By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
David Whitt was given his first vinyl record when he was 9 years old.
In the time it took to listen to the entire Devo album, Whitt admitted he was hooked and wanted more. This came at a time when everything began moving toward a digital platform and it became a norm to own an iPod stuffed with thousands of songs.
However, the crackle of a vinyl revival has been getting louder in the past decade.
“Vinyl record sales are through the roof right now,” Whitt said. “I think the younger generation is coming to the understanding that a hard copy of something is the best thing to have.”
Vinyl records, which have experienced a sales boom in the last seven years, increased from 1 million to 6 million units sold in 2013. In 2014, vinyl saw nearly a 52 percent increase in sales.
This still pales in comparison to digital streaming.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, which measures point-of-sale of recorded music products, there were almost 50 billion video and audio streaming downloads in 2013. But vinyl’s resurgence has provided a heartbeat in an industry of dwindling sales.
Whitt is among those who have rediscovered vinyl through the quality of sound it produces.
“There’s something nostalgic and very real about owning a record,” Whitt said. “There is nothing real about a CD in my opinion. You preserve a record long enough and it will last decades. You are not going to find a 70-year-old CD. If you do, it won’t be playable.”
The difference in sound lays within the technology.
Whitt said because music on CDs and MP3s is digitally compressed, the spectrum of sound record on an analog record is wider.
“I thought it was cool when I realized that the songs were in the grooves on the record,” he said. “The process of making vinyl is more unique.”
Whitt and a few of his friends spend the majority of their weekends in search of those rare collectibles that are left out for sale in thrift stores, garage sales and on Craigslist.
It’s the rush of finding a rare vinyl record that gets Whitt out of bed early on a Saturday morning.
“It takes a lot of legwork. It’s about finding that rare record for $1 in a garage sale,” Whitt said. “I prefer to dig for those records. The younger generation is going to buy online. But the more they collect, the more they will realize that digging is where it’s at.”
Chris Fisher, owner of Abbey Road Music Inc. at 3110 King Road in China Township, has been an avid collector of vinyl records to the point that he named his store after the famous Beatles’ album.
The store’s interior is lined with vinyl records to coincide with the resurrection of the black discs.
“We spin records a lot inside the store,” Fisher said. “About 99 percent of the time the music playing in the store is vinyl.”
As a member of the older generation that lived and died, note for note by the Beatles, Fisher said he’s glad to see younger customers curious about vinyl.
Fisher has taken notice of the rise in popularity and thinks the album covers have played a large part in attracting younger listeners.
“With every CD, you very seldom have a meaning to their cover,” he said. “Artists are promoting themselves instead of the artwork. Vinyl is the opposite and draws you in that way.”
As time goes on, Fisher said Abbey Road Music will be selling more vinyl. He is looking to put an additional 400 albums out on display.
St. Clair resident Robin Kovacs-VanDaele began collecting records a year ago because of her son.
“My son is a DJ in Detroit and found a bunch of records on Craigslist,” she said. “We bought more than 4,000 records and an old Magnavox console record player from the 1960s.”
Kovacs-VanDaele enjoys buying records for the unique sound they produce as well as the jacket covers they come with.
Her vinyl collection is a variety of different genres from the 1950s through the early ’90s, including jazz, rock, hip-hop/rap and techno.
“My niece and a co-worker, who are both in their 20s, have taken a liking to my collection,” she said. “I enjoy in their delight of this era and am excited that vinyl is making a comeback.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 26, 2015)