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Jan 21, 2018







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Spun. Courtesy photo.




Beginner tips 

New to the world of vinyl? Here are some basics that every record collector should know, courtesy of Mark Matarozzo, owner of Spun Records in Dover. 
 
• Never buy a record without inspecting the quality first. Look at the cover and more importantly at the record to make sure it meets your standards. 
• Surface scratches and scuffs will not affect how a record plays, but deep scratches will. If you can feel a scratch with your finger, the record is going to pop or skip in that spot. Look closely for scratches that run with the grooves of the record as those are harder to see but more likely to skip. 
• Check if the record is warped by holding it up flat and looking across the top of it. You should be able to see both edges. If one side is higher than the other, the record is warped. Slight warping is common in used records and usually doesn’t affect the sound quality, but it could cause the needle to jump and scratch the record. 
• If you can’t find a record you’re looking for at a record store, don’t be afraid to ask the attendant about it. Many stores, especially small ones, have tons of records in backstock that they don’t have room for in the main storefront or haven’t gotten around to pricing yet. 
• Be sure to clean every record you purchase before playing it. This will help to preserve your needle. Skip the expensive cleaning solutions and make your own with three parts distilled water and one part isopropyl alcohol. Never use straight alcohol as it will damage the record. 
• Always store your records standing upright. Laying them down flat in a pile makes them more prone to warping. 
 
Spins from the pros 
If you’re not sure how to start your collection or what record to buy next, check out these picks from local record store owners and workers for some inspiration. 
 
Bill Proulx, Metro City Records 
Favorite record of all time or at the moment: Karmakanic, In a Perfect World, 2011 (jazz/rock)
Essential record every collection should have: The Cars, The Cars, 1978 (rock)  
Coolest record to come through your shop: Masked Marauders, Masked Marauders, 1969 (rock, parody) 
 
Bruce Bennett, Thrifty’s Second Hand Stuff 
Favorite record of all time or at the moment: The Sweet, Desolation Boulevard, 1974 (rock) 
Essential record every collection should have: The Beatles, any record (rock)
Coolest record to come through your shop: The Beatles, Abbey Road, Green Vinyl Edition, U.K. import, 1978 (rock) 
 
Chris Brown, Bull Moose 
Favorite record of all time or at the moment: La Planete Sauvage (Fantastic Planet) Soundtrack, 1973 (jazz, funk, soul) 
Essential record every collection should have: Kamasi Washington, The Epic, 2015 (jazz, funk, soul) 
Coolest record to come through your shop: Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, 2015 (rock/pop) 
 
Don Pingree, Wingo’s Wecords 
Favorite record of all time or at the moment: The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, 1966 (rock/pop)
Essential record every collection should have: John Coltrane, Blue Train, 1957 (jazz)
Coolest record to come through your shop: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Axis Bold as Love, mono, white label promo, 1967 (rock/psychedelic) 
 
John Benedict, Music Connection 
Favorite record of all time or at the moment: The Beatles, Revolver, 1966 (rock)
Essential record every collection should have: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out, 1959 (jazz)
Coolest record to come through your shop: Spice Girls, Spice, 1996 (pop)
 
Mark Matarozzo, Spun Records  
Favorite record of all time or at the moment: Tom Waits, Rain Dogs, 1985 (rock, blues) 
Essential record every collection should have: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, 1977 (rock) 
Coolest record to come through your shop: Sun Ra, bootleg live recording (jazz) 
 
Visit a local record store 
• Bobby Dee’s Records and Audio Repair (132 Main St., Pembroke, 289-2688, bobbydeeaudiorepair.com) sells used records and audio equipment and offers audio repair services. 
• Bull Moose (419 S. Broadway, Salem, 898-6254; 82-86 Congress St., Portsmouth, 422-9525; West Street Shopping Plaza, 401B West St., Keene, 354-3591; and other locations in Maine, bullmoose.com) sells new and some used vinyl records and CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray, video games and books at its storefronts and online at its website.  
• Metro City Records (691 Somerville St., Manchester, 665-9889, metrocityrecords.com) sells used and some new records, CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray and specializes in special orders for hard-to-find, out-of-print, rare, limited-edition and imported records and other media. 
• Music Connection (1711 S. Willow St., Manchester, 644-0199, musicconnection.us) has new and used records, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, record cleaning products and protective sleeves, turntables and replacement needles, stereo equipment and storage solutions. 
• Pitchfork Records & Stereo (2 S. Main St., Concord, 224-6700, pitchforkrecordsconcord.com) sells new and used records, CDs, DVDs and T-shirts at its storefront and online at stores.ebay.com/cocosteam, as well as record cleaning equipment, turntables, speakers and a variety of other audio equipment. 
• Skeletone Records (50 N. Main St., Rochester, 948-1009, facebook.com/skeletone.radict) sells new and used records and CDs, cassettes, turntables, speakers, stereos and various other audio equipment, alternative clothing and more. 
• Spun Records (6 Grove St., Dover, 742-6939, spundover.com) has used and some new records, CDs, cassettes, DVDs and more. 
• Thrifty’s Second Hand Stuff (1015 Candia Road, Manchester, 518-5413, thriftysnh.com) has thousands of used records, CDs, DVDs, videogames, comics and pop culture collectibles, turntables and other audio equipment, musical instruments and various other second hand items. The store doubles as a rock ‘n’ roll museum with a large collection of music memorabilia lining the walls. 
• Wingo’s Wecords (R.S. Butler’s Trading Company, 102 First NH Turnpike, Northwood, 942-5249, find them on Facebook) sells vintage records and music memorabilia at its storefront and online at stores.ebay.com/WINGOS-WECORDS. 
 
