The Vermont Cynic

Burlington On Vinyl

Beth Goodwin, Feature Writer

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The music scene in Burlington is thriving; there are live gigs every weekend in quirky venues from house shows to ArtsRiot. Music is a huge part of the city’s creative and cultural pulse.

At the core of the scene is the presence of vinyl. Burlington boasts three record stores: Burlington Records, Pure Pop and Speaking Volumes.

In recent years the vinyl industry has seen a worldwide resurgence in popularity. According to Nielsen Music, vinyl sales in the USA hit record numbers during the first half of 2018 with over 7.6 million LPs sold.

“You come into a shop and see all these wonderful pieces of art,” said Ian Doerner, owner of Burlington Records. “Each one has a different story, and you can establish a feeling with these records as opposed to platforms such as Spotify.”

The best-selling vinyl charts are often topped by nostalgia-inducing artists such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, evidence that vinyl sales are in part being driven by older fans ditching CDs and Spotify in favour of the format of their youth.

Part of the appeal of vinyl is that it’s accessible to any age group, Doerner said, and there are records for every music taste, including modern artists. Artists who dominate on platforms such as Spotify such as Taylor Swift have taken the opportunity to capitalise on another format within the industry by selling their albums on vinyl.

“Every year it changes a little bit,” he said. “You have a lot of college students who buy a lot of hip-hop which has been a big trend in the last two or three years. There’s a lot of every age group, every gender.”

The second best selling vinyl LP of 2018 was Kendrick Lamar’s “Damn.” The presence of Lamar and others shows there is clearly a place on the shelf for modern artists.

There are many different reasons people choose to buy vinyl, including a longing for something more authentic in a musical world saturated with Hot 100 radio and Spotify playlists.

“I love to collect vinyl,” sophomore Jack Alberico said. “I adore old things, and I yearn for it in a time of SoundCloud rappers and large scale conformity. It’s a way to unplug. Everything we do now is on our phones, so having a break from that is always nice.”

Yearly vinyl sales in the USA increased from 4.6 million in 2012 to 14.3 million in 2017, according to Statista, a statistics portal. If selling patterns are anything to go by, Doerner said, vinyl’s popularity is set to keep growing.

“We always had a good sale point for vinyl,” he said. “But it’s only been increasing which I think reflects the same trend going on nationally and worldwide.”  

Urban Outfitters has also jumped on the vinyl bandwagon in recent years, stocking their stores with vinyl and selling a “vinyl record storage shelf” that retails for $79. It points to the idea that record collecting can be based in aesthetic rather than substance.

“I wish [vinyl records] were less expensive,” first-year Rowan Hawthorne said. “It’s such a different feeling from listening to Spotify, I feel more connected to the music and it’s a lot more personable.”

Serious vinyl collectors spend huge amounts of money on first presses and high-end record players, like the Sony HDW-1800, which retails on eBay for $15,000.

Vinyl can also be inexpensive.Burlington Records has multiple bins of records for $5 and a $1 record bin, which explains the format’s popularity within the student community. But price depends on the record.

“Burlington Records has every album one could ever need, and Pure Pop is very cool, literally underground,” Alberico said. “Of course, the downside of living in a town where vinyl is admired means that you’ll have to drop some serious cash to get a record you really want.”

Vinyl is a cherished part of the Burlington music scene.

“Music is a big part of this town,” Doerner said. “For how small we are we have so many things going on, and this contributes to the overall feeling within the town. It’s a very creative feeling.”  

There are often vintage clothing and record sales in the Davis Center and bars Downtown hold nights in which the DJs play exclusively vinyl. The fact that the city is so accommodating of the format explains part of its popularity.

Doerner said Spotify is certainly a convenient way to listen to music, but if you want a truly thoughtful, creative listening experience, a record player is worth the trouble.

“Vinyl is very creative, because it forces you to listen,” he said. “You have to make decisions, because the turntable will end and then you have to put on something else.”

If the trend of the passing years continues, the popularity of vinyl is only going to rise. Vinyl has clearly made its comeback and is here to stay.

It can be an affordable hobby if you’re smart about it; maybe just don’t buy an $80 stand to keep your records on. I hear Walmart sells storage boxes for cheap.

About the Photographer
Caroline Slack, Features Editor

Caroline Slack is a junior majoring in English with a concentration in writing. She currently edits the Features section, but began at the Cynic as a photographer...

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Burlington On Vinyl