Vinyl lovers rally behind local record businesses

Vinyl lovers rally behind record stores

Music shops in Syracuse are thriving due to a resurgence in the popularity of albums.
Published: November 8, 2021
Casey Keefe looks at vinyl record at The Sound Garden on 11/8/21. (Photo by Max Mimaroglu)
Casey Keefe inspects a vinyl record at The Sound Garden.

SYRACUSE, NY – A group of Syracuse vinyl enthusiasts gather in front of Syracuse Vintage Vinyl on a rainy Sunday to sift through a boxful of dusty 45 rpm records. There’s laughter, a hum of music coming from inside the doors and chatter about old memories, the records scenting the air with nostalgia.

The group gathers at the store every Sunday, come rain or shine. “They keep me going; they’re my bread and butter,” said Syracuse Vintage Vinyl owner, Tom Little. The store, located on 205 W. Manlius St. in East Syracuse, collects and trades vintage collectors’ items, including vinyls, cassette tapes, comic books, VHS tapes and more.

The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) is responsible for 85% of all legitimate recorded music consumption in the United States. According to their data, vinyl first reached peak popularity in 1973, when there were 228 million units were sold in the United States.

“When I was in high school, that was like the thing. Everyone was really into music in the late 70s,” said vinyl enthusiast Jeff Jones. “You feel like you’re hearing what the artist wanted you to hear when he was recording it.”

According to Statista, across the United States in 2020, vinyl surged once again in popularity and grew by 46% compared to 2019 and thirty-fold since 2006 “when the vinyl comeback began” and has now beat out CDs in total revenues for the first time since the 1980s. CDs officially declined in popularity since the discontinuation of CD players in cars.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many local businesses to close worldwide. But record stores in the Syracuse area, including The Sound Garden, Books & Melodies, and Syracuse Vintage Vinyl, have all thrived due to the market for their collections of vinyl and CDs.

Syracuse Vintage Vinyl. 11/6/21. (Photo my Max Mimaroglu)
Old-school posters and shelves full of vinyl records adorn the walls of Syracuse Vintage Vinyl.

Casey Keefe, The Sound Garden’s store manager agreed, “I can’t speak for every record store, but for us we’ve been doing really well. I want to say even better than pre-COVID, honestly.”

In the digital age, with the focus on online streaming with apps like Spotify and Apple Music, the niche market that is vinyl is not only selling but flourishing. According to the analytics from MRC Data, vinyl LPs sold in the United States rose 108% in just the first six months of 2021.

“The kids enjoy it because it’s tangible and there’s a ritual to cleaning the record and putting the needle down on the record, and it’s also like a time machine,” said Jones. “If you have a Beatles record that was actually made in 1967 and you’re playing it on an old vintage stereo, you’re like some college kid who’d play it in his dormitory back then.”

Ann Ordiway, a 25-year-old vinyl collector was attracted to the “cool” market that is modern vinyl and plays it while cleaning her apartment.

“Vinyl gets me to listen to the whole album, whereas Spotify, I’ll skip songs,” said Ordiway. “It also allows me to get to know older artists.”

Between vinyl, CDs and now streaming, popularity is constantly shifting. For Jeff Jones, however, vinyl and CD have never disappeared.

(From left to right) Herb Miller, Tom Little, and Ronnie Dark stand inside Syracuse Vintage Vinyl in SYracuse, New York on Sunday, November 7, 2021. (Photo by Ella Fling).
Ronnie Dark (right) browses through vinyl records while Herb Miller (left) and Syracuse Vintage Vinyl store owner Tom Little tidy around store.

Vinyl and streaming today may be used in conjunction: vinyl for home and streaming while traveling. Jones said he used Spotify to find new artists and introduce some obscure records only available in certain countries; but then would search for that artist’s vinyl from the Syracuse record stores to further support each artist.

“I’m always joking with Tom [Little] that I’m here to buy my old high school collection back,” said Syracuse Vintage Vinyl regular, Lisa Wojtaszek. “All the ones that my mother donated to my aunt’s garage sale. Now I’m running around buying them all back.”

The Syracuse community has protected their record stores for years.

In 2013, The Sound Garden threatened to close. Their Syracuse followers, however, gathered downtown with placards and T-shirts reading “Save Our Sound Garden.”

“It definitely bummed a lot of people out,” said Keefe. “The record community is pretty tight-knit for the most part, so people are usually willing to travel for that stuff. We got a lot of support from people like Rochester and Ithaca and places like that.”

The protection and support for vinyl has allowed for its resurgence. “There’s a certain vibe you get when you walk into a record store, and we don’t want that to go away,” said Keefe.

Avatar for Jamey Bulloch

is a graduate student in the magazine, news, and digital news program, and contributor for The NewsHouse.

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Avatar for Jamey Bulloch

is a photographer for The NewsHouse.

Avatar for Jamey Bulloch

is a photographer for The NewsHouse.