Give it a spin: Music lovers rediscovering the joys of vinyl records

Ian Boyd
Ian Boyd, co-owner of Compact Music on Bank Street, says sales of vinyl records have "gone through the roof" over the past few years. File photo

By Brian Dryden

At least two Ottawa record shops can attest to the fact that vinyl records are once again making some noise in a predominantly digital industry.

Not long ago, vinyl records were considered a relic of the past. However, there has been a surprising resurgence in their popularity in recent years, spurred on by special events such as the annual Record Store Day (RSD), first held in San Francisco on April 19, 2008.

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RSD celebrates everything about vinyl records, from album cover art to the actual music. The day also highlights special vinyl album releases that are only sold at RSD-participating record stores across North America – including some here in Ottawa. 

Traditionally held in April, the next RSD is Black Friday, Nov. 25. It promises to be the busiest day of the year for Ottawa’s ODDs & SODs Shoppe.

The owner of the business on Merivale Road in Ottawa, Mike Pilkington, and manager Mark Othmer agree that vinyl is “extremely important” to the record store’s bottom line. The shop also sells CDs, DVDs and music-related books and paraphernalia, such as posters and T-shirts. Still, vinyl records account for more than half of its sales.

“As prices are going up to $50 to $60 per record, customers are thinking twice about purchasing one or two records at a time. It is a concern, but for most vinyl addicts, the price is a side effect of the hobby and does not get in the way of collecting.”

The cost of used vinyl records, depending on the condition, is significantly lower than for new vinyl releases, which can go as high as $40, compared with about $20 for a new CD release. However, ODDs & SODs has not seen any significant impact from the rising price of new vinyl on sales, at least for now.

“No, not yet,” said Pilkington. “It will when the average price gets closer to $50 and up. As prices are going up to $50 to $60 per record, customers are thinking twice about purchasing one or two records at a time. It is a concern, but for most vinyl addicts, the price is a side effect of the hobby and does not get in the way of collecting. 

“If it is affecting any one group, it would be the younger music fan,” he continued. “But with the increased interest in a physical music product (as opposed to streaming and downloading), we see an increase in younger music fans opting for the CD option.”

In general, things are rocking and rolling for stores that sell vinyl records.

“It doesn’t seem to be slowing down,” Pilkington said. “It continues to grow and gain interest. Once music fans re-discover the importance of sound quality and the interactive experience of listening to vinyl, we can’t see them going back to the more passive forms of listening.”

‘A lifestyle choice’

Ian Boyd, co-owner of Compact Music on Bank Street, says the record store business is targeted at the 20 to 25 per cent of people who “value” listening to music at home.

“It is a lifestyle choice,” he said. “Do you want to spend all your time watching Netflix at home, or do you enjoy the value of listening to music in your home? It all depends on your lifestyle.”

Boyd has been in the record store business for more than 40 years and has been through both good times and lean times. He says the resurgence of vinyl sales has had a large impact on his store.

“It is a very important aspect of our business. I don’t want to get into percentages, but it is one of our main focuses,” Boyd said. “Ten years ago, I was worried. Nobody was buying turntables. But now that is not the case. Turntable and vinyl sales have gone through the roof. I have seen that firsthand.”

Five record stores in Ottawa are registered as RSD participants this year: ODDs & SODs Shoppe, Compact Music, and three Sunrise Records outlets (Rideau Centre, St. Laurent Shopping Centre and Carlingwood Shopping Centre).

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