In recent years it seems that the age for vinyl records has been resurrected. You are witnessing record labels promoting their artists not just on iTunes or Spotify but encouraging the consumer to purchase the album on vinyl. Even labels like Third Man Records are establishing their own record pressing plant. Do trends like this give hope to the ever dying record store? Would you even go as far to say that the gaining popularity of vinyl records is a trend?
A few weeks ago MOMA ps1 held a music festival where over 60 record labels participated. The day was filled with live performances, panels, films, and workshops. Among all the activities and dialogue surrounding the fate of the fading vinyl record era was the label fair. A single warehouse room was stocked full of labels promoting artists and giving all those who attended the opportunity to add to their, I assume, already growing vinyl record collection. However I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that a lot of those in attendance weren’t necessarily there for their love of vinyl records and the experience you get when listening to one but the fact that it may have just been the place to be on a casual Sunday afternoon. I was expecting a completely different vibe heading into the festival, one filled with other music lovers who believe there is something sacred about the vinyl record and listening to an artist’s album from start to finish, not just caring about the hit single from it.
When someone would consider themselves a music enthusiast “back in the day”, they would not only have an extensive vinyl record collection, but they would know everything about an album and the artist. To this day, my father is one of those people. When it comes to music from the 70s and before, he can name the song, album, and artists in under 10 seconds. It’s pretty remarkable, and his record collection is one of the most impressive ones I have ever witnessed. I have vivid memories of my father quizzing me every time he was playing his music. I frankly don’t know if I’ll ever be on his level when it comes to the knowledge he has on records. That can come down to the era of music I and so many others around my age grew up in. Our era was all about hit singles and that song staying number one at the top of the charts. Nowadays it isn’t so much about making an album of art and soul that is able to touch people and bring them together, it’s more about who can produce the best song right now that will be played everywhere, forcing itself into your head. Don’t get me wrong, I still think there are people out there who encompass the traditional music enthusiast mindset like my father, and secretly I was thinking this festival would be filled with them. Walking around though, taking everything in I couldn’t help but realize that wasn’t the case. Instead I found myself surrounded by people who felt that this event was the place to be for a Sunday afternoon and all of social media had to know.
In all honesty, I was hoping the festival would give me hope for this integral section of the music industry but it just kept me wondering what the true fate is of record stores and vinyl records altogether. With Record Store Day this Saturday, finding one to go to is becoming a harder task everyday. Is it on us, the consumer, to keep them alive? Or on record labels to incentivize us to purchase records instead of mp3’s? Or is it a combination of both? Only time will tell, but for now you can catch me buying records locally and listening to them religiously on my record player somewhere in Brooklyn.