Black vinyl magic

Digital music downloads may be killing big box stores, but mom and pop shops are standing strong.

Mike Moore

While large-scale music stores are becoming a thing of the past, locally-owned independents are marching to the beat of a different drum.

News broke earlier last month the countrywide music chain HMV would be closing all 102 of its locations across Canada after 30 years in business. However, vinyl records are expected to sell 40 million units in 2017, nearing the $1 billion mark, according to a report published by Forbes in January of this year. The void left behind by HMV can actually benefit locally-owned record stores as the vinyl side of the music business takes a leap forward.

St. John’s Mark Finch, who has a PhD in ethnomusicology, owns a vinyl collection that boasts around 700 records.

“I started collecting when I was 16 in 1997,” said Finch. “That was the midst of the CD era.”

Vinyl records are expected to clear $1 billion this year. The hobby of collecting albums is at its highest level of popularity since 1994. Mike Moore/Kicker

“CDs were expensive and a lot of people were selling their vinyl. It was a bit of a golden era for vinyl collectors,” he said.

Finch said he eventually became obsessed with collecting vinyl.

“I could spend my whole allowance on one Led Zeppelin CD or buy all of their albums on vinyl for $10 at a garage sale or flea market,” said Finch. “Only later did it develop into a collector’s fetish thing.”

Finch says he bought most of his records at garage sales, flea markets and from other collectors, but lately most of his purchases come from Fred’s Records and a local distributor called Come From Away Records, operated by Dan Wolovick.

“Amazon is going to have the quantity no store can compete with, whether big box or mom and pop shop.”

Wolovick is also a member of the Newfoundland Vinyl Exchange group on Facebook. The Facebook group is home to nearly 2,200 other collectors who share pictures of their latest finds, trade and sell records among each other.

Cody Snow, a new member to the global phenomenon of vinyl collecting, says that HMV is where he did most of his record shopping, simply due to the convenient store location in the Avalon Mall.

“I used to have to go to the mall with work every Friday,” said Snow. “About a week or two after I got my first record player, it slowly became new-record day.”

Though websites such as Amazon are cornering the online aspect of buying records, Snow says he thinks small record stores will survive simply because of the hunt.

“Amazon is going to have the quantity no store can compete with, whether big box or mom and pop shop. I feel given the experience that vinyl collectors enjoy with their purchases that they still enjoy going and looking around,” said Snow.

Snow says shopping online through Amazon doesn’t compare to the experience of physically sifting through record bins, hoping to come across that diamond in the rough.

“And even just the artwork that goes into the cover art is just nice to look at.”