Record Store Day 
When international music retail chain Tower Records went under in 2006, it brought a feeling of hopelessness to every corner of the record store industry. Store owners figured that if an empire as big as Tower Records couldn’t make it, the end of record stores must be near. But what many people didn’t realize was that the high-profile closing did not provide a full picture of the industry. Yes, some of the corporate chains were struggling, but the independent record stores actually seemed to be doing OK. 
In the summer of 2007, Chris Brown, head of marketing and finance for the local independent music store chain Bull Moose, was serving as a chairman on the board for a music store coalition. He proposed an idea to the president for a universal event to celebrate and promote independent record stores.  
“Everyone knew that something needed to happen, that we needed some kind of big, industry-wide promotional campaign,” Brown said. “Fortunately, independent record stores had been banding together for a while, so the idea spread and very quickly there were hundreds of people on board.” 
The inaugural Record Store Day took place in the spring of 2008 and has since been an annual event that takes place on one Saturday in April at participating independent record stores. It follows a format similar to Free Comic Book Day and features all kinds of special events, appearances by well-known music artists, and limited-edition records pressed specially for Record Store Day. 
The event has brought new life to the industry, and many record store owners and collectors consider it a driving force behind the vinyl resurgence. 
“It changed the tone within the industry,” Brown said. “It went from, ‘All the stores are closing, it’s terrible,’ to ‘Wow, there’s all these stores we’ve never heard of that are doing well, this is exciting.’”
Record Store Day has also inspired stores to host release parties and other special events, and artists and record labels to release more special-edition pressings throughout the year to keep people excited and engaged with their local record stores.  
The next Record Store Day, in April 2017, will be the 10th anniversary of the event’s inception, and Brown said it’s going to have some extra special things going on. 
For more information about Record Store Day and to see a list of participating record stores near you, visit recordstoreday.com. 




For the Record
Why vinyl is making a comeback PLUS where to find new and vintage albums

09/15/16
By Angie Sykeny asykeny@hippopress.com



 Vinyl records are back, and with today’s top artists like Adele, Coldplay and Taylor Swift jumping on the trend, they’re cooler than ever. That’s good news for independent record stores, which now have a new wave of customers ditching the digital downloads for something that feels more authentic and joining longtime vinyl enthusiasts in experiencing music the old-fashioned way. 

 
In record times 
It was the mid-1980s when Bill Proulx, owner of Metro City Records in Manchester, read an article in Musician magazine stating that within five years’ time, music stores as people knew them would cease to exist. It was a bold prediction considering commercial internet wasn’t available yet and home computers were still few and far between, but for Proulx and others in the record industry, the feeling of impending doom wasn’t easy to shrug off.  
“I remember, when that got printed, everyone in this industry was shaking in their boots. No one knew what they were going to do because everything was about to change, according to this article,” he said. “What’s interesting is, they said five years, but it took … until 2006 to 2008 for that to start happening … and now it’s bouncing back.”  
With streaming and digital downloads dominating the way music is consumed and the CD market bordering on nonexistent, Proulx said people looking to experience music on a physical medium are turning to the one that started it all: vinyl records. 
But this new chapter for the record industry has a new face. The collapse of international music retail empire Tower Records in 2006 and other music store chains within the last decade has paved the way for independent stores to take the reins, and since the launch of Record Store Day in 2007 (see sidebar on p. 19), their presence has continued to grow. 
“The estimate for records sold in the U.S. for 2016 is 20 million. In 2007, it was a little under 2 million, so in general the trend has reversed, and there are more stores opening than closing,” said Chris Brown, who first proposed the idea for Record Store Day and works as the head of marketing and finance for Bull Moose, an independent chain of music stores with locations in New Hampshire and Maine. “There’s been a few high-profile closings, but people don’t always hear about the enormous wave of neighborhood stores opening up.” 
The restored interest in records has inspired local artists like Young Frontier and The Connection, both of Portsmouth, Tan Vampires of Dover and Tristan Omand of Manchester to make their music available on vinyl.
Omand’s 2012 album Wandering Time was his first to be sold as a vinyl record. When his 2014 follow-up album Eleven Dark Horses was only offered on CD and digital download, some of his fans reached out, saying they wished it was available on vinyl. He decided to return to the format for his latest album, The Lesser-Known Tristan Omand, released in April of this year, and plans to re-release Eleven Dark Horses on vinyl in the future. 
“It’s definitely growing with more and more bands putting their music out on vinyl,” Omand said. “You put so much time and work into an album that you want to present it in the best way possible and with the highest quality, and right now I think that’s vinyl.”  
 
