Vinyl records died in 1993. At least, that’s what the numbers would suggest. The venerable format that began in 1948 seemingly met its match in the late 1980s, as the CD and cassette tape market sent vinyl sales into a tailspin, virtually wiping it out by the early 1990s.
An unlikely and unwitting alliance between independent punk rockers, hip-hop turntablists and audiophiles propped up the vinyl market and helped it survive and stumble into the Internet age. As mainstream music moved from being a physical product into the ethereal realm of digital downloads, vinyl records started making an inexplicable comeback.
In the past decade, vinyl has been able to overcome the odds and become viable again. Vinyl sales in 2015 topped out at almost 12 million units. While it is an increase from years previous, it is still only a fraction of the overall music industry. Is the current trend just a nostalgic fad, or does it have true staying power? In order to answer that question, it is time to turn to the people who know it best, the vinyl collectors.
Owner, Grantski Records
At 26 years old, Evan Grantski falls into the “millennial” demographic of music lovers who grew up in the digital age after vinyl originally passed out of favor. He not only has a vinyl collection, he also just recently opened up a record store on Central Avenue in June of this past year. It is one thing to join the vinyl craze as a collector and it’s another thing to embrace it as a business venture in 2016.
“I was always forced to go out of town to find new records,” he says. “I knew other people in Augusta had the same problem, so I decided to open my own store.”
As a millennial who owns his own vinyl shop, he has a unique perspective on the vinyl resurgence and some of his viewpoints are rather surprising.
“Yes, it is a fad for some,” he admits. “It won’t continue growing like it is now, but I think it will level off and stick around. There won’t be a decline like before.”
Grantski sees the interest in vinyl as a backlash against a music industry that didn’t care about music lovers for years and only saw them as consumers. He feels like people who prefer vinyl are the ones who prefer quality over quantity. This is a fact that seems to defy age groups or other demographics, as he sees a wide mix of people visiting his store.
“True music lovers will go out of their way. It’s like a religious experience.”
Executive Director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau
You may recognize Randy DuTeau as the mild-mannered and enthusiastic head of the Columbia County CVB, or even as an accomplished athlete, but did you realize he was once a punk rock kid in the 1980s?
DuTeau has an extensive collection of DIY punk rock singles and albums that fills up an entire shelf, reading like a who’s-who list of mid-80s underground rock: Husker Du, Minutemen, 7Seconds, Bad Brains, among many others. When asked why he holds onto them, his enthusiasm for the music is more than evident.
“This is who I am,” he states, pointing towards the collection. According to DuTeau, the music we listen to shapes us and makes us who we are. The spirit of doing-it-yourself and being independent came out of the underground punk movement, and DuTeau is a shining example of that mentality.
When asked why vinyl holds a place above the digital realm, he indicates that digital music is too convenient and impersonal. “You can’t dive into it,” he says. “Vinyl has artwork, and it has a sleeve. On iTunes, you get nothing. You don’t get the concept of an album, because it’s too easy to skip around.”
News 12 NBC 26 | News Anchor
Local news anchor Richard Rogers can still remember getting his first album. He holds up a copy of Santana’s legendary album “Abraxas.” “I got this for 1 cent from the Columbia House Record Club,” he says, smiling. The impact of owning that first record still sticks with him decades later.
Rogers actually has two distinct record collections in his home. One is his own collection of classic rock from the 1970s and into the present, while the other belonged to his older sister, who passed away several years ago. Her collection contains rock and pop music from the 60s, and he keeps it separate in order to honor her memory.
While Rogers has a special place in his heart for his
vinyl, he is quick to point out that he doesn’t have any format prejudices. “I embrace new technology,” he says. “I just added CDs and digital to my collection, and I didn’t abandon vinyl along the way.”
And, he is also passing down this musical passion to his two children, who are both now attending college. He claims they both have their own turntables and
frequently raid his record collection for music. Rogers sees the vinyl resurgence as a positive thing and is happy to see a new generation embracing the format he grew up with.
Columnist for The Augusta Chronicle and Media and Marketing Director for the Georgia Cancer Center
It should come as no surprise that The Augusta Chronicle’s long-time music columnist and critic would have an extensive and eclectic music collection that covers multiple genres. But, Steven Uhles has his own unique way of adding new music to his vinyl stash.
