By Anastasia Forina
Chicago is emerging as one of the biggest markets for vinyl records in the U.S.
The city has upward of 30 stores selling vinyl albums. Three of them, Dusty Groove, Dave’s Records and Laurie’s Planet of Sound, are ranked among the best in the U.S. by Rolling Stone magazine.
“Chicago is a great independent record base,” said David Bakula, analyst for Nielsen Entertainment. “Record shopping is such a different experience here. Dedication to local merchants is very evident in Chicago,” he said.
As of mid-June, some 3.7 million vinyl albums had been sold, a 40 percent increase over the same period last year, according to Nielsen data.
Jack White’s new album sold 40,000 copies on vinyl in the first week of June, the most for any record on vinyl since 1991.
“Young people are driving growth in sales,” said John Arnsdorff, who in March opened astore called Audio Archaeology in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood that sells new and used vinyl records and record players. “They like the sound better.”
New records at Arnsdorff’s shop sell for $15 to $40 each and account for about a third of sales. Used records, priced at $5 to $6, represent about a fifth of sales.
New and refurbished record players, priced between $30 and $1,000, account for the balance of sales. Refurbished record players made in Chicago by Zenith and Grundig and Telefunken players made in Germany, also are popular, Arnsdorff said.
Classical jazz records from the 1980s and 1990s as well as Tom Waits, Talking Heads, Black Keys, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are among the store’s best-sellers.
Luck Corsiglia, a 17-year-old student from Lake Forest Academy, said he prefers the sound of records over CDs. He said he has been collecting vinyl records for two years since his grandparents gave him a record player.
“The sound is more full and detailed, while MP3 is compressed. I’m listening to music on an iPad when I’m in a hurry. But at home I prefer records,” Corsiglia said while browsing through Audio Archaeology’s record stock.
Vinyl records have been growing in popularity since 2007, when sales hit 1 million. Six years later sales had reached 6 million, up 33 percent from 2012. At the same time, sales of CDs fell 15 percent to 165 million in 2013 from 193 million in 2012, according to Nielsen data. Independent record stores are riding the vinyl wave, reaping better sales than records sold by big-box retailers and stores that focus on digital music, Bakula said.
Used records at Dusty Groove start at 50 cents, while new records are priced from $10 to $30. Wojcik charges anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars, or even $1,000, for rare records.
Jazz from the 1960s and ’70s and soul music are popular, Wojcik said, along with what he calls “unusual music.”
“We don’t sell hits,” Wojcik said, adding that he often travels to other countries, including England, Brazil and France, to scout for records that match his clientele’s eclectic tastes.
People of all ages and both genders are among the store’s customers, notably people who grew up with vinyl, Wojcik said.
Album covers also are a big driver of sales, said Bakula, the Nielsen Entertainment analyst.
Rob Medina, archivist at the Chicago History Museum who has a collection of 2,000 vinyl records of jazz, R&B and hip-hop, said he used to frame album covers and hang them on his walls.
“I grew up with records, so it’s the sound I prefer,” said Medina, 45. The popping sound of scratches is part of the listening experience, he said.
“There is a presence of sound, because of the grooves, scratches.”