The return of vinyl: Tahoe business confirms record sales on the rise
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Inside Keynote Used Records and Books in South Lake Tahoe, owner Ray Hadley is putting The “5” Royales 1958 vinyl album “Dedicated To You” on eBay. After consulting “Goldmine Record Album Price Guide,” which says the record could sell for $800 to $1,000, he opts to start the bidding at $400.
“If it wasn’t worth so much, I’d keep it for myself. No one here would buy it, just eccentric collectors like myself,” said Hadley. “People think of The Beatles and The Grateful Dead as rare, but there are thousands of copies of those for sale. This probably only sold 10,000 copies in the ‘50s — and it’s great music.”
Hadley opened Keynote 31 years ago. He started collecting records in ’75 when he lived in Sacramento. He eventually moved down to Los Angeles where he sold LPs at the monthly all-night swap meet in the parking lot of Capitol Records. He also went to garage and library sales and scouted out books to sell to bookstores — something he still does today for his own store.
Keynote is lined with mix-matched shelves of used books, and in the center, crates of records — rock, jazz, blues, country, folk, most priced around $4. Some of the rarer albums sell for around $100.
“Vinyl has become a fad. There’s a lot of people collecting vinyl — millennials are collecting vinyl,” said Hadley, glancing over at a 20-something in a unicorn t-shirt and Vans flipping through the records. “It’s common enough, yet it’s old enough and cool enough because the cover art and it doesn’t take too much effort to get a system together to play.”
Over the last five years, he’s noticed an uptick in record sales as younger generations jump on the bandwagon. It’s a trend that’s going on around the country.
Vinyl sales topped 14.32 million units in 2017— a record high since Nielsen Music began electronically tracking music sales in 1991. That’s up 9 percent from 2016, which saw 13.1 million units, and marks the 12th consecutive year of growth in vinyl album sales.
Vinyl accounted for 8.5 percent of all album sales in 2017 and 14 percent of all physical album sales, both up from the year prior, according to Nielsen.
While rock music represented 67 percent of all vinyl sales that year, new releases are gaining traction as modern day musicians have started releasing records, and retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters have begun selling them.
Albums by The Beatles, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson made the list of top 10 best selling vinyl records in 2017, but they were accompanied by the soundtracks for “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1” and “La La Land” as well as music by Ed Sheeran and Amy Winehouse.
Despite the entry of e-commerce giants like Amazon onto the record scene, Hadley doesn’t think it will be the end of shops like his.
“It’s not necessarily cheaper to buy records online, and you don’t have the fun of browsing,” he said.
It’s how Hadley feels about the used book side of his business, which over the years has actually grown to account for roughly half of his sales, despite the impact online shopping has had on bookstores like Barnes & Noble.
Since 2011 the retail chain has experienced declining sales and closed about 10 percent of its stores. In February, another round of layoffs resulted in 1,800 full-time employees losing their jobs, according to Tech Crunch.
In 2017 Hastings Entertainment, which sold books, music and games at its 123 locations, declared bankruptcy. Soon after Family Christian Stores, a retailer of books and other religious products, closed its 240 stores.
Despite these numbers, some argue that independent stores embedded in communities actually have the best chance of survival against e-commerce for two simple reasons: the experience and a concerted effort to shop local.
“It’s hard to tell what will happen to places like this,” said Hadley. “But the experience is just different and you can’t get that on Amazon.”