“I have to ask myself, ‘Is this a vinyl act, a CD act or do I want this on my phone’,” he says thoughtfully. “How do I want this?”
For Uhles vinyl is all about ownership and longevity. He makes a determination of whether or not he wants something on vinyl according to how strongly he feels about the music.
“Do I want this to be a permanent part of my life?” he asks.
Uhles thinks the appeal of vinyl is in the way it touches the senses. He claims that you cannot only hear it, see it and touch it, but it reaches even further.
Owner, Vintage Ooollee
For Augusta’s own vintage memorabilia queen, Ooollee (aka Caren Bricker), vinyl is all about the nostalgia and her connection to the past. Her collection of 70s rock and pop records harkens back to the music of her youth.
“Vinyl touches me inside because of the memories,” she says.
Ooollee recently embarked on a new project where she is listening to her entire album collection in alphabetical order at home in the evenings a couple of nights a week, even though it requires sitting through songs she may not know or particularly like. While performing this exercise, she has found that certain records evoke forgotten memories of people and places from the past.
As far as the current vinyl resurgence is concerned, she finds it appealing and she hopes that it will force people to slow down in our fast-paced, on-demand world.
“Everything is hurry, hurry, and rush, rush,” she says. It’s important to take the time to slow down and just listen to the music.”
Garden City Jazz
Jazz musician Karen Gordon is a unique record collector in the fact that she purposefully has nothing on which to play her records. She is a self-described vinyl vagabond who owns no turntable of her own, instead relying on the availability friends who have them. Not being able to listen to her records on a regular basis is not a problem for Gordon, as she still finds inherent value in the actual record itself.
“I see the potential and the possibilities of it,” Gordon says. “The record forges a connection to the artist and a connection to the past.”
While this may seem very esoteric, it speaks to another aspect of vinyl as a physical artifact. Gordon sees her jazz collection as not only music, but also as a historical document of the people who made it. It’s something she can touch and keep as a memento. There is some comfort to Gordon in knowing that the music is there waiting for her to listen when she gets the opportunity.
Owner, Sky City & Soul Bar
As a nightclub owner and concert promoter, music is the lifeblood of Coco Rubio. It not only defines who he is, it is also his line of work. Vinyl has always been a part of his life and livelihood, and it is an ever-present element in his day-to-day existence. His vinyl collection is extensive and it touches on almost any genre you can imagine. And even though vinyl is a regular part of his life, he is still fascinated by it.
“It’s like magic,” Rubio says after some thought. “Just thinking about how it works. The music is on one long groove all the way through the record. It’s a magical thing.”
And, like Steven Uhles, he also makes reference to the olfactory nature of vinyl records, in this case, new vinyl records instead of old. To demonstrate, he reaches over to the coffee table and grabs a new, unopened record by a band called Futurebirds. He runs his fingernail along the seam to open it, pulls out the record, and takes a sniff before handing it over.
“You smell that? There’s something about being on vinyl that makes it a ‘real’ record,” he says. “The size of it, feeling it and putting the needle to the record…
Augusta University Assistant Professor of Communications
As Augusta’s resident film guru, it is fitting that Matthew Buzzell’s first foray into vinyl collecting was connected to his love for movies. After a brief search in his living room, which is filled with vinyl records, Blu-ray cases and movie posters, he pulls out a small toy car.
“When I was 9 years old, my parents gave me this Corgi James Bond Aston Martin with an ejector seat,” he says. Naturally, this led to his first official music purchase: the “Goldfinger” soundtrack. “I would put on the record and play with the car.”
Even though he was briefly “seduced” by the lure of CDs in college, he never lost his obsession with vinyl. Over the years he continued to add to his collection, focusing on elusive foreign soundtracks in particular.
For Buzzell, the love of vinyl is all about finding an emotional connection. “Just having it isn’t enough. It must be art that touches me on an emotional or sentimental level.”
He is elated to see a new generation getting into vinyl and he believes the new trend has some staying power in the long run. “In this day and age of things living in the cloud, people want to hold on to something, they want a souvenir of the experience,” he says.
Places to buy vinyl records in Augusta
2126 Central Avenue
822 Broad Street
859 ½ Broad Street
2nd & Charles
2834 Washington Rd Ste Q2
This article appears in the October 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.