NEW BEDFORD — Young adults may not know about pagers, Palm Pilots, VHS tapes, disposable cameras or floppy disks, but they certainly know about vinyl records — which are making a striking comeback.
“Since I opened, I’ve been increasingly selling more records year after year,” said John Pimentel, owner of Max J Records in Fairhaven.
A survey conducted by Vinyl Restart says that since 2005, there has been a renewed interest in vinyl records with an 18.5% sales increase yearly. In the first half of 2021, 17 million albums were sold, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, an 86% jump from 2020.
Pimentel worked in retail for 20 years and sold records online before opening his brick and mortar store in 2017, on Bridge Street.
“When you stream music, and you hear it that way, and then you listen to it on a turntable, you definitely hear things that you don’t get from the compressed format,” he said.
The New Bedford native says that vinyl records are a great way to support artists. “A lot of them are color vinyl. It’s much more attractive packaging today than there was maybe 30 years ago.”
Young artists beat vinyl classics
Pimentel says that 40% of his customers are teenagers. “They go for the classics, like the Beatles, and Pink Floyd. But they get their Taylor Swift, Adele, Olivia Rodriguez, too,” he added.
In 2020, “Fine Line” by Harry Styles was the most sold vinyl album at 232,000 copies, with Billie Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep” at 196,000. Vintage albums such as Queen’s “Greatest Hits” and The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” were close behind.
Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack beat other classics vinyls such as Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” and the “Thriller” album.
“It’s giving that world of a younger generation a way to find out about vinyl,” said Roger Chouinard, owner of Purchase Street Records in New Bedford. “The new artists having vinyl releases helps.”
RIAA data shows that 18- to 35-year-olds accounted for 45% of U.S. vinyl sales. Teenagers from the ’80s and ’90s represent the largest demographic for vinyl record purchases since the record-breaking resurgence.
However, in mid-2021, there has been an increase in sales by teenagers, age 14 to 18.
Chouinard, a former drum tech for Twisted Sister and Over Kill, said another reason music lovers purchase vinyl records is simply because they want to own the music, as opposed to just having it on a streaming platform.
He says that listening to vinyl records can be a shared memory. “My dad had a record player. It’s kind of cool when people come in and actually buy a record that my dad listened to, or they bring up a memory of their father,” he said.
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“I really feel that record collecting never went away. It’s just noticed by more people now,” Chouinard added “People are taking more time now to actually listen to music.”
Pimentel believes another reason for the recent surge was from the pandemic. “More people had time to learn something new and listen to music.”
According to a USAToday article, during the pandemic, vinyl revenue was up 4% while CD revenue was down 48%, the RIAA found. 2021 was the first year records out sold CDs not just in dollars but in units.
TikTok revives classic hits
“It’s not retro. It’s new to them,” said Bob Boyer, owner of Sunset Records on Wilbur Avenue in Somerset.
He believes teenagers have not only found an interest in vinyl records because of Taylor Swift and Adele but because of social media platforms such as Tik Tok.
For example, according to The Verge, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours had a surge in vinyl record sales after a viral video from Nathan Apodaca (420doggface208 on TikTok) shows him skateboarding down a road and sipping cran-raspberry juice, while “Dreams” plays in the background.
It’s been viewed more than 60 million times
And in a surprising twist, only 52% of people buying vinyl records own a record player.
Pimentel says he sees this all the time. “It’s crazy. They’ll buy 30 records before they decide on buying a turntable.”
He says some people only like to buy and collect records. “If you have the time, it’s much more enjoyable to listen,” he said. “But, It’s not convenient in any way, you can’t take it with you… that’s maybe why they don’t invest in turntables right away.”
Tips on buying a turntable
He says the portable ones such as the Crosley suitcase players or similar styles are not recommended.
“The ones you see at the all the big box stores from Walmart to Target, Marshalls to JC Penney are no good,” he said. “They should have them in the toy section, not in the electronics department, because those are not any better than the old Fisher Price ones.”
Pimentel says 85% of his businesses are record sales but he also sells gear, sleeves, brushes, all the cleaners as well as powered speakers that make it easy to connect.
“People can come to me and I can set them up with everything they need,” he said. “I’ll show them how to put on the record, clean directors, give them tips. Everything from maintaining the record to just playing the record.”
Boyer, who has owned Sunset Records for 30 years, said he’s glad young adults are finding love for vinyl again.
“It’s the soul of the music that counts the most for me,” he said. “If I hear a Little Richard record, and there isn’t some surface noise or pops, I’m a little disappointed.”
He added that streaming music doesn’t do a song justice and he refuses to listen to it. “The bottom end is compressed,” he added.
“You miss so much when it’s online.”
Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.