September 26, 2014 - 7:30 PM
KELOWNA – Two local record shops in downtown Kelowna are part of a growing trend that’s making buying music social again.
While MP3s and online music are shutting down mega chains like HMV and A&B Sound, small record shops like Underground Music and Milkcrate Records are thriving.
Underground manager Angela Stobart still has the first album she ever bought. She was five years old.
“It was an Elvis Presley album,” she says. “I saved my allowance for weeks and I’ve still got it at home.”
She says digital downloads just can’t compete with the tactile experience of buying music from a store.
“When you buy a brand new record, you take it home and slip the record out for the very first time, read the back and inner sleeves and have an experience,” she says. “It’s more tangible than a download.”
Many new artists have embraced vinyl and are pushing the boundaries of what records bring to the (turn) table. Former White Stripes front man Jack White released his latest solo album earlier this year on vinyl first. (See video below.)
Peter Jeffery is the owner of Milkcrate Records. Since opening two and a half years ago, sales have more than tripled at his Ellis Street location. He says the subtle quality of the recordings combined with the impressive album art they come with are what attracts music lovers of all ages to the medium.
“The bulk of our customers are under 30,” he says. “We initially thought it would be half baby-boomers and half kids but it’s roughly two-thirds the kids.”
Stobart says she too was surprised at how many teenagers come into her store every day.
“We see a bit of everybody in here,” she says. “I kind of assumed I’d be selling records to people my own age but probably 80 per cent are to the younger crowd.”
Curiosity drove Asa Lambert, 21, to buy her first record player a month ago and though she is impressed with the sound, she says the tactile experience is also important.
“You don’t really see CDs or cassette tapes anymore because of MP3s,” she says. “But there’s something nice about having a hard copy. It’s more of an experience.”
Nick Hachey, 28, is just starting his collection.
“There’s something more intimate to (vinyl)," he says. "I like classic rock but I’m pretty stoked to come across new stuff like Adventure Club or Modest Mouse.”
“All the artists want to be out on vinyl,” Jeffery says. “It’s got a better sound so it’s a better representation of what they do.”
Jeffery says the resurgence of old fashioned music stores has another benefit as well.
“We get lots of people coming from all over,” he says. “Tourists will come in just to check out record stores in a new town. It’s the unknown, the surprise of what they’re going to find here that they don’t have back home.”
He says he never really thought he’d see the day when crowds of teenagers would be grouped together, browsing for something that catches their eye and sharing that experience with friends in the same room.
"We're very community-focused," Jeffery says. “We learn what our customers are into, who they like and we try to help them discover new artists that they maybe haven't heard about.”
Since opening he has hosted more than 70 free, all-ages sidewalk shows featuring local bands as well as those passing through.
“Any of the local kids that have music in our store get 100 per cent of the sales,” Jeffery says. “It promotes the local music scene and helps them get started.”
According to Nielsen SoundScan, vinyl record sales in Canada have more than doubled in the last five years. And despite the ability to store and play thousands of songs on something the size of a cassette tape, many aficionados are keeping their large sound systems.
“They don't need it, but it’s like their shrine to music," Jeffery says. "It's about more than just sound."
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014