The Lucrative Business of Vinyl Resale

The Lucrative Business of Vinyl Resale

Record Stores Cash in on Victoria’s Vinyl Resurgence

Originally published in CVV Magazine on April 15, 2016

Underneath Victoria, the sleepy island city known best for its plethora of all-day brunch spots, its thriving beer and medical marijuana industries, and its booming tech sector, there is a new trend bubbling up that is a little, er… less progressive. The 2000s are over, CDs are dead—and people are buying used records again.

IMG_9784-1024x683
Ditch Records

Records have been coming back for a few years now. Particularly in smaller cities, people take life a little slower, and tend to have more time for their hobbies and collections. Most importantly, people actually want a physical form to listen to music, whether its CDs or old cassettes to play in their car or a slab of vinyl on the record player at home. With the majority of music going to online streaming services, more people are turning to vinyl because they want a tangible form to enhance the experience of listening to music—and to have their own collections to show off and share with family and friends.

Michael Cline is the owner of Vinyl Envy, Victoria’s newest record store, opening one year ago on April 1st, 2015. Cline has capitalized on the upward trend of record sales, opening a niche-market store in a year where people were once seemingly all going to go digital. “There’s people that gave it up, and sold all their vinyl or gave it away 20 years ago because they weren’t playing it and [the industry] changed over to CDs, and now they go, ‘I kind of miss the whole vinyl thing and I want to get back to where I was before,’” he says. “And so they come into the store buying their old collection all over again.” In fact, 2015 might have been the biggest year for record sales since its resurgence, with more people buying used records than ever before.

12991880_10154158387502774_1154987618_o-768x512
The Turntable

Gary Anderson is the owner of The Turntable in Fan Tan Alley, a local vinyl institution that will have been in the same location for 30 years this September. “I’d say [record sales] have gone up 15 or 20 percent for me in the last year,” he says. “What we’ve seen is basically the demise of vinyl through the 80s and 90s, watching that die out, and then watching CDs grow, the popularity of that, and now watching records [come] back, watching vinyl, so that’s pretty big in the industry to be around long enough to see those items go in and out of favour,” he says. Anderson reckons that last year was the biggest peak he’s seen in 20 years of selling records. “From 7 years ago we started noticing a slight increase in people buying [records], he says. “I think last year could have been a peak, because this year’s not the same as last year.”

Ernie Brach is Anderson’s right-hand man, and handles most of the sales, and he disagrees. “I can’t say it has [levelled off], it is at the moment,” he says. “Last year was busier than this year was, but it’s also this time of year. I’ll be able to say later in the summer, but I don’t think it has,” he says. The vinyl craze sweeping the city is evident in The Turntable’s small store, which is packed with customers browsing the impressive collection on a Thursday afternoon.

The vinyl resurgence is further exemplified by record events such as International Record Store Day, which happens every year on April 16th, and features specialty releases and one-offs. A more locally-focused event is the semi-annual Vinyl Supernova record fair at the Fernwood Community Centre, which draws stores like The Turntable and private collectors alike from all over the island. I caught up with the event’s organizer Ryan Wugalter ahead of this year’s first event on March 26th to discuss some of the changes he’s made this year in response to its increase in popularity in 2015.

“The vintage market was an idea I’d had for a while as a way to attract even more people to the event,” he says. “I’m not sure if it’ll be a permanent change, but I wanted to try it at least once because I have a bunch of contacts in the vintage world. Next time, instead of the vintage market, I might fill the upstairs space with records too and see how that goes,” he says. Hundreds of people flooded the Fernwood Community Centre on the Easter long weekend to browse the predominantly classic rock vendor collections, or to search out specific rarities missing from their own collections.

