In the 1970’s, Prof. Canter of Mercer’s Radio Program found himself drawn to record stores. “I grew up on rock and top 40. So I was buying records all the time. I saved money from my work when I was a high school student so I could buy records.”
The article “Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing” by Ben Sisaro, published on April 18, 2008 in the New York Times reported, “Some 3,100 record stores around the country have closed since 2003.” CDs, though still outselling digital downloads, continue to lose market share having fallen 16 percent between 2007 and 2009. But, at the same time, vinyl record sales have actually rebounded from .3 Million in 1993 to 4.3 Million in 2012.
Spurred on by this resurgence of vinyl, an alliance of independent record stores, with the help of the recording industry, has been working to build momentum for the vinyl purchasing trend. Since 2007, the Saturday in the third week of April has been commemorated as National Record Store Day.
In 2013, Record store Day falls on April 20. According to their official website, recordstoreday.com, Record Store Day was conceived “as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally.”
The event’s organizers have named musician Jack White, former frontman of the White Stripes, as the official ambassador for Record Store Day 2013. As founder of the record label Third Man Records, Jack White has been instrumental in a resurgence of Vinyl records and the promotion of record collecting.
Vintage Vinyl in Fords and the Princeton Record Exchange are two record stores in our area that are participating in Record Store day this year.
According to Princeton Record Exchange’s General Manager, Jonathan Lambert, “The idea of Record Store Day is to bring awareness to the fact that one, independent record stores still exist, and two, how fun they can be.”
The Princeton Record Exchange has seen increasing sales for the event every year according to Lambert. “[Record Store Day] last year was our biggest grossing day in the history of the store.” He explained that the event increases business to “somewhere around two or three times the normal Saturday sales.” This leads to a residual surge in business. “For the next day or two, a lot of people come in who weren’t able to come in on that Saturday”
According to Lambert, a majority of what is being released for the event is in vinyl format because it is “more collectable than the CDs. So that seems to drive more people into the stores. ” Artists including Linkin Park, Mumford and Sons, the Cure, Deftones and David Bowie have vinyl offerings ready to hit the shelves on April 20 this year.
Founded in 1979, Vintage Vinyl is located in a strip mall off of US 1 in Woodbridge Township. Owner Rob Roth believes that, with the general public, “There is very little interest in record stores.” He says he has a niche, however. “People who love music appreciate physical music and not listening to downloads.”
The challenge in participating in Record Store Day is addressing the digital trend. The statistics on their problem were found in a survey of 50 random Mercer students. 78 percent of students surveyed say they download music rather than buying the CDs.
“I have a mobile DJ Business and I used to lug around these crates of albums and 45s. So when things started going digital it got easier for me…” Now his business is even more portable: “[Those] heavy crates of albums are all in a hard drive that I can fit in the palm of my hand,” said Canter.
With both smaller speakers and compressed music files, Canter thinks the sound quality is the real victim of this progress. “Even though the technology has developed so far, the audio fidelity has taken a giant step backwards.”
The idea of lesser sound quality may not resonate with the with the average MCCC student.
In the VOICE survey, only 32 percent of students surveyed think that CDs sound better than dowloads.
Kristi Giannone, a first year photography major, says she cannot hear a noticeable difference in between iTunes downloads and CDs: “If I like compared both of them, I wouldn’t really see any difference.”
Mark Moses, a seventh semester double major in Music and Recording Engineering, says he still prefers CDs: “MP3 players have so much capacity that if we just made them WAV players, we’re reducing the capacity but getting a better quality and CDs come in WAV files.”
Dave DiLapo, an Entertainment Technology major, thinks record stores are “becoming much more on a niche market because it’s really convenient to sit at home and download a CD instead of having to go to the store.”
His suspicion is confirmed at Mercer because only 10 percent of students surveyed still go to the record stores to buy music.
“There’s still a lot of people who want a physical CD to be able to have,” said DiLapo but he’s not sure if that is enough. “It’s dying out because it’s not the only way to get it.”
Profesor Canter sees the independent record store surviving, for now: “People who aren’t going to get their music on Amazon and want to go to a brick and mortar store will flock to those few outlets that are left.”