To have and to hold 
While it’s difficult to pinpoint what’s driving the resurgence of vinyl, record store owners have a few theories. 
The era of digital music is one of convenience; people can store thousands of songs on a portable device and have access to their entire music library at their fingertips. But Bruce Bennett, the owner of Thrifty’s Second Hand Stuff, a music-focused thrift store in Manchester, says the convenience doesn’t come without a cost. More music lovers are beginning to feel like there’s something missing from digital music and are turning to vinyl to fill the void. 
“We went from selling the experience to selling the music,” he said. “When the needle drops on a record and there’s the actual friction of something touching something, it’s an emotional experience. How do you fall in love with a band when you have a thousand [songs] on your iPod that you’re randomly firing through as opposed to sitting down and truly listening to an album?” 
For Mark Matarozzo, owner of Spun Records in Dover, the record revival also means the revival of the concept of an album, which he said has been lost since music download services made it possible to download individual songs, and it’s exposing people to music they never would have discovered if they continued to pick and choose the songs they already know they like. 
“Generally with records, you’re listening to a whole album the way the artist wanted it presented, as opposed to a download where you play one tune, then skip one and play another and aren’t appreciating the fullness of the actual album,” he said. 
The packaging of vinyl records also plays a part. The artwork on the record cover, the way the cover is folded or constructed, the included lyrics sheets, posters or other materials and the song credits all enhance the album and elevate it from a disc with music to a comprehensive, multi-sensory experience. Those things are absent from a digital download, save a small thumbnail image of the album cover. It may not be the only reason people are switching to vinyl, but John Benedict, owner of Music Connection in Manchester, says it’s definitely one of the big ones. 
“I think people are becoming tuned in to the fact that when you buy a record, everything is encompassed,” he said. “If you want to know, ‘What’s the lyrics to that song?’ or ‘Who played the bass on that track?’ it’s all there in one place. You don’t get that when you’re streaming music online.” 
Since Bull Moose focuses primarily on records by current artists, Brown said many of its customers are teens and young adults looking to vinyl as an additional way to enjoy their favorite music. Having the music in a physical form that they can hold in their hands and actively engage with can make it a more personal experience and allow them to feel closer to the artist. 
“We all know music makes jogging and driving and cooking more fun,” he said, “but when you think of the intensity young people have for music and how much it’s tied up with their identity, if they’re really touched by an artist, they want to focus on it, and I think records lead to that kind of deeper listening.”  
It’s one of the reasons Omand decided to make his music available on vinyl in the first place. For his latest album, he released only 300 limited-edition copies, all of which he hand-numbered himself. 
“If you’re a collector and you know there’s only 300 copies and you have No. 62, it makes it more special,” he said. “That’s the cool thing about vinyl. It’s a closer link to the artist than an MP3 download, so it’s treasured a little more.” 
Finally, there’s the question of sound quality. While different aspects are widely debated amongst record collectors and retailers, most will agree that the delivery of music on vinyl is superior to that of a digital download. Because a music download is compressed, the individual pieces of the song are neutralized, causing it to sound mashed up and, as it’s often described, “cold.” Vinyl records allow songs to maintain their complexity so that each piece pops, giving them a richer and “warmer” sound. 
“When you download a song or burn a CD, you’re missing some of the music. I’ve experienced a song that had clapping during the chorus that you couldn’t even hear in the download,” Proulx said. “But people are becoming more educated on it and are realizing that they’re sacrificing quality for quantity, and I think that’s the reason they’re grasping onto vinyl.”
 
