As digital downloads and streaming become the audio formats of choice for most music buyers, vinyl has become the fetish object of the obsessed fan. The collectors’ marketplace now treasures the new as well as the old, and the evidence is on the sales rack: From November 2013 to November 2014, sales of new vinyl LPs rose an incredible 48 percent, hitting a total of 7.6 million, according to Nielsen, which tracks the sales of record music. Only eight years ago, vinyl sales sank below 1 million units.
New pressings are by and large limited, and single albums can have multiple editions, with different colored vinyl or different packaging, for example. That was the case for the June release of Jack White’s Lazaretto, an “ultra LP” that was etched with holograms and loaded with hidden tracks and other curiosities. It set an opening week record for vinyl albums by selling 40,000 copies—the most since Nielsen’s SoundScan system started tracking sales in 1991.
oday, records and boxed sets can become collectors’ items within years rather than decades, and websites such as eBay have played a significant role in pushing up prices. Among the most desirable are LPs from the late 1980s and ’90s (when CDs and cassettes were the formats of choice), special releases from Record Store Day (an annual celebration of independent record stores—this year’s is April 18), and limited editions from the 21st century. In February 2014, for example, a 1987 box set of the industrial band Coil’s Gold Is the Metal (With the Broadest Shoulders)—only 55 copies were pressed—sold for $1,889 on the Discogs website.
In the ever-shrinking landscape of brick-and-mortar record stores, six shops—three general interest, three specialist—are among the great stores that believe in serving the local customer first before attempting to strike gold online.