By Victor Corral Martinez
Signal Staff Writer
One recent morning at 10 a.m., Anthony Beeby flipped his open sign at Boho Records and Rags, unlocked his doors. Minutes barely passed when a young couple in their 20s came inside with the intent to dig through the record crates to find those elusive records they’ve been searching for.
In the age of digital streaming, many have returned to analog vinyl records to experience a connection to the artist and the music — replacing the chinaware cabinet with their record player and vinyl collection.
This new demand for vinyl records has fueled the industry’s resurgence, providing a place for all age groups to connect, interact and socialize; however, the supply continues to lack the capability to meet the soaring demand.
The midyear report researched by MRC Data in collaboration with Billboard shows vinyl sales have seen continuous growth for 15 consecutive years. In 2021, vinyl records recorded over 19.2 million sales, a significant uptick from the previous year’s 9.2 million sales.
Digital album sales in 2021 saw a sharp decline with 12.9 million sales reported, about 5 million in declining sales from 2020.
Albums from Adele, ABBA and Taylor Swift helped fuel the demand for vinyl sales in 2021, surpassing cassette sales for the first time since 1991. Additionally, the demand for physical album sales has fueled the manufacturing of albums.
TSI Digital Media, since 1976 has continued to manufacture cassettes, expanded into compact discs, vinyl, VHS and other digital manufacturing.
President of TSI Digital Media, Steve Feldman said, the influx of vinyl sales has many going into the physical media industry to capitalize on the growing demand.
“There’s a tremendous influx in having the music put on vinyl, and everybody’s challenge is that there’s a limited capacity of production,” Feldman said. “So the turnaround times to order the vinyl is six m to nine months out.”
The demand is so high, but the production chains have prompted vinyl to be produced in Europe to help meet the demand and shorten the delay times from digital album release and vinyl album release.
“Vinyl manufacturing has always been very slow,” Feldman said. “It’s always been three to six months usual, and now takes six to nine months.”
Feldman credits the resurgence of vinyl to the warm sound heard on records, the collectability aspect and artists pushing for physical musical release. He also added that the production of record players helped push demand for vinyl; a similar trend may begin to form for cassette tapes.
Feldman said streaming services had hurt the sales for artists, and with COVID shutting down many concert tours, Feldman hopes his clients get back to the income streams they deserve for their music.
Even with production stalling and artists unable to tour, vinyl sales show no signs of declining. Instead, Beeby at Boho Records sees the growth continue — even with a minimal online presence.
Beeby said the hope initially was to make enough sales to operate a retail location but quickly hit sales that saw immediate profits. Then, during Christmas, Beeby noticed a 30% increase in sales and was shocked at the demand.
“We could see the boom of Christmas of 2020, where we saw a lot of new faces coming in who had bought turntables or had gotten turntables for Christmas,” Beeby said.
Beeby noticed even teenagers were coming into the store to find an Etta James record. They may have heard in a documentary or movie; music not from their time.
So all these young kids were discovering these albums for the first time,” Beeby said.
The MTV generation is middle-aged now; they’re bringing their children and showing them what they would listen to, according to Beeby.
Additionally, Beeby’s seen rock band records that are 40-years-old selling for $10,000 and have passed the values of cars. Additionally, the price of records is still going up, and the cost of a new record is remarkably higher.
Beeby suggests the music labels will push out remasters of old record releases that many can’t find on first run pressings. This demand has caused production to move outside the United States to meet the demand.
“There’s a label owner in Pasadena and he’s got a record company, with eight releases,” Beeby said. “For the last year he’s been trying to get them pressed, and it’s taking eight months to get one record released.”
The future of vinyl will continue to grow for the next few years, and the supply can’t be met because of the lack of new pressing plants. Beeby added that popular records like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” had shown a lack of quality control because they’re made in places that care more about quantity.
“We get in stuff come in from the Czech Republic, and I’m sorry, but the quality’s garbage,” Beeby said.
However, with the supply chain issues, Beeby would like to see independent pressing plants open up to manufacture vinyl records because the new machinery to make records has shown progress to meet the demand.
Now, Beeby’s biggest problem is finding records to sell from resellers or distributors. Many original release records are heavily played and worn out, which can’t be sold, and new releases are still experiencing quality issues.
Beeby advises changing the needle to a higher quality for all new vinyl collectors, buying the brushing equipment online to guarantee your records are maintained and you have a better sound.
When asked why people like listening to vinyl records, Beeby said, “It’s what heaven sounds like.”
He said the warmth, crackling and depth of tone in vinyl has an element that can never be produced in a digital streaming format.
“There are certain records, and I don’t care who you are, or you may not like that genre of music, but you hear it and you go, that’s a perfect record,” Beeby said. “ If you don’t like it, well, there’s something wrong with you.”