Redecorating Our Record Stores. And: Five Tips From Josh Bizar!
Last week, Steve Guttenberg posted an entry at his Audiophiliac blog reporting that vinyl sales had recently surpassed that of the compact disc.
"It was bound to happen," he wrote.
After years of decline and the steadily rising tide of iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, et alCD numbers are now in freefalland the LP has finally regained its position as the world's most popular physical music format!
Whatyou didn't hear about this? How did you manage to miss this bit of news? Well, it was a joke. It was April 1. However, there may be more truth to Steve's lighthearted report than we realize.
Have I told you that I love CDs? Yes, it is true. CDs are small and shiny and easy to use. CD packaging is getting better and better all of the time, too. I still hate jewel cases and their impossible-to-open protective seals, but the soft and friendly discpacks are often creatively designed and offer a look and feel that is similar to LPs' glorious gatefolds. The discpack packaging for Cat Power's Jukebox, for instance, is absolutely delicious.
Come to me, Chan.
The packaging for the LP version, however, is even better, is even more. It doesn't seem so long ago that you couldn't even find new albums on vinyl. Now, they're everywhere. Now, you walk into the Virgin Megastore in Times Square and see the vinyl before you see the CD. Now, you walk into Tunes in Hoboken and find that they've done some redecorating, taking the island of CDs that occupied the center of their backroom and replacing it with stacks and stacks of old and dusty, wonderful vinyl. And new stuff, too, of course. Cat Power is there, leaning over for you and over for you and over for you. And Radiohead is all in rainbows, and Iron & Wine is so colorful and bright.
Five years ago, I couldn't have imagined it being like this. But, now, with hi-res downloads and hi-fi music servers gaining popularity, it's not all that difficult to imagine vinyl albums pushing compact discs into some dark corner. I'll walk into Tunes to find both the front and backrooms shining with new and used vinyl, CDs reduced to afterthoughts of stoop sales and the Goodwill.
Just moments before I was set to post this entry, I received a public relations notice with the subject heading, "Five Tips for Vinyl Record Virgins."
Have I told you that I am a vinyl record virgin? Yes, it is true. I come from a different generation. My first music purchases came in the form of cassette. And I held on too long. I don't think I bought my first CD until I was a senior in high school. The boombox I carried with me to college was the same one I used everyday up until two years ago. I saw and admired my DJ friends carrying their crates of vinyl, but, up until very recently, vinyl didn't make much sense for me. I've collected albums here and there, transporting them from one dorm room to another and from one basement to the next, but I haven't listened to them much. Now, my small vinyl collection takes up the bottom shelf of my Target bookcase, waiting for me to acquire the appropriate turntable. I'm keeping myself waiting, too, delaying pleasure.
I am a vinyl record virgin. Like all virgins, vinyl record virgins need a little coaching before we get really serious. Josh Bizar of the now-famous MusicDirect says that his company's vinyl sales are up over 300% since 2005, and, for all those teenagers and twenty-somethings that are flocking to his store, Josh has put together a quick "how to" guide to getting that proverbial needle in the proverbial groove.
Josh Bizar's "Five Tips for Vinyl Record Virgins"
1. Find the Right Turntable
Used record players are a dime a dozen at garage sales and thrift stores, but a 30 year old record player could have many problems. Make sure you get a really good service tech to get it up and playing properly. [If you want to give it a shot yourself, you might also try following Michael Fremer's 21st Century Vinyl turntable set-up DVD.SM] There are also countless new turntables on the market today. For an investment of $300, you can buy an amazing new turntable with 21st century technology that will be perfect right out of the box.
2. Set Up Your System with Care
Any turntable will need to be properly set up to get the maximum amount of music out of your record. That means finding someone who knows how to install the phono cartridge (needle) properly to get the most music out of the grooves. Also, make sure you place your turntable on a rock-solid shelf to keep vibrations away.
3. Look for Quality Vinyl
Thrift shops, garage sales, used record stores and even your uncle's basement are great places to start your vinyl collection. There are also more new LPs pressed today than anytime since the mid-80s.
4. Take Care of Your Record Collection
Avoid all those ticks and pops, by removing the decades of grunge from the grooves with a really good record brush and record cleaning fluids. There are even special record cleaning machines that do all the work for you and will vacuum dry the LP so you can play it immediately. Clean records not only sound better, they're much more valuable.
5. Bring Your Records into the 21st Century
The biggest trend in vinyl right now is taking your records and making them digital. Many newer turntables can connect directly to your computer via USB, and even older, standard turntables can run through a special USB Converter and achieve the same effect. Download some free "ripping" software, like Audacity, and you're ready to put your record collection right on your iPod.
Great tips, Josh. Thanks! Now I am prepared to lose my vinylinity.