As music undoubtedly becomes more accessible in the 21st Century, vinyl records prove to be a mainstay for Southern Californian record store Spindles Music Shack.
The Tower Plaza shopping center in Temecula contains a variety of stores and restaurants for many locals to visit. Nestled between a movie theater and neighboring taco shop, stands a sanctuary for music lovers. Spindles Music Shack is an independent record store that has been issuing out more than just vinyl since 2009. Here, customers can expect to find a wide array of items.
Neatly organized rows of CDs, classified by genre and artist, line a wall of the store. Stacks of movies create a pathway towards the checkout counter. Single 45 records are grouped near the front. Individually-wrapped pictures of The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison can be found in a box next to photos of Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger. Packaged figurines from “The Simpsons” television show hang above a window. Huge film posters are located for sale near the back corner.
“Everything we sell is obsolete,” stated store-owner Kris, requesting not to share his last name, who has been working in the music business for over 30 years.
While not in the market to sell imperative necessities, Spindles caters to many customers who are music fans, especially those who collect vinyl. People between the ages of 14 and 40 come in frequently to browse the racks, looking for certain records. With a plethora of music genres to choose from— pop, grunge, jazz, blues, rockabilly and more— classic rock remains a top contender. This category includes artists such as AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, and The Who. If searching for an original pressing or re-issue of Electric Ladyland (1968), try looking under the Jimi Hendrix vinyl section.
Can’t seem to find a specific LP? Do not hesitate to ask Kris, either he will assist in your search, or he can place an order to have it in-store. “We sell around five records of The Beatles Abbey Road (1969) in the span of two months,” stated Kris. Working with distributors, Spindles’ inventory is based upon what their clientele wants. Many current artists who have published their music on vinyl, like Panic! At the Disco and Lana Del Rey, are also sold at Spindles.
To some people, vinyl records may seem like an ‘outdated’ piece of plastic or a trend deemed only for millennial hipsters. As streaming services—like Spotify or Apple Music—give people a more convenient way enjoy their music on the go, how does vinyl stack up to digital competition?
According to a 2017 Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) report, total revenues from streaming platforms comprised 65 percent of U.S. music industry revenues.
Paid-subscription streaming services from Apple Music, Pandora Plus, Spotify, and On-demand streaming services supported by ads generated a revenue of $659 million in 2017. These services include platforms from YouTube, Vevo, and ad-supported Spotify. The Nielsen Company understatedly estimates these on-demand streaming services streamed more than 300 billion songs to fans in the U.S. last year. This does not account for the unreported streams on YouTube.
Revenues for digitally downloaded music, included full songs from sites such as Amazon, fell 25 percent from the previous year to $1.3 billion.
For the first time since 2011, revenues from physical products (CDs and vinyl) exceeded those from digital downloads. Overall, shipments of physical products produced $1.5 billion in revenue and comprised 17 percent of industry total.Given a simple breakdown, CD shipment declined 6 percent last year and only produced $1.1 billion. However, the revenue for vinyl increased by 10 percent and generated $395 million.
Though it appears digital music is topping the charts, it has NOT completely squashed vinyl records. Over a decade since its resurgence, vinyl continues to thrive in a technologically-driven world, especially at local record stores like Spindles.
Yet, in recent years, many retail outlets, like Barnes & Noble and Target, have been vying with mom and pop record shops to sell vinyl. The cost of buying records depends on where and what kind of music one is seeking to find. Typically, big-name corporations advertise popular vinyl from current recording artists or re-issues of older albums. A price comparison of the Talking Heads’ True Stories (1986) is drastic— including tax, Barnes & Noble sells this LP for $20, whereas from Spindles’ bargain bin, the same album is sold for $7.
At Spindles, “we try to price vinyl a buck or two under chain stores” stated Kris. “Of course, more expensive records have a longer shelf life.” Along with discounted LPs, Spindles gives people the option to trade in vinyl, but these records must be in sellable shape.
Owning an independent record store takes commitment. Open six days a week, Spindles continues to strive in the Temecula area. Along with his customers, Kris credits the new-found appreciation of many vinyl fans for allowing his business to prosper. “This current generation has really embraced vinyl,” stated Kris. Quite a few of the store regulars come in looking to replenish their vinyl collection they had tossed out years before.
Usually, younger patrons will buy vinyl because it is trendy— those are the ones who will probably hang LPs on the wall. Though, most Spindles customers are genuine music lovers who will stick with vinyl long after the trend fades. Frequent Spindles consumer Jonny Curry, 20, has been collecting records for five years. After inheriting a collection from his mom, Curry’s love for vinyl grew. “It’s a piece of history— you can’t go back to 1971, but you can listen to it,” Curry stated.
To many vinyl fanatics like Curry, one great aspect of collecting records is the unbeatable sound. Every crackle and hiss of needle on wax can’t be found on a digital format. In an era where life is more digitized, a multitude of people may look towards vinyl to retain something physical.
Erin Burkett, co-founder of independent record label Fat Wreck Chords, believes in this philosophy. Based out of San Francisco, this label was founded in 1990 by NOFX front man Michael ‘Fat Mike’ Burkett and his then-girlfriend, Erin. Intent on publishing the music of punk band, NOFX, Fat Wreck Chords grew through word of mouth— particularly around the punk scene. Now, almost 30 years later, Fat Wreck Chords has worked with over 115 bands and continues to distribute vinyl to many record stores, including Spindles.
“There is something about being able to hold a record in your hand, comb thru the inserts or the booklet, and feel the musical grooves in the vinyl of a band you love that cannot be replicated digitally” stated Erin. “True music lovers will never abandon vinyl.”