One of Vanessa Goldberg’s earliest memories was of her mother putting the vinyl album of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” on the turntable and thinking, at age 4, “This is the coolest thing ever.”
That childhood enchantment with vinyl may explain why now, at 21, she works for The Nevermind Shop at 1 Milford St. (Route 140) in Upton.
The Upton native remembers visiting the Mick Lawless’ vinyl record and merchandise store when it opened in Worcester 13 years ago.
Last year, she landed a job there as manager.
“I needed a job and I was driving with my mom on my way to a Target interview when I said to my mom, ‘I wonder if he’s hiring?’ She literally did a U-turn,” Goldberg said.
Lawless hired her on the spot, not even asking to see her resume.
“The only question Mick asked me was, ‘How good are you at the internet?’ ” Goldberg recalled.
Resurgence in popularity
Vinyl records are enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
For the first time in 30 years, vinyl sales at midyear surpassed CD album sales, according to MRC Data, which compiles data and analytics on the music industry. Vinyl sales in the U.S. leapt 108% in a 2021 midyear report compared to the same time last year, with more than 19 million vinyl LPs sold during the first half of 2021.
Lawless, who is in his 50s, said Goldberg is a good fit because now the shop knows what to keep in stock for ages ranging “from teens to 70.” The market is not just people who grew up listening to vinyl chasing the nostalgia factor, though.
With big names like rapper Tyler, The Creator, and singer-songwriters Adele and Taylor Swift releasing their music on vinyl, it’s become commonplace to see freshly pressed records in stores like Walmart and Barnes & Noble. Swift just had a new album hit shelves in vinyl, as did Adele.
“There’s been a quantum shift in the demographics, but it’s great because it makes it so much more fun to have everyone involved and not just people coming in for classic rock,” said Joe Demers, owner of Joe’s Albums in Worcester. “It should be accessible to everyone who’s into any type of music.”
Vinyl is so popular that Demers recently opened a second store in Northampton.
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Despite the Worcester store being closed for part of last year, business took off because of robust online ordering, he said. The store now has regular customers from places as far away as California and Texas.
‘Sound is a million times better’
But why are so many people turning to this seemingly outdated mode of listening to music?
“The sound is a million times better — as long as you’re playing it on the right equipment,” Goldberg said. “I’d say digital, especially streaming services, those are loss-y. You lose some of the bass, the high end. You lose the depth. But if you play a record on the right equipment, the sound is, quite literally, carved into the record.”
Music files lose fidelity in different formats, meaning that when files are compressed for, say, a CD or streaming service, the songs don’t sound as they did when originally recorded.
“Something that’s recorded analog should be heard analog, not digital,” Lawless said. “There’s a big difference between ‘Sgt. Pepper’ on CD and ‘Sgt. Pepper’ on vinyl. There’s just no two ways about it.”
Although technology has advanced so much in recent years that it might take a practiced ear to tell the difference — and many artists record digitally now, anyway — the act of collecting itself is another factor. For one thing, it’s a pandemic-safe activity in a year when music lovers couldn’t attend concerts of any size.
“Some people like tangible products, and want something of their artists that they love and feel close to, to actually own something,” Demers said.
Since the pandemic started, Tom Caggiano, an employee at Joe’s Albums, said “things have just exploded. The lust for vinyl is really crazy.”
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Dave Pierce, owner of Straightaway Records in Gardner, said it’s exciting to see old, classic records being re-pressed on vinyl. A 30th anniversary reissue of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was just released on vinyl, for example, and Lawless said he can’t keep Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” — originally released in 1977 — in stock for long.
“How you listen to music is a personal choice,” Pierce said. “The interesting thing is a lot of these young people, they’re buying records that were made before they were born, some of them… plenty of older people might buy (newly pressed old records), but a lot of the older people already have those records.”
Goldberg stressed that vinyl records — a new Target-exclusive copy of “Rumours” retails for $22.99 and Lana Del Rey’s new album “Blue Banisters” retails for $39.99 — are an investment and should be treated as such.
Buying a turntable
She also had advice about buying a turntable.
“Avoid the suitcases. I have kids come in here asking, ‘Do you have the new Crosley suitcases?’ And the answer is ‘no’ because they suck,” Goldberg said.
She suggested looking for something that has a counterweight on the tone arm — the piece that moves across the record as it plays. The counterweight is absent on less expensive apparatus.
“That is what keeps gravity from pushing your needle down and digging into your records,” Goldberg said. “If you can afford to get something better than the suitcase, get that first.”
Vinyl record stores dot Massachusetts, from the edge of the Cape all the way to the western part of the state, and each contains thousands of records and thousands of hours of music.
Goldberg hopes to take over the store in Upton someday. She’s mindful of trying to keep extra stock of today’s popular releases for years down the line, “so the releases that are new now will be old someday.” She said when people bring their record collections into the store, Lawless will often remark upon finding a record he remembers being released decades ago.
“Someday, people my age are going to be Mick’s age, and we’re going to be nostalgic for the stuff that’s coming out now…I’m going to be going through the records and I’m going to see Weezer or something, and I’m going to be like, ‘I remember when this came out, like, 40 years ago,” Goldberg said. “It’s terrifying but it’s going to happen, so we’ve got to keep asking people what they want.”
Lillian Eden can be reached at 617-459-6409 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @LillianWEden.