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Viva la vinyl in St. John's

Resurging popularity spurs biannual Record Fair NL

Record enthusiasts lined up outside the Record Fair NL fall fair before the doors opened Saturday morning – all in search of new albums to add to their collections.

An event room at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s was crowded. Within 30 minutes of opening, 200 people walked through the doors.

“It’s a huge community, as you can see – and it’s growing,” said co-organizer Melissa Jones.

Twenty-seven vendors – ranging from serious collectors looking to offload their duplicate records, to brick-and-mortar stores like Sunrise Records – displayed their wares in milk crates for the more than 750 shoppers who attended between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

People flipped through the albums in earnest.

“I found some Jethro Tull that I was looking for,” said Jessica McLachlan, who attended the fair with her father.

“He’s had me into vinyl since I was a baby,” she said.

‘Everybody’s buying it’

Jones said she and her husband organized the first fair in June of this year because they saw a demand for it locally.

“There’s an upswing because it’s really the only way that people are listening to a full album anymore. When you put on a CD or you put on MP3s, you’re skipping through. I love Spotify, but it’s kind of like the Netflix experience where you’re just searching and searching and not listening to a full album.”

Vinyl record sales are on the rise all across the country.

According to Nielsen Music Canada’s year-end report, 2017 set a record for the highest vinyl LP sales in the 20 years since those statistics were collected.

Last year saw a 21.8 per cent sales increase to 804,000 units, marking the seventh straight year of growth for the format.

Nielsen’s mid-year report for 2018 found that while digital and physical album sales were down year-over-year, vinyl LP sales were up 67 per cent.

“Vinyl is big in this city,” said Shawn Patey of Sunrise Records.

Patey said it’s a trend that’s struck every generation of music lover.

“You see kids coming in, you see teenagers and the older crowd -- everybody’s buying it.”

He said most of the sales at Sunrise Records come from vinyl.

“I’ve worked in CD and record stores forever, and it’s definitely a lot more (vinyl) than we used to sell.”

Avid collector Art Taylor said the growing popularity has meant an upswing in prices, too.

“Twenty years ago, you could walk into any store that had used vinyl and pick them up for ten cents or a dollar each. Now, the new vinyl coming on the market is selling for anywhere between $20 and $100 each, and used albums – you’re lucky to get a good album for $5 these days. For the rare items, it’s easily anywhere from $20 to $50.”

People at Saturday’s record fair all seemed to point to the same reasons why they preferred vinyl over other formats. At the top of their list was the sound.

Ten-year-old Noah MacDonald, who walked away with a Motörhead and Judas Priest album, said he prefers the sound of music on vinyl compared to digital formats.

The second most popular reason given at the fair for the vinyl preference is the artwork.

“When you look at a CD, it’s a little picture that means absolutely nothing. You look at an album, you can put it in a frame and put it on the wall. Some of the artwork is absolutely amazing,” said Taylor.

The third reason perhaps speaks to why many are returning to vinyl after years of listening to digital formats.

“I understand digital media, but there’s something about having it in your hands and being able to feel it in your hands – it’s just more real,” said shopper Paula LeGrow.

Taylor also thinks that’s why many people are returning to records.

“What I like about albums, and what I think a lot of people are coming back to, is the fact that it’s interactive. If you put on a CD, you forget about it. You put on a record, you can’t (forget) – you have to actually manipulate it to play the whole thing. It’s something that you just can’t ignore.”

And there’s certainly no ignoring that vinyl is back.

Jones said organizers are already planning for the next fair sometime in May or June of 2019. They’re meeting with a potential venue next week to see if it will be a good fit as a regular space for the event.

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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