Facing the music 
Even with the increased interest in records, owning a record store doesn’t come without its challenges, the biggest one being attracting new customers and maintaining the regulars. 
While the heft of a stack of records is part of the charm, it can also be a hurdle for people who have space limitations or move frequently. Benedict said new customers are rarely sustainable long-term and typically don’t make it past a collection of 200 records. 
“The days of having a huge record collection are gone,” he said. “No one wants to lug that around; they just want something manageable, so discovering new people who really want to get into this is the biggest challenge.” 
For smaller stores, the inventory can get stale quickly for repeat customers, making it tricky to maintain regular business. Many have started carrying new vinyl reissues and albums by current artists to keep their inventory fresh. However, the new vinyl market carries its own set of problems. 
As records grew outdated and declined in sales over the years, many pressing plants shut down, and now there are not enough to accommodate the dramatic spike in demand. What that means for record stores is a limited selection of new vinyl to choose from, longer wait periods between new releases, and big costs with a small return. 
To make matters worse, many new albums are too long for a single record and have to be sold as a set of two, which means even longer wait times and retail prices as high as $30 or $40. 
For Matarozzo and a lot of other store owners, it’s not worth the trouble. 
“The new vinyl market is terrible. There’s very little markup and only a mediocre demand for it,” he said. “There’s a mediocre demand for anything more than $20 to $25. That’s what I’ve found to be the breaking point.” 
Music trends are another factor that’s out of the record stores’ control and can present some challenges depending on what they are. 
Since the trend for older music is generally always music from two decades into the past, Benedict said he’s struggling to meet the current demand for ’90s music because record production and sales at that time were negligible. 
Of course, some music maintains the same level of demand year after year. 
“There are certain genres that sell and ones that don’t,” said Don Pingree, owner of Wingo’s Wecords, an extension of R.S. Butler’s Trading Co. in Northwood. “Vintage rock, psychedelic, soul and blues are all good areas, but you get into classical, easy listening and some country and those are hard to sell.” 
 
Alive and spinning 
Most of the surviving independent record stores are surviving because they offer additional services and products beyond records or employ creative marketing strategies. Nearly all of them sell some other media like CDs, cassette tapes, 8-tracks, DVDs and Blu-rays, video games and books, as well as audio equipment like turntables, stereos and speakers, and pop culture collectibles and memorabilia. Wingo’s Wecords, Bull Moose, Pitchfork Records & Stereo in Concord and many others also sell products online to broaden their customer base. 
Wingo’s and Spun have been using one of the simplest yet most effective strategies: low prices. 
“There’s a lot of people overpricing records just because they can,” Matarozzo said. “Online, you can sell a record for $100, but that’s to a global market. I have to think, ‘Is it going to sit on my shelf forever?’ So I mark it at $60 and it’ll move, and someone will be happy they got it for a better price.” 
Other record store owners are making the most of whatever special resources and distinctive qualities they have to give their stores an edge.
At Metro City Records, which started as a record label before evolving into a retail business, Proulx utilizes his connections with record labels and distributors, including distributors from overseas, to do special orders for his customers and procure products that aren’t widely available. 
Benedict, who bought Music Connection last September, is using the store’s 25-year history to his advantage. To maintain its reputation and existing customer base after the ownership switch, he kept the name, inventory and other characteristics of the original store while renovating the store’s interior and adding a larger selection of contemporary vinyl to attract new customers. Like many record store owners, he uses social media to boost awareness of the store and share updates about new record arrivals and special sales. 
Ironically, Thrifty’s Second Hand Stuff has always marketed itself as a thrift shop even though it has accrued the largest record inventory in New England, estimated at about half a million. 
“I’d love to say we sat at the drawing board and decided to have the world’s biggest record store, but if you were to tell me four years ago that we’d have hundreds of thousands of records, I’d be like, ‘Wow, now that’s interesting,’” Bennett said. 
For the past few years, he said, he’s been “riding the wave” of the vinyl resurgence and promoting Thrifty’s more as a music store with unique attractions like the RecordMobile, a pink bus filled with thousands of records for sale, which appears at community events and other random locations; kiosks filled with records and CDs for sale at the New Hampshire Chunky’s Cinema Pub locations; a rock ’n’ roll “museum” incorporated into the store with memorabilia like guitars signed by Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kurt Cobain and others; and occasionally live music at the professional sound stage inside the store. 
“Right now, Thrifty’s is a cool second-hand store that one day we may call a music store,” Bennett said. “It got to a point when we realized that 90 percent of our sales are music-related, and because of the environment and all the cool music stuff on the walls, it just makes sense that it’s becoming such a popular overall music store.”  
The camaraderie and connections between independent record stores have also been key in helping them survive and thrive. Wingo’s Wecords supplies the Bull Moose New Hampshire stores in Salem and Portsmouth with their stock of used records, and Bull Moose in return refers people looking for more used records or looking to sell their records to Wingo’s. When Thrifty’s was still a budding business, Music Connection passed along the records it didn’t have room for to Thrifty’s to help it grow. Bennett said most of the New Hampshire record stores “truly want to help each other” and continue to refer customers to other stores if they don’t have what the customer is looking for. 
Even though record stores still have to fight to stay afloat, Brown said it’s the fight that’s helping to shape and advance the industry. 
“It’s tough to make any new business work, so what I’m looking forward to are the innovations and new ideas,” he said. “In five or 10 years from now, half of the new stores that opened up in the last five years will have grown and figured out new ways to connect people with the music they love.” 





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