As Michael Cline says of the experience of opening a brand new store, “that’s the fun of the store, is getting people the collections that they want.” Cline says he’ll often do research and hunt down specific records for regular customers if they can’t find what they’re looking for in the store. “My niche is kind of being able to get people what they want in a collection, but also turn them onto things that they might not have heard of before,” he says. Though he carries many genres including indie, hip-hop, and electronic, he says he tries to buy based on his own knowledge, and carries a lot of classic rock and deep catalogue jazz and blues.

unspecified
Vinyl Envy

Even with newer records, there aren’t nearly as many being made as there were back in the 1960s and 70s. “Led Zeppelin records, they made millions of them,” says Brach, “so a certain number have survived to be in good shape, [but] now they’re only making thousands of [popular new records].”

“The industry is very healthy, as long as the major record labels don’t get too greedy,” says Cline. “At this point its being done in about 25 or 30 presses around the world, and they’re running at probably 85 or 90 percent capacity,” he says. “There’s also no new equipment being made—[so] they’re making their own machine shops inside of their pressing plants because they have to make new parts. It’s crazy,” he says.

Anderson agrees that the prices of new records are at a point of becoming dangerously high. “It’s greed,” he says. “Unfortunately the record companies seem to be hell bent on blowing up the industry again.”

12674156_10154690603473989_1763922496_n-768x576
Vinyl Supernova photo by Pete Moore

“As long as vinyl has been around, people have been collecting it,” says Wugalter. “Digital music is more convenient but it definitely isn’t as fun as vinyl. People of a certain generation like “things,” they like to hold them and look at them and buy them. I think that as time goes on and that generation dies out, less people will be interested in vinyl, but not because it’s vinyl, but because it’s a “thing,”” he says. “This is sort of a hey-day for people who never stopped collecting LPs through the years of cassettes and compact discs. They are cashing in big-time and I’m pleased to have created an event that can help them along in that.”

“Last year we were in uncharted territory monetarily,” says Anderson. “I actually have a bank account now. I’ve never had one before, because I just fly by the seat of my pants,” he says. “Sometimes you have to think outside of the box in order to stay alive.” But what he says he doesn’t understand is how new reissues of old records are now being sold for more than the originals themselves.

“Actually the money’s in the old records,” says Cline, who sells both new and used records in his store. “We all make roughly the same margin on the new stuff, it’s all in the same ballpark because we have to be competitive,” he says. “Everybody knows their records well enough and there’s not that many [record stores] in town.”

“We can’t tell what this year’s going to be like because unfortunately more stores have opened up that are selling vinyl,” says Anderson, referring to Cline’s Vinyl Envy and the vintage clothing stores that have started selling records in the past year. He says it will be fine “as long as the big box stores don’t start threatening to sell vinyl,” though.

“Whatever gets more people talking about [vinyl], thinking about it, and doing it more is beneficial to all,” says Brach. “It’s the hot thing right now, and we’ve been through good years, bad years, all sorts of years,” he says. “Last year was a very good year for us, and if this year’s even just 90 percent of that it will be a good year again.”

“I started [Vinyl Supernova] in November 2013 and I’ve just seen bigger and bigger crowds attending,” says Wugalter. He says that the resurgence of vinyl in Victoria has only helped to get more people interested in the event.

Cline, who’s relatively new to the industry by comparison, is just having fun with it. “I’m lucky that I can purchase what I want and play it in the store,” he says. “I don’t see it as a sales job at all, it’s more like, you need to hear this, this is really good!”

IMG_9794-1024x683
Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly on display at Ditch Records

The vinyl resurgence in Victoria is having an impact on everything from used record sales, which are up by more than 15 percent, according to Anderson, to independent live music in the city, which is showcased at weekly concerts in Cline’s Vinyl Envy store on Quadra. And while a few major record labels currently control the production of vinyl, the future looks promising with new technology being developed that could allow bands to press their own records cheaply at home. “I think we can see another 8 or 10 years here of records being sold,” says Anderson.

Certainly, the vinyl craze in Victoria doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.

“By doing this, I’ve learned that it isn’t really that complex,” says Wugalter. “The people who come to record fairs want one thing: records, lots of records, more records than they can possibly browse through! I’ve learned that as long as I continue to fill the room with records, the people will continue to come. At least for now…”

Click here for more info about Record Store Day 2016

ZZ Top Rocks Victoria

Originally published in CVV Magazine on April 10, 2016

Legendary Texas rockers ZZ Top played the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday, April 8.

