The Lumberjack

Records rule again

Wall of records at People's Records. People's Records is an independent record store in Arcata, California. They are celebrating Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Matthew Hable.

The tables have turned in favor of vinyl records. While CDs and cassettes reigned king in the 1980s and 1990s, it was the rise of digital downloads and online streaming services in the 2000s that inexplicably aided in the resurgence of records. Today, records are outselling digital downloads for the first time since 2011.

“Vinyl sales were up 10 percent to $395 million — a ‘bright spot among physical formats,’ the [Recording Industry Association of America] noted [in a 2017 year-end revenue report],” Derek Hawkins of The Washington Post said. “The outlook for digital downloads is bleak. This is the third year in a row they’ve posted double-digit declines, according to the RIAA.”

As Apple commercialized MP3 downloads in the early 2000s, CD sales began to drop. Though cassettes are making a comeback in some areas now, thanks to record labels like Burger Records, they lost their popularity more significantly by that time as well.

Making our way into the 2010s, millennials caught on to the joys of listening to records as download and streaming services continued to revitalize the music industry. In fact, a great deal of new records these days include free download cards — a good incentive to get the best of both worlds, that is, a tangible medium and a digital download of an album.

Record Store Day is a global event that has happened every April since 2008. Independent record shops from all over the world participate by selling limited edition records made exclusively for Record Store Day.

“This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities,” the Record Store Day website wrote.

While it’s slim pickings in Humboldt County, People’s Records in Arcata carries a wide selection of outstanding records year-round. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, People’s Records will offer this year’s exclusive Record Store Day selections, and they’ve made extra room for more records.

“We will have many of the limited edition Record Store Day items, plus we have expanded and knocked down a couple walls in the store to accommodate 1,000 new records in our stacks,” People’s Records wrote on their Facebook page.

People’s Records in Arcata. Photo by Matthew Hable.

Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with digitalized music. The average human ear can’t detect the sample rates of professionally processed digital audio, nor can they make out the subtle differences in sound of analog waves, aside from the record’s “warmth” people commonly claim to hear in contrast to MP3s or WAV format.

However, what sets records apart from other formats is their level of interactivity and the way they appeal to the senses. The process of taking a record out from its sleeve, placing it on a turntable, carefully dropping the needle on the record and even the smell of records makes it that more special.