun socially — you can be at a party, open a bottle of wine and you have something to talk about, which is the music itself.”
Long-claimed as the “real music experience,” vinyl records, made from a plastic resin resulting from the combination of chlorine and ethylene, were mass-produced copies of a master disk created by a process of a needle cutting grooves into a surface. The grooves recreate the sound waves that had been recorded by the instruments and voices. Whereas digital music can be manipulated more easily — with layers, singers and instrumentals added afterwards — vinyl was usually a recording of all of the music being played at once.
Although record sales diminished drastically as CDs and then MP3s took over as distribution mediums, vinyl has never really gone completely cold. Used in rap and hip-hop for recording as well as live performances, DJs and MCs used vinyl for years to create new mixed beats and scratching sounds on turntables. In more recent years, those mixers became computer programs, but vinyl records are still hailed for their musical quality by listeners and artists alike.
Elvis Costello, in talking to The Tennessean about his latest album, “National Ransom,” said that people may listen however they wish, but the real intended musical experience is through the LP, or long-playing record.
“Perhaps some will download this without thought to the quality or provenance of the download, but the real record is a vinyl, double LP,” Costello said. “That’s what was written, that’s the scope of the record and that’s what we’re offering. It looks best like that and it sounds best like that.”
Or, as Whitfield said in his soulful voice, “iPods, headsets, all this stuff — it’s just not natural.”