The mystique of vinyl
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
In the US, there was a double-digit increase (11.2 percent) in record sales during the lockdown.
Record stores today are about as common as a month in Vancouver where it does not rain. We live in an era where music is accessible via streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Pandora. The era of listening to vinyl appears to be outdated as VHS tapes, LaserDiscs, CDs, and DVDs. But vinyl is not extinct though, and there are several record stores in Vancouver: Neptoon Records, Zulu Records, and Vinyl Records. Locally, two record stores continue to cater to the vinyl-loving consumer.
Sunrise Records, located inside Coquitlam Centre, is one of the few stores in the Tri-Cities area that sell vinyl, and they first opened in Toronto in 1977. The company has stores across Canada with 10 locations in BC. The Coquitlam Centre location has a large selection of vinyl, and it is all strategically placed directly within your path as you walk inside the store. So, it was not a surprise when the official Sunrise Records website stated in 2017 that it had converted numerous stores to provide a better selection of LPs for customers: “Of the converted stores, Sunrise planned to stock a larger and broader array of music in comparison to HMV, including larger selections of vinyl records and music by local independent artists, as well as expanded offerings of music and entertainment apparel and merchandise.”
Another record store is Apollo Music, located in south Port Coquitlam (8-2260 Tyner Street). Their official website states they offer customers used vinyl, new vinyl, record sleeves, turntables, supplies, and accessories. Their inventory contains all music genres ranging from 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelic, British Invasion, and garage bands of the 1960s. In addition, other genres include jazz, sweet soul, R&B and funk, blues, classic rock, punk, rockabilly, country, classical, and soundtracks. They also purchase vinyl, specifically rock, blues, jazz, and soul audiophile. What’s more, they buy LPs and 45s, including other items as stated on their website: “We stock an incredible selection of thousands of 7” 45 rpm singles to stuff the jukebox. Outer poly record sleeves, inner anti-static records sleeves, carbon fibre brushes, and cleaning supplies are always on hand.”
Many people love vinyl including myself; there is something special and unique about it. Record lovers like the sound that resonates, while others love how it looks—especially holding a record in one’s hands. Also, many enjoy walking into a record store and searching for the records to buy and bring home to play on the turntable. This pleasurable odyssey and excursion are like an audio easter egg scavenger hunt.
Plus, some people love the nostalgic experience of listening to records; vinyl takes many back to their youth. During the 1970s and 1980s, records stores were as commonplace as phone booths, VCRs, and McDonald’s restaurants. Also, popular record store chains Sam the Record Man, A&A Records, and A&B Sound were a paradise haven for vinyl lovers.
However, the pandemic in 2020 negatively affected vinyl. When lockdowns started in March 2020, businesses closed along with events being cancelled and postponed, including the popular Record Store Day (RSD) (postponed to June 2021 in Canada). RSD is an annual event that celebrates independent record stores worldwide. According to Alan Cross, in a Global News article published online last August, the cancellation of RSD ended the usual increase of sales in the spring: “The industry was robbed of usual spring excitement.” Also, sales of vinyl decreased with Cross adding, “All the indie stores were closed for weeks and all the usual record sales have been cancelled.”
On the other hand, as reported again by Cross, vinyl sales in some countries flourished during the pandemic. In the US, there was a double-digit increase (11.2 percent) in record sales during the lockdown. Also, in the UK, the Love Record Stores Day event held on June 20 noticed over one million pounds ($1.73 million CDN) of total records sold in one 24-hour period. Furthermore, Japan and Australia showed steady vinyl sales. Additionally, in Germany, during the first six months of the pandemic, the entire music industry increased by 4.8 percent—due to high revenues from sales of vinyl.
In Canada, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have indeed affected the shopping habits of Canadians—who decided to avoid physical music products. Cross offers his reason for the decline in Canadian vinyl sales: “In fact, we’re embracing streaming at a rate higher than Americans. Is it because we’ve been more careful about venturing out during the pandemic? Maybe.”
Finally, Sunrise Records and Apollo Music continue to sell vinyl in the Tri-Cities area. Despite the challenges COVID-19 has had on retail businesses and buyer’s shopping habits, record stores and the demand for vinyl still has a place in today’s music-listening culture.