The two boys from Texas came on to a stage lit by a huge LED backdrop to look like a starry night, and two massive stacks of white, pink, and green speakers on either side of drummer Frank Beard’s impressive double-kick-drum Tiki-themed kit.

Photos by Dean Kaylan

With no introduction from main man Billy Gibbons, they jumped right into it, opening with Eliminator’s “Got Me Under Pressure.” ZZ Top is arena-filling rock at its very best—that fat guitar sound and strong rhythm section makes you feel a sense of excitement and anticipation, like when a hockey team first skates out onto the ice. It’s the reason politicians will often use classic rock to pump people up for rallies, or as exit music to keep people excited to vote after they’ve left the stage.

But there’s nothing political about ZZ Top; their best songs speak purely to the people. “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” from their classic 1973 album Tres Hombres in some ways epitomize the group’s bluesy, soulful sound. “Are you having a good time?” Gibbons growled at the audience in his deep, hoarse voice before launching into another big Eliminator single, “Gimme All Your Lovin.’”

Gibbons and his bass-playing counterpart and doppelganger Dusty Hill had some corny dance moves, though, for some of the coolest-looking rockers alive, and much of their set consisted of them trying to communicate, side by side, and then swinging their guitars back and forth in sync as they played. Gibbons had tried to modernize his look with some skinny jeans and a fitted leather jacket, but the choreographed dance moves ended up making them look less than cool.

“I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” and “Pincusion” segued into “I Gotsta Get Paid” and “Flying High” from 2012’s La Futura, the latter sounding strangely like a classic 80s pop hit. The trio then played a couple of killer covers—namely Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” and then took it down a notch to “play some blues” in what turned out to be a cover of Robert Petway’s “Catfish Blues.” The band then finished their set with a barrage of hits, including Degüello’s “Cheap Sunglasses,” and perhaps their best known song, “Sharp Dressed Man,” also from 1983’s Eliminator.

The band closed out their regular set with “Legs,” but came back on quite quickly to raucous cheers from the crowd to play an encore performance of “La Grange,” a favorite for many Top fans. They stopped mid-performance, inciting more cheers from the audience, before playing an extended version of the song that is often referred to as “Sloppy Drunk Jam.” They finished their performance with “Tush,” the last track from 1975’s Fandago! leaving the audience with the sentiment “Lord, take me downtown / I’m just lookin’ for some tush.”

Overall, ZZ Top’s second-ever performance in Victoria was a success, and fans were treated to all the greatest hits the Texas rockers have in their canon, albeit with some corny dance moves. However, even after all these years, they’ve still somehow managed to stay cool.

Check out the full set-list below.

1. Got Me Under Pressure
2. Waitin’ for the Bus
3. Jesus Just Left Chicago
4. Gimme All Your Lovin’
5. I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
6. Pincushion
7. I Gotsta Get Paid
8. Flyin’ High
9. Foxy Lady (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
10. Catfish Blues (Robert Petway cover)
11. Cheap Sunglasses
12. My Head’s in Mississippi
13. Chartreuse
14. Sharp Dressed Man
15. Legs

Encore:

16. La Grange / Sloppy Drunk Jam
17. Tush

James Blake: “Timeless”

sonar-2016-bcn-james-blake

James Blake “Timeless” begins with a slow build that is as soulful as it is smooth. Over it, Blake croons “I can’t be selfless / I’m acting my age,” the most concrete lyrics he gives us in the 4:00 long track, which premiered on his BBC Radio 1 residency. Blake is preparing to release a new album, and “Timeless” gives fans a lot to look forward to. The blend of styles Blake creates here is phenomenal, as the track builds from minimalist electronic production to a hard synth-line that mirrors trap and current hip-hop sounds, all while weaving in textures and lines that conjure everything from modern soul to Middle Eastern guitar music. But when the alarm sounds midway through the track it ironically makes “Timeless” sound not so timeless at all – it’s the moment of the drop, an extremely current and in many ways dying trend in music. “Timeless,” then, comes as a subtle comment on the current state of electronic music from one of it’s best and, arguably, one of its most likely candidates to stand the test of time.

