Although vinyl has been around for years, music enthusiasts say the format is dust free and fresh in 2015
Calgary is on its way to becoming the vinyl capital of Canada.
According to data from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), vinyl record sales have seen a significant increase since 2006, and that is pretty impressive for a music format sentenced to death in order to make room for CDs and other digital media.
Music fans of all kinds are finding reasons to stand up and lower the needle onto their vinyl record of choice.
“[Vinyl] should have never gone away,” says vinyl enthusiast Mark Corner. “I mean the Canadian music industry made a concerted effort to pretty much make vinyl extinct in this country.”
After buying his first album, Mark Corner now has around 1000 full-length LP’s and 1000 singles. Corner got into record collecting simply because he loved music. He was a vinyl collector when vinyl was popular, he was a vinyl collector when it nearly went extinct, and although he’s starting to slow down, he is still collecting vinyl in 2015.
“I wasn’t speculating that these records would be worth this much in 10 or 20 years or anything like that,” he says. “That’s one turn off about the whole sort of ‘record revival’ is that people are not necessarily collecting records because it’s good music, a lot of people are buying stuff because they either think it’s worth a lot of money or they think it’s going to be worth a lot of money.”
Corner doesn’t have anything worth a tremendous amount of money in his collection either. The most he has paid for a record is $200, for a Japanese pressing of the classic punk rock band The Ramones’ California Sun EP.
Photo by Paul McAleer
“I just got the different things that I cherish myself,” he explains.
Corner has been organizing the Calgary Music Collector’s Show for 6 years and the seventh show is taking place on April 12 at the Acadia Recreational Complex. The event is a place for music lovers to get lost in the vast ocean of records at the show.
“I thought with so much interest in music and so many people loving to collect music that such an event should take place here,” Corner says.
The show is mainly vinyl records, but there are CDs, concert posters and even instruments for sale. There is something for every buyer and it’s only $5 to get in, with the event running from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Two Calgarian musicians think vinyl is the superior music format
Photo by Paul McAleerMusicians from the Calgary metal band Samara talk about their love of vinyl.
“When you buy an MP3, there’s nothing to grab onto, nothing you have to look at; it’s literally just the music,” Reed Alton, the lead singer of Samara, says. “Well, to an artist, as a musician, sometimes it’s more than just the sound you’re hearing. It’s the actual story of it, or the image [the artists] want you to see.”
Alton received his first vinyl, rock band Kansas’ Point of Know Return as a gift when he was in Grade 9.
Although Brandon Sittler, bass player for Samara, couldn’t give an exact number of how many records he owned, he says he has over 100. Now 19, Sittler has been collecting vinyl since he was 16.
Sittler and Alton both prefer the vinyl format compared to any other because of the listening experience.
“With iPod and shuffle, you skip half your library before you find a song that you will settle for,” says Sittler. “You’re invested when you have to listen to it on vinyl because it’s a process, it’s a ritual.”
Alton furthers his bandmate’s sentiment, “Because it’s a completely different experience when you actually have to take it out, put it on to the record player, put the needle on, sit down, and actually give your time and effort into it.”
Both Sittler and Alton take pride in the unique experience. If the vinyl is original or has artistic packaging, that is big selling point for them. They take pride in their treasured records, which range from the original release of Quiet Riot’s Metal Health to Phil Collin’s Face Value to lullaby renditions of The Flaming Lips.
More than a fad, vinyl is here to stay
With origins rooted as far back as 1889, the vinyl format is surprisingly dust-free in 2015. Living in a time when everything and anything is digital, vinyl’s popularity is showing the world that something physical can survive.
According to Nielsen’s 2014 Canada Music Year-End Report, vinyl sales increased by 71 per cent in 2014 compared to 2013. Vinyl sales and streaming numbers increased, while both CD and digital sales numbers decreased.
Since 2006, the worldwide phenomenon of soaring vinyl sales has been dubbed ‘Vinyl Revival,’ and events such as Record Store Day, the third Saturday of every April, have formed around it.
Created in 2007 by independent record storeowners, Record Store Day celebrates all things vinyl. Artists release limited edition pressings, there are parties based around it, and bands sometimes come to record stores to perform and to meet fans. You can look at the exclusive releases for previous years here.
There are many reasons for vinyl’s resurgence. Sound quality, artwork, and the satisfaction of physically owning something are all contributing factors to the vinyl revival.
Photo by Paul McAleer
Corner says, “The reason why people buy vinyl, especially the reissues, is because they want to get the analog sound, like the way it was originally pressed.”
Artists are finding success in reissuing classics with unique packaging or other additions, such as colour pressings. The indie rock band Modest Mouse’s recent reissue of The Lonesome Crowded West received so many orders that it became backlogged.
However sometimes the packaging proves to be too ambitious, as folk singer Father John Misty found out with his special edition vinyl release of his new album I Love You, Honeybear. The weight of the pop out artwork on the inside cover damaged the record when it was packaged.
“The idea of having a limited physical commodity is something that appeals to a lot of people,” Kevin Boyer, an employee from Sloth Record’s on 17th Ave, says. “With everything at your fingertips [on an Ipod], you’re probably just going to burn through a bunch of [music] more quickly than you would otherwise.”
In the age of digital piracy, Corner thinks that if a music listener has an appreciation for an artist, they will purchase their music.
“If they just want to get a listen for that artist, the tendency will be to try and download it for free,” says Corner. “And then if they really like that artist, [if they] want something that they will keep and cherish for a long time, you know I don’t see why they shouldn’t purchase it. I mean it just makes sense.”
Corner says, “The rare time that I do download something for free, I just don’t appreciate it as much.”
The vinyl format isn’t perfect, though. It costs more than an iTunes download, and it’s more expensive to produce than a CD. Without shipping and with bare bone options for both, to produce 1000 CDs it’s around $700, while to produce the same number of vinyl records it’s around $2600.
Calgary’s own Canada Boy Vinyl
Business owner and musician, Dean Reid is looking to bring vinyl here to Calgary.
Reid’s pressing plant Canada Boy Vinyl is due to open its doors this spring. His studio will enable the recording and pressing process to happen almost instantaneously.
Photo by Paul McAleerThere are only around 40 vinyl pressing plants currently operating in the world. Canada’s former vinyl pressing plant, Montreal’s RIP-V, closed down earlier this year with the high demand and pressure of the industry being a major factor in the closure. However, Reid isn’t the type of person to let that information deter him.
Reid is not only building a vinyl pressing plant, but he is also starting a record store and a record label, all in the same location. His online store, Scratch the Surface already has over 20,000 records in stock and his record label and production company will be called House of Pleasant Thoughts Productions.
“Personally, for me, I will find success in waking up everyday and going to a job that I love doing, being happy while I’m doing it, and being surrounded by wonderful friends and musicians,” Reid tells me.
Reid’s alternative rock band Resurrection Joe has been on hiatus for quite some time because he and his band mates are working to get Canada Boy Vinyl up and running.
“We all thought it would be pretty cool that we would be working all day, pressing records, and kind of doing our thing, and then once the shift is over, we can pick up our guitars and start jamming,” Reid says.
While he admits that the digital sound of a CD is crisp and clean, he prefers the warm sound of vinyl.
“When I listen to something on vinyl, it sounds like a real thing,” Reid says. “Like a band is actually a band once they’ve got their stuff on a record.”
Like vinyl enthusiast Corner, Dean Reid is on a mission to keep the love of vinyl alive and healthy for generations to come.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to be able to learn as much as I can about vinyl, and to be able to pass that information down to say like my son’s generation, so that somebody else can pick up the ball and run with it.”
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