Vinyl helps keep record stores in the black

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First Posted: 4/15/2014

Digital downloads. Streaming. Pirating. Changing business models. The struggling economy. It’s no wonder why record stores are in trouble these days.

Even after the number of local Gallery of Sound stores shrunk from 10 to three over the past few years, owner Joe Nardone Jr. remains cautiously optimistic about the industry and as passionate as ever about music. What’s really surprising, though, is how stores like his are relying on the format of the past to secure a future with music lovers.

“Everyone thinks this vinyl thing is a fad or it’s a phase. Each year it’s grown, not just on Record Store Day, but vinyl has come full circle, back to holding the record and having something to show for what you spent your money on,” Nardone explained.

“Downloads sort of ruined everything in every different direction, between physical goods and even paid or free downloads or whatever – it sort of cheapened the music.

“(Vinyl is) becoming a serious part of this business again.”

Founded in 2007, the annual Record Store Day has helped drive fans across the world back into stores and, more importantly, made them embrace physical formats once again, particularly vinyl records. This Saturday, April 19, Gallery of Sound locations in Wilkes-Barre, Dickson City, and Hazleton will release everything from limited vinyl pressings to a portable Crosley Cruiser Turntable adorned with “Peanuts” images.

“Our online store sold a bunch to people from really far away, between Ohio and New York and New Jersey. These types of events bring those people to the store, and they’re going to buy their one thing and we may never see them again, but it makes it exciting. Anything we can do to create excitement at the record store these days is pretty high on my list,” Nardone noted.

“Nobody gets as excited as they used to about Tuesday street date; that doesn’t cut it anymore. You’ve got to give them something or do something to make it interesting.”

It may not be the same business “by a long shot,” but musicians are here to help. Record Store Day “ambassadors” like Jack White, Iggy Pop, Josh Homme, Ozzy Osbourne, and this year’s spokesman Chuck D are praising record stores on a national level while groups like Crobot from Pottsville are helping out locally.

Recently signed to Wind-up Records, the up-and-coming groove rock band will be performing at the Gallery of Sound in Wilkes-Barre with several other acts just after an in-store meet and greet with Taking Back Sunday and The Used. Known for their energetic stage presence, this acoustic set will be a rare live experience for Crobot, but vocalist Brandon Yeagley is ready to help “a great cause.”

“It’s definitely different, but it’s still cool because all of us have been avid acoustic players. We play acoustic sometimes when we’re at home. We just love to play music,” Yeagley said.

“It’s really another side of us. It’s another side of what Crobot is and does that a lot of people probably don’t know anything about. We definitely get down on the grandpa music too.

“I bring out the harmonica a lot more during the acoustic performances. … I’m not going to say we go ‘Layla’ on it, but we do change it a little bit.”

Releasing a self-titled EP on May 13, he added that the band was “giddy” to have the four songs recently pressed to vinyl.

“I’m an avid vinyl listener mostly for the quality, and the timbre of vinyl is just bar none. It’s scientifically even proven that the frequencies on a vinyl are much clearer and better for listening purposes than any other source of audio. Even that aside, the physical aspect of a vinyl is really the thing I don’t think should be let go of. With the falling out of CDs and people really not purchasing CDs anymore, I think we at least need to hold onto something. That’s half of it,” he enthused.

“You spend your hard-earned money on this physical piece of somebody’s extension of their soul and you take it out and it’s a ritual. You take this vinyl out, you pull it out of the plastic sleeve, you pull it out of the paper sleeve, you’re forced to look at the artwork, and maybe you have a judgment about it before you put it on and put the needle down, maybe you don’t, but each time it’s like nothing else.

“There’s something about that experience and ritual that I hope we don’t lose. Because that’s what it’s about – music is about where it takes you. It’s not about just getting through it – it’s how you get there.”

Joe Nardone Jr.’s Record Store Day exclusive release vinyl picks:

• The Animals: ‘The Animals’ EP 10-inch

• Bruce Springsteen: ‘American Beauty’ 12-inch

• Creedence Clearwater Revival: ‘The 1969 Singles’ 10-inch

• The Cure/Dinosaur Jr.: ‘Side by Side Series’ 7-inch

• Devo/The Flaming Lips: ‘Side by Side Series’ 7-inch

• The Doors: ‘Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine’

• The Flaming Lips: ‘7 Skies H3’ 12-inch

• Frank Zappa: ‘Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow/Down in De Dew’ 7-inch

• Kings of Leon: ‘Wait for Me’ 7-inch

• Nirvana: ‘Pennyroyal Tea/I Hate Myself and want to Die’ 7-inch

• Oasis: ‘Supersonic’ 12-inch

• Pixies: ‘Indie Cindy’ 12-inch

• The Pogues: ‘Live with Joe Strummer’

• Poison Idea/Pantera: ‘Side by Side Series’ 7-inch

• Ray Parker, Jr.: ‘Ghostbusters’ 10-inch

• Sam Cooke: ‘Ain’t That Good News’ 12-inch

• Soundgarden: ‘Superunknown: The Singles’