Return of the record in Kitchener-Waterloo

Orange Monkey in Waterloo sells LP vinyls. (Photo by Will Huang)
Orange Monkey in Waterloo sells LP vinyls. (Photo by Will Huang)

Over the last couple of years, record stores in Kitchener-Waterloo have experienced exactly how the music industry can come full circle.
Vinyl, a format of music you were once likely to find in a dusty box in your parent’s attic, is making a comeback like never before. According to the British

Phonographic Industry, in 2012 LPs saw sales figures rivalling those in 1997.

Sunrise Records, a chain store that carries records, and Encore Records in Kitchener  have experienced firsthand the resurgence of a format the music industry had largely given up on in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

“I think it was initially the younger people discovering [vinyl],” said Encore Records owner Mark Logan,explaining what gave the format new life.

“There was also the kitsch factor,” he added. LPs “were cool and retro” to a lot of the younger music fans that visited Logan’s store.

A lot of Encore’s visitors just weren’t satisfied with tracks selling on iTunes.

“I couldn’t have a music collection if it was all digital. That means nothing to me,” continued Logan to describe the mentality of many of his customers.
When it comes to digital music, “anything is going to sound better than a MP3,” Logan added. “People are amassing a collection that’s not just on a hard drive.”

Vinyls also managed to pull an unlikely demographic into the stores – teenagers,  who grew up pirating music.

“Ten years ago we lost a lot of the younger people with the rise of Napster,” Logan explained.

Moving past the hipster complex, Logan explained many people started listening to records because of their sound quality and ‘crispness.’

Daniel Jahn, the manager at Sunrise Records in Kitchener, explained that many music listeners dislike the “manufactured quality” of compact discs..

Today, many in this age group are finding their way into record stores. Jahn is amazed to find the range of people coming into his store excited about vinyl.

”I’ve seen as young as 14, up until someone’s whose 70,” he said. “It’s all over the board. “

Jahn, who has been with Sunrise for over a decade, has seen the store’s vinyl collection go from just 7 records to over a 1,000.

“People are excited about [vinyl] and coming into the store looking for it. We have regulars who come in a couple times a week just to see what new vinyl has come out,” he said.

The resurgence of LP has challenged manufacturers to keep up with enthusiastic collectors.

“The biggest problem I’m having with vinyl is getting it,” explained Logan. “There were so few plants left that they’re pretty much all running at capacity… they just can’t manufacture everything that they need to manufacture quickly enough to satisfy the demand. “

Encore, a part of the Kitchener community since 1981, has not only previously considered dropping LPs from its shelves, but has struggled overall with declining sales in the music industry. The renewed interest, according to Logan, has kept them going in a time when people just don’t buy music as much.

“It helps us offset the overall decline in music sales”, he said. “It’s kept us open another few years.”

For stores like Encore and Sunrise the resurgence of Vinyl has brought new life to the stores, bringing both young and old together to appreciate a piece of music history that might just make into music’s future.

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