Vinyl records back at No. 1 on music fans’ playlists

What: Vinyl Supernova
When: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Where: Fernwood Community Centre, 1240 Gladstone Ave.
Admission: $2

When peer-to-peer music became a mainstream reality in 1999, file-sharing site Napster wrote the music industry’s obituary.

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CD sales, a huge source of revenue for record labels, declined rapidly in the years that followed, to the point where the form is all but useless today. When music fans discovered that they no longer had to pay $20 for an album (Napster, and later YouTube, made their names on free content), the old model of paying large sums for music was done.

The music industry eventually resuscitated itself, first with iTunes, then with streaming services such as Spotify. But the one constant through it all — if not from a sales standpoint, certainly from a passion perspective — has been vinyl.

The format is getting its time in the sun again with a new generation of fans. According to a Forbes report this year, new vinyl is projected to hit 40 million units sold in 2017, with worldwide sales of about $1 billion US. Those numbers go way up when you factor in used vinyl.

New vinyl sales in the United States rose 26 per cent in 2016, and for the first time vinyl outpaced digital sales in Britain. Though it is expected to hit several milestones this year, vinyl has been on an upward trajectory since 2008.

Ryan Wugalter has seen the trend first-hand in Victoria. Since 2013, he has run Vinyl Supernova, the city’s semi-annual record fair, which has its eighth edition at the Fernwood Community Centre on Saturday.

“I’m always looking at different ways of marketing the event, and reaching new people within and outside the city,” Wugalter said. “But I am feeling like people are starting to anticipate it now. They know it’s our city’s only record fair, and I’ve only heard people say good things about it.”

Every city has a core of collectors who have been buying vinyl for decades, so the mainstreaming of vinyl has sent values through the roof.

Its rise in popularity has caught longtime collectors somewhat off guard, Wugalter included.

“I worked in a used- book store for many years, and I was in charge of the vinyl section. People have been into it forever. My copies of David Bowie records that I see people buying for $30 today were $5 each in the ’90s.” Last year’s event attracted 700 people through its doors at the Fernwood Community Centre. Due to the feverish interest in vinyl — news of Elton John record shopping last week in Vancouver made international headlines — Wugalter wouldn’t be surprised to see attendance hit the 1,000 mark on Saturday.

“You’ll see commercials on television now with people listening to music, and they will pull out records,” he said. “It’s totally crossed over again.”

Vinyl Supernova has 62 tables of vendors spread over two floors at the community centre. The primary stock being offered is vinyl, but CDs, cassettes and a variety of music memorabilia will also be on sale, Wugalter said.

He has no problem finding vendors to participate. In fact, he’s had a waiting list for every edition. That gives him the luxury of screening sellers so that he doesn’t have too much of one thing. Variety is key at any record sale, he said.

“Any genre you might be interested in, you’ll find here, in either really crappy condition or really mint condition — everywhere from records for $1 to records for several hundreds of dollars.”

Admission is $2, with partial proceeds going to benefit the nonprofit neighbourhood resource group Fernwood NRG.

 

 

THE EXPERTS’ GUIDE TO GOOD RECORD-HUNTING

The value of music takes on new meaning at record fairs. The price of a record you bought for pennies at K-Mart as a kid may cause an arrhythmia today, but worry not. Deals can be had at Vinyl Supernova, which will have 62 tables of records and music memorabilia at the Fernwood Community Centre on Saturday. Here’s some Vinyl Supernova advice for those getting back into vinyl this weekend:

1. EARLY BIRDS GET THE GOOD STUFF. Buyers will be lined up at 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. start. Once doors open, your formerly congenial waiters-in-line will push you out of the way if it means they get their grubby hands on Olivia Newton-John’s Physical gatefold LP with the fold-out poster inside. If your personal Holy Grail is what gets you out of bed in the morning, don’t expect to find it late in the afternoon. Go early, and spend freely.

2. STICKER SHOCK EXISTS — GET OVER IT. Very few care that you used to have The Beatles’ Yesterday and Today with the “butcher cover” when you were young, unless you have it today (and if you do, it could be worth upwards of $5,000 in pristine condition). Prices change. So should your perspective on vintage records.

3. MINT MATTERS ONLY IN MUSEUMS. Don’t let a sly seller (and that’s putting it nicely) fool you into purchasing an original, factory-sealed copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon unless you plan to keep it in storage. Want to have Us and Them emanating from your turntable? Pick up a modest copy for $15 and call it a day. For most people, the music in the grooves is more important that the catalogue number on the spine.

4. HAVE DEALS, WILL TRAVEL. Vendors want to make money, but they also want to lighten their load by getting rid of stock (in many cases, that’s their mandate for being there). If you plan to buy lots of albums, do it from one seller. Vendors don’t often give deals when you buy one record. But they will if you buy 10.

5. YOU WON’T GET IT LATER ON EBAY. If you see a record you really want in your collection, buy it; your endorphins will thank you. Human nature is such that if you don’t scoop up that one- of-a-kind Prince promo when it’s in your hands, you likely never will. That will rob you of the juice that keeps every collector collecting. The hunt is often better than the kill.
 

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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