To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of LPs are apparently greatly exaggerated. At a time when almost all music is digitized–most of that downloaded to phones and ipods–vinyl records are, for a growing number of listeners, a viable and exciting way to hear their favorite music. Local music outlets nationwide now stage Record Store Day, an annual celebration of vinyl that attracts hordes of music enthusiasts hoping to add limited-edition LPs to their record collections. This year’s National Record Store Day took place Saturday, with dozens of area record stores joining this homage to vinyl.
After the music industry shift to digital and file-sharing killed big record chains such as Tower Records and Rose Records in the 1990s, independent record stores have been clawing back from their near-death-experiences. A renewed interest in vinyl is helping. Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 to cater to a growing group of LP enthusiasts, and to the growing number of musical groups that are now releasing their albums on vinyl. The website Recordstoreday.com describes the day as “a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the U.S. and thousands of similar stores internationally.”
Peter and Jodi Gianakopoulos will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Old School Records, 7446 Madison St., next month. Jodi Gianakopoulos said that the biggest change she and Peter have experienced since opening was how, “the music industry has helped vinyl …The media is finally helping out the little guy.” She has been in the record business since 1986 and declares that it is “really fun to be a vinyl vendor” because there is “a lot of history.” Now “kids think records are cool,” she said, “which closes the generation gap” and amuses the older people. “Record Store Day is bigger every year,” said Gianakopoulos, because records are “culturally indelible.”
Gar Brandt has worked at Reckless Records for 10 years, though he just started working at their Forest Park branch when it opened a month ago at 7511 Madison St. The space was previously owned by record and collectible shop Cyclopx. The owner of Cyclopx wanted to sell the entirety of his stock along with the space, so Reckless Records swept in and took over. Brandt said that Reckless Records’ stock is “primarily used LPs.” He says the new location in Forest Park will make it “easier for Reckless Records’ customers to shop and trade outside of the city” because they won’t have to deal with parking and driving in Chicago. To Brandt, owning a record is like “owning a piece of history.”
Val Camilletti, 73-year-old owner of Val’s halla Records at 239 Harrison St. Oak Park calls the record industry “remarkable” and credits it with “giving life where life was sucked away.” Camilletti started working at Capitol Records 50 years ago. She opened the store in 1972– the same year WXRT was born. On Saturday WXRT deejays Terri Hemmert and Lyn Brehmer dropped by to join the festivities.
Camilletti, like many other vinyl enthusiasts, views music as a way to express one’s identity and each LP as a piece of art. She believes that the order of songs on a record are that way for a reason and are meant to be experienced in that particular sequence. “Music is personal. It is an art form, not a piece of dry goods. People appreciate that,” said Camilletti. “Not long ago, the only place to buy music was your local, independent record store,” she said. Record Store Day is a “time to honor” those independent stores.
Record Store Day brought Val’s halla the “single biggest day all year” in regards to sales thanks to hundreds of limited edition titles, a store-wide sale, concert ticket giveaways and live music.
Val’s halla recently bounced back from a financial scare in December, during which friends and concerned individuals held fundraisers to increase the shop’s LP stock. Camilletti hopes to increase live performances by providing more seats for older audiences as well as investing in an entire stage set-up for performing bands.
Alan Hefflefinger opened his record store, Oak Park Records, 179 S. Oak Park Ave., in November of 2004. Back then, the store did not have a very large customer base, but this has changed in the past three or four years. He said that he is getting more young people as customers lately. “Record Store Day is our Christmas,” said Hefflefinger. Oak Park Records is primarily a used record store. “95% of our stock is vintage,” Hefflefinger said. He credits the recent resurgence of interest in vinyl to the growth of record collecting as a hobby. He also noted that “the experience is greater than sound quality.”