Music lovers lined up for blocks and sellers reported bumper trade on Record Store Day, a sign of the rebirth of vinyl in one bright point for the long-troubled recording industry.
Some 3,000 independent stores Saturday in nearly two dozen countries put out new and reissued records specially for the day, which was conceived in 2007 to support businesses facing a twin onslaught from instant digital music and corporate chains.
To mark the occasion, rock giants the Foo Fighters — accustomed to filling arenas — played a concert for 150 people at a store in a strip mall of tiny Niles, Ohio, near the home of the grandmother of frontman Dave Grohl.
Third Man Records, a Nashville store run by rocker Jack White, put on sale a reissue of Elvis Presley’s rare first single, “My Happiness,” in packaging resembling the 1953 original.
On one of the year’s first summery days in New York, several stores had waits of more than an hour as fans sought to buy some of the 400 special releases on sale in the United States.
Kim Gordon of alternative rock icons Sonic Youth and classic English punks the Buzzcocks held signings at the New York branch of Rough Trade, which also put on artist events at its original British locations and in Paris.
Vinyl-only store In Living Stereo, which opened several years ago in Manhattan’s stylish Noho neighborhood, welcomed shoppers with free cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and live bands as special editions sold quickly.
“We are selling everything. This is bigger than any other year,” said co-manager David McDaniel.
– Major growth, but still niche –
Led by impassioned audiophiles rather than casual listeners, vinyl — declared dead by many after the advent of CDs and digital music — has soared in recent years in Western countries and Japan.
The United States is by far the largest vinyl market and saw 9.2 million records sold last year, up 260 percent since 2009, according to industry tracker Nielsen.
While much smaller in total, Australia witnessed the fastest growth in vinyl among major markets last year, with revenue jumping 127 percent since 2013, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
Reissues have helped fuel the growth. The top-selling vinyl LP in the United States since 2010 has been a reissue of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road.”
The boom has had an economic impact, with some 200 new record stores opening last year in the United States and Canada, according to an industry group.
Despite the rapid expansion vinyl still counted for just two percent of the $15 billion global recording industry.
Streaming — which allows unlimited on-demand digital music — has witnessed the biggest growth, although it remains controversial with some artists who charge that the payout is paltry.
– ‘Experiencing’ vinyl –
Many audiophiles swear that vinyl offers a greater sound quality and are willing to pay prices than run significantly higher than CDs or digital music.
Vinyl also offers an aesthetic value in an age where virtually all music can be found instantly online.
“Music isn’t quantifiable, but when you have vinyl you can hold it and see it. It turns into multiple media,” said Amy Barenboim as she waited outside Other Music, one of New York’s best-known independent record stores.
Barenboim earlier went to a nearby store to buy a reissue of “Perfect From Now On” by Built to Spill, the Idaho band known for Doug Martsch’s noisy but intricate guitar who also released a new album for Record Store Day.
Ian Francis, who was flipping through hip-hop and funk records, said that vinyl required fans to engage more with the music, including listening to an album from start to finish and feeling the product.
“Vinyl is very physical — you take it out, put the needle, and clean it,” he said.
“That’s the thing about vinyl — it’s an experience.”