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Making Vinyl Records
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When Louie Zamabataro was 12, he and his brother dug out their father’s record player from the basement and listened to Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” over and over and over again.
Because the record had been stowed in the basement for so many years, when Zamabataro and his brother played it, it sounded aged.
“You could really hear the dust,” says Zamabataro. “It wasn’t a perfect recording, and I just thought that was really cool how it sounded old.”
Since then, Zamabataro’s father has replaced his records with a CD player and surround-sound, but the younger Zamabataro hasn’t lost his interest in vinyl. He inherited his father’s collection and started one of his own — now at 100 records and counting. Zamabataro, now 21, still plays the records on the same player his father once used (though he did have to replace the needle).
Zamabataro isn’t alone in his fascination with the once almost-extinct musical medium. Over the past three or four years, younger collectors have been growing in numbers, and older collectors have remained loyal all along. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), shipments of vinyl records have been increasing since 2007, with shipments nearly tripling from 1.3 million records in 2007 to 3.2 million in 2009 — a 41 percent increase.
On the flip side, only 900,000 vinyl albums were shipped in 2006, the lowest amount in the past 10 years, according to RIAA. At that time, it looked like the end was near.
“Probably in the late ’80s, early ’90s, people were real infatuated with CDs so a lot of them were getting rid of their vinyl,” says George Betovich, owner of Checkered Records in Canton. “Major labels decided, without consulting independent record stores, that they weren’t going to press any more vinyl.”
Betovich says that even though this drought continued for almost a decade, he never stopped buying and selling records — even though he wasn’t selling nearly as many as he does now.
Then something strange happened: Small labels started to release vinyl. Next, some of the major labels got the message and started issuing vinyl again. And now, as Phil Peachock, owner of Spin More Records in Kent, says, “Vinyl is back with a vengeance.”
According to Betovich, one of the reasons vinyl is back is because many Millennials who grew up downloading free music from the Internet are realizing that “compressed” sound can’t compare to the real thing. It also helps that some of those same teens are discovering their parents’ record collections (and classic rock, says Betovich, was recorded to be played on grooves of a vinyl record — so it just sounds better that way).
To Betovich — who has a collection of 20,000 used albums dating to the 1940s in his store, mostly in the $10 price range — no other format of music sounds better than records. “You can’t capture the warmth on a CD or digital [download].”
Zamabataro agrees, saying he prefers records because he appreciates the “aged” sound. One of his favorite vinyl albums is a ’70s Bob Dylan record from his father. Zamabataro has the reissued vinyl, but it just doesn’t sound the same. The ’70s version “transports you to another time,” says Zamabataro. “I like knowing that I have something that’s 40 or 50 years old — and it sounds like it’s 40 or 50 years old.”
Jenn Kidd, 32, also collects because she likes the sound and the history. Drawn to everything vintage, Kidd says that vintage cameras, furniture and books fill her house (along with the sounds of records). During a trip to the record store, Kidd might leaf through 500 or so records, even if she leaves with only two (usually something from the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s). For Kidd, playing records is solace away from the technology and information overload constantly surrounding her.
“When I’m alone and want to be away from [it all], I put something on and turn everything else off,” she says.
For many like Kidd, records give them a break from the daily stress — in part, because listening to music on vinyl is a ritual: picking the right album, putting the needle on the record, flipping the record. This physical listening experience stands in stark contrast to the digital one.