German Village Gazette

Vinyl getting its groove back in central Ohio

Owners of local stores say youth driving return to records

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RYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWS
Patrick Bailey is the owner of Endangered Species: The Last Record Store on Earth at 12 N. Sandusky St. in downtown Delaware. The store has seen a steady increase in the number of vinyl records sold since 2005.
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When the news broke earlier this month that sales of new vinyl records had increased for the sixth straight year in 2013, it was music to local record store owners' ears.

It came as little surprise, though, as central Ohio's record-sellers already had seen the bump in sales for themselves.

Patrick Bailey, owner of Endangered Species: The Last Record Store on Earth in downtown Delaware, said he couldn't give records away to anyone but the hardcore collectors during much of the 1990s and early 2000s. Suddenly, in 2005, he said, record sales "started roaring back."

"We probably sell 300 records a week (now), maybe more," he said. "In 2004, we might sell 100 records a month. And now we're selling, say, 1,200 records a month."

According to Billboard, customers in the U.S. bought 6.1 million new vinyl records in 2013 -- an increase of about 33 percent compared with 2012's 4.55 million in sales.

While vinyl records still represent just a tiny sliver of overall music sales per year, other formats are trending in the opposite direction.

Sales of digital songs dropped to 1.26 billion in 2013 compared with 1.34 billion in 2012, according to Billboard. Sales of CDs have been falling steadily since the rise of digital music files.

Bailey said the vinyl revival began just as MP3 players were starting to fly off the shelves. He said many music fans listening to compressed music files through tiny headphones must have yearned for better sound quality.

"Anybody (who has) only been listening to music through earbuds has been cheating themselves out of music," he said. "If you go to a concert ... in a coffee house to Nationwide Arena, it's not earbuds you're listening to. These are speakers.

"It's coming out and filling your head with sound."

Those seekers of a pure sound kept a floundering vinyl market alive for years.

Kyle Siegrist, owner of Lost Weekend Records in Clintonville, said that by the 1990s, only disc jockeys and the most committed record fans were buying vinyl consistently.

"You had just your audiophiles who swore it sounded better," he said.

A longtime record fiend, Siegrist said he was lucky to launch Lost Weekend in 2003, just as collecting was starting to make a comeback. He said two groups are contributing heavily to the resurgence: youngsters who are just starting collections and adults who parted with their records and are trying to get back into the hobby.

"At least once a week, you get people who say, 'Man, I sold all of my records in the '90s' " looking to start a new collection, he said.

Bailey said some older customers buy as many as 10 records at a time at his store, replacing the records they had tossed out or buying the albums they always wanted but could never find.

While his younger customers may not have as much money, he said it's fun to see college, high school and middle school students flipping through the stacks in his store.

"It's back to a youth-driven thing, and that's very cool," Bailey said. "That's the way it was for years."

Laura Lewis, co-owner of Elizabeth's Records in Clintonville, said record-collecting among kids has "sort of exploded" in the last five years. She said a lot of the younger customers come in with their parents and buy the same albums the parents purchased years ago.

"When they're looking for the used stuff, they're looking for the classics: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin," she said.

Siegrist said some of his customers are parents looking to replenish their collections after their children took all of the old vinyl in the house off to college.

Along with new albums, record labels have been releasing high-quality reissues of classic albums. Bailey said young collectors who might have trouble finding an affordable copy of a Beatles album in playable condition might settle on the reissue as a substitute.

Reissues and new releases also can be paired with download codes, so collectors can take the album with them on their phone or MP3 player.

Collectors who decide to take another look at new records might experience sticker shock. New releases often sell between $20 and $40.

"If (the manufacturers would) lower the price, they would sell dramatically more records," Bailey said.

Siegrist said collectors who stopped buying albums in the early 1990s might be surprised that new records cost five to six times what they cost back then. He said some customers who wander in looking for CDs don't even realize new records are still being produced.

Siegrist said although buying vinyl may seem like a passing trend to some, he thinks the market will stay strong in the area -- even if stores don't continue to see their sales increase by a third every year.

"People kind of make it a destination to go to Columbus record shops," he said.

Bailey, who's planning a celebration of his 331/3 years in the record business in March, said he's confident record-collecting will never completely fall out of fashion.

"People like to collect. They always have," Bailey said. "Go back to Egypt. Cleopatra collected."

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