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Thursday, May 13, 2021

A Record Revival

Silence is palpable when the sudden drop of a needle cuts through the mundane emitting timeless music. Each rotation projects a musty smell welcoming the listener like an old book. The experience of a record is perfectly captivating.

Avalon Records owner, Chris Lamb, thinks music yields more for a listener when they create a deeper connection with their listening experience. Music is an engaging medium enabling a listener to receive what they give, but the digital age is allowing music to become a passive experience, Lamb said.  The recent resurgence of vinyl is changing that experience.

Lamb, who graduated from Western in 2001, has worked at Avalon Records for 17 years and became the owner of the store in 2016.

The downtown Bellingham Everyday Music storefront Wednesday, Jan. 25. // Photo by Rachel Postlewait

“When you listen to a record you are immersed in the ritual of the music a lot more because you’re physically engaged,” Lamb said.

When you perform all of the motions necessary in order to play a record, it becomes a more engaging experience. Music holds a deeper meaning this way, Lamb said.  The idea of a highly immersive ritual contributes to the recent popularity of records.

“The resurgence in vinyl is partly in response to a push back against technology and a desire for the physical artifact of a tangible item,” Lamb said.

Everyday Music employee, Nick Emard, has seen this first hand during his year and a half with the company.

“Vinyl has certainly seen a huge resurgence. When I got hired here, there was certain stuff  I never thought I would see on vinyl. I never thought  we would see Blink-182 reissues,” Emard said.

Since 2009, vinyl has seen a 260 percent increase in sales, according to Forbes. Not only are older records being remastered, but many Top 40 artists, like Drake and Adele, are releasing their work through the medium.

“Vinyl has certainly seen a huge resurgence. When I got hired here, there was certain stuff  I never thought I would see on vinyl. I never thought  we would see Blink-182 reissues.”

Nick Emard 

“It feels like the ceiling has raised for what I thought I would see on vinyl a year ago. Now I feel like I’ll see anything,” Emard said.

The popularity records have gained in recent years is apparent, yet Lamb said he saw the trend back in 2004.   He claims vinyl was back to stay in 2008 when Record Store Day first started. Lamb participates every year in the event dedicated to celebrating local record stores and special vinyl releases.

The production of records never stopped, but during the ‘90s when the CD rose in popularity and cassette tapes faded away, vinyl had its dead years, Lamb said.

The Avalon Records sign Wednesday, Jan. 25. // Photo by Rachel Postlewait

Lamb said the recent rise in popularity for vinyl has not only affected college aged students, but all generations. Nostalgic middle-aged customers still make up a good portion of his sales. Lamb said his best demographic are late teens and college-aged customers.

One of Lamb’s favorite experiences is having college students realize the current bands they listen to are released on records alongside the vinyls their parents used to have.

“It’s like standing on the edge of a rabbit hole and watching them fall down. I love that because not only will they buy the contemporary music, but it exposes them to the whole history of music,” Lamb said.

Although the Internet is a source of competition for local record stores, shops offer an experience and options consumers may not have found on their own, Lamb said.  In addition to competition from the Internet, Avalon and Everyday Music are located adjacent to each other.

The two shops have distinct styles. While Everyday Music is a chain selling CDs, DVDs and vinyl, locally-owned Avalon sells items such as glass pipes and tapestries in addition to vinyl.

The stores have found a way to serve a specific role in the local record community. Lamb appreciates the presence of Everyday Music instead of viewing them as a competitors.   

“We work in competition and in tandem. I do enjoy having them right across the street. It’s better for both of us because it creates a district,” Lamb said.

The inside of Everyday Music Wednesday, Jan. 25. // Photo by Rachel Postlewait

Due to the popularity of local music stores and vinyl growing, there are negative effects that rise sometimes on independent bands. Emard said some smaller bands need to have a tangible legacy of their music and get frustrated when the popular bands are dominating the presses with large orders. A friend of Emard and his band waited eight months to receive their vinyl because of the constant push back of estimated press times.

Both stores accept and sell used records. Lamb said finds like these are part of what make the job exciting.

“We absorb a lot of records.  People come in and sell us records, so that feeds the beast too.  The bulk of traffic is used records, not new ones.  That’s what I love the most, because you never know what’s going to walk in the door,” Lamb said.

Diving into the medium of vinyl may seem like a daunting task, but with several local and online resources, help is never too far away.  With each store having unique specialties, the options are endless in finding a sound to satisfy each customer. The variation continues to grow, Emard said.

Be careful. You may just fall down the rabbit hole.

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