Kaytranada: “Glowed Up” (feat. Anderson .Paak)

maxresdefault

Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up” begins with a spacey, alien-sounding intro before the beat comes in behind Anderson .Paak’s smooth, rambunctious flow. “I’m glowed up” he repeats through much of the song, perhaps referencing his recent string of guest appearances following his major-label debut Malibu. “Lately I’ve been glowed up… Feeling like the only one out here / Even if I slowed up / Got enough purp to last the whole damn night here” he sings over the track’s prominent big synth line, giving it an anthemic chorus. But then the track takes off in a new direction, and the bassy, jazzy, Flying Lotus-esque bridge/outro gives .Paak a chance to reflect on his fame and success. “Not just another name / Not just some wannabe,” he sings, and you have to agree that Anderson .Paak is pretty well here to stay – Malibu is still the best album of the year so far. But teaming up with Kaytranada here takes his talents to another level, backed by slick production and one of the most interesting beats of the year, recalling the production on Outkast’s ATLiens and updating it to rival that of Drake’s most recent work.

The Range: Potential

The-Range-Potential-hi-resJames Hinton’s second album as The Range is a concept fully realized; a stunning amalgamation of masterful production with vocals by unknown artists from the deepest corners of YouTube. And while an album about undiscovered YouTube stars called Potential might seem corny to some, Hinton captures the current cultural moment—with its wealth of burgeoning musical talent and seemingly arbitrary nature of success in the music industry—perfectly, weaving together stories that speak to the difficulty of “making it” as a musician and the potential that we all have for greatness.

“Regular” introduces this tension between struggle and success underlying the album. “Right now / I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it,” the speaker repeats a capella, as the production builds in the background. “I’ll just decide to move on to something bigger and better,” he says as the bass drops off behind him. It’s easy to forget that all the vocals on this album have been taken from YouTube videos, and weren’t recorded in a studio on top of production that was already there; rather, Hinton built tracks around the vocals, blending any unwanted background noise into the texture of his production.

And the textures he weaves together here are gorgeous. Multi-layered synths and pads create a bigger, brighter, and more polished sound than 2013’s Nonfiction. Nonfiction was one of the best electronic albums of that year, voted as such by critics and individual listeners alike. But Potential is James Hinton’s biggest statement to date. “Copper Wire” is the embodiment of this bigger, more sparkling sound. It comes in with a huge synth line, and the lyrics “All I’m trying to do from a young age / trying to get paid / But we’re all grown up / And everything’s changed.” You can picture the kid in the video, barely 9 years old, when he sings “09 was emotional / It’s a memory / I wish that everything was the same / talking like we can make it rain on a sunny day.” It clearly stuck with Hinton too, as he puts him front and center here.

Florida” was the first single released from the album, featuring a teenage girl’s YouTube Ariana Grande cover, but you wouldn’t know that from the finished product. Hinton uses her flawless, studio-quality sounding vocals as the hook on top of a tropical beat complete with steel drums and ear-shattering UK-style bass. I predict it won’t be long before Hinton finds himself playing shows with the likes of Jamie xx and other like-minded producers like Mount Kimbie and King Krule. Other highlights from the album include “Five Four,” the second single previously released alongside a touching and well-crafted music video that solidifies the album’s strong concept visually.

The second half of the album is just as good as the first, and track 8, “Skeptical,” is a clear highlight. Hinton’s affinity with East London rappers in particular is accentuated here, although the range of rappers and vocalists he draws upon span many different backgrounds, cultures, and generations. Potential’s defining message is clear and writ large: everyone has enormous potential, and learning about the stories and struggles of others only makes our own potential for greatness that much bigger. IDM, electronic, whatever you want to call it: Hinton’s conceptual vision on Potential has the power to shake up the genre—and change the way future stars get made.