Like many of his generation, Vijay Damerla listens to more music on the internet. But the 20-year-old becomes addicted to vinyl records, keeping it like a fanatic. For this student who doesn’t even own a signature, collecting vinyl is like an artist or an album poster, “except it’s actually a relic of the past.”
Celine Court, 29, also collects vinyl (she claims to have about 250 records). He says he does it because of the warm, nostalgic sound that is missing according to many listeners in digital music. “Listening to music on vinyl is very different,” says Court as he sifts through stacks of records at New York’s Village Revival records. “It feels authentic.”
Vinyl has grown in popularity in recent years in the United States, a shift after CDs and downloads reigned supreme in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2022, vinyl sales (41 million) will surpass CD sales (33 million), for the first time since 1987, according to data released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Vinyl revenue has already begun to double CD revenue by the 2020 RIAA report. Major retailers, including Walmart, have embraced the retro format, and artists like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and Billie Eilish are jumping on the bandwagon.
This week, the metal rock band bought one of the vinyl manufacturers, Furnace Pressing, to meet demand for their reissues. Smaller shops are also interesting among young people: Jamal Alnasr, owner of Village Revival, sells some 200,000 vinyl records, not to mention CDs and nets. “Who would have thought that vinyl would come to life?” says the 50-year-old shop owner, who moved to New York from the West Bank as a teenager.
Alnasr went so far as to donate much of his personal collection, which he estimates is worth about $200,000 today, to the archival institution. “In the ’90s, talking vinyl wasn’t very fashionable,” he laughs. But now “this new generation is looking for all the music from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.”
“They know more than those of us who grew up in the 1990s and 1980s,” he adds. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Alnasr sells new and used vinyl. Due to the high cost of manufacturing and distribution, the markup on new items does not exceed 5%, and you rely on original collections to make up the difference.
With a monthly rent of $15,000 for premises in Greenwich Village, today one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York, Alnasr’s business lives permanently on the line. “Every time I’m going to put together, I take everything from my own collection and put it back in the business,” he says. “I think (…) I love my business more than I love myself.”
Like Vijay Damerla, Alnasr says many people buy vinyl as an art object and then discover the music. A friend of Lana del Rey, Bella Hadid and Rosalía, Alnasr is happy to buy records and ship vinyls to VIP customers. Instead, shoppers prefer to feel a “physical experience” of the future store. “I don’t want to sell this online,” he said. “I want people to come, look through the vinyls and find (…) there are many hidden gems here,” he explains passionately.
In the wake of the vinyl renaissance, physical music sales are still limited to a corner, and streaming is the dominant form of listening.
Services, both paid subscriptions and ad-supported platforms, will hit 7% to reach $13.3 billion in revenue by 2022, according to the RIAA, accounting for 84% of total revenue, counting from the United States.
But Curia Celina, who hails from Belgium, says that it is poured out too quickly, too easily. “It’s better when you pick up your vinyl, when you listen and you’re proud,” he said. / afp