The persistence of vinyl

John Hult

John Hult

Most students probably look through their parents’ record collections as though they were looking through a time capsule filled with ancient artifacts.

Many of those parents have switched to CDs, buying copies of records they’ve owned for years on the smaller, more portable and modern media.

Some people have given up on buying music altogether, opting instead to download music from the Internet and listen on their computers or portable MP3 players.

For a growing number of music fans and collectors, however, vinyl is the only way to go.

That’s just what Dan Christie is banking on.

For nearly ten years Christie and his wife Nancy have been buying collectables that range from mannequins to Easy Bake Ovens.

But about five years ago, Christie decided to start collecting some records for himself.

“That’s where it started?collecting for myself,” Christie says. “I do a lot of bulk buying, so I ended up with a lot of stuff I didn’t want for myself, so I decided to get into the game of buying and selling.”

So Flipside Vinyl and Collectables was born.

He hasn’t looked back since.

The Christies opened the Brookings store on June 6 of this year.

The store, located across from Napa Auto Parts on Fifth Avenue South, is divided about half and half.

The south side of the store is filled with dolls, mannequins and old toys; the north half is filled with thousands of vinyl records, both full length LPs and singles.

Christie’s store is the second offering collectable records in Brookings, joining The Brookings Book Company, which is located on Fifth Street South.

According to Christie, collectors gain a lot from stores like his.

“About ninety percent of the records out there are just junk. If I buy 500 records, there may only be one or two really rare, high quality records,” he says.

By high quality, Christie means more than just good-looking and playable. Many collectors will only pay top dollar for first editions, which take a highly trained eye to discover.

It took Flipside’s owner nearly three years to learn how to detect the pressing of a record, because there is generally no official note of the edition on the record or the jacket.

Apparently, its all about the label on the black disks.

“You take Sgt. Pepper’s,” Christie explains. “The original pressing was on Capitol, which was a black label with a rainbow ring around it. They reissued that with several different colors on Capitol, then they reissued it on the Apple label and on and on. It just varies so much.”

Both Christie and Brookings Book Company owner Richard Johnston agree that the market for collectable records has grown over the past few years.

“I get a lot more business out of them now than I did, say, four years ago, when I bought the store,” Johnston says.

Both owners also seem to cater to the same clientele. Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin are always in heavy demand.

“That’s what everybody wants, and it’s the hardest stuff to find in good condition,” Christie says.

There are reasons beyond the collectable aspect of the LPs that have contributed to their success.

While 8 tracks are no longer produced and rewriteable CDs continue to eat away at the cassette tape’s share of the music market, LPs have never shown any signs of disappearing altogether.

Some artists, like Ani Difranco, not only release all of their albums on CD and vinyl, but produce albums only available on the format.

Johnston considered starting an account with Righteous Babe Records?Difranco’s own label?just to be able to sell the Little Plastic Remixes LP.

Strangely enough, the vinyl format is most prevalent among smaller, less established acts.

Strange because an LP costs more than a CD to produce.

Corey Gerlach, DJ for the Sioux Falls hip-hop outfit Urban Ills, explained that there is a tradition that goes into vinyl releases that bands are willing to pay for.

“I think its just the history of it, really,” Gerlach says. “A lot of people just like the pure sound of the analog recording.”

Johnston has heard this argument as well.

“A lot of people argue that the encryption process involved in putting music on a CD automatically reduces the sound quality.

Many audiophiles believe that vinyl gives them a better listening experience,” he says.

Gerlach’s position as a DJ points to new vinyl’s most potent weapon in the fight to stay current?hip-hop music.

Nearly every hip-hop album?as well as most electronic and dance albums?is released on vinyl to allow DJs to spin, scratch and loop on stage.

Despite the proliferation of digital recording technologies, Gerlach believes that vinyl, at least in the realm of hip hop, will never fade away.

“It plays a huge role,” he says. “Without the DJ, there would be no hip-hop. For people who stay true to the art form, there will never be a replacement for a live DJ.”

For most people, however, collecting vinyl instead if CDs remains impractical.

Johnston admits to using CDs more often than vinyl, simply for portability purposes.

Even Christie, who seems to breathe vinyl records, has a few CDs lying around his store.

But the music available on vinyl makes the format incredibly appealing for fans of older artists.

“A lot of artists had works that were released on vinyl that were never re-released on CD, so often that’s the only way you can find early recordings of some artists,” Johnston said.

But the music isn’t the only thing.

“A lot of the interest comes from the jacket,” Christie says.

“Some of the stuff is just wild, and you don’t get the same effect on a CD or cassette.

People will put records on their wall, because they’re every bit as neat as a picture or painting. In fact, that’s what they are.”

Christie encouraged anyone with some curiousity about vinyl to come into Flipside and just look.

“We don’t want to pressure anyone to buy,” he says.

“Most people who spend time in here end up buying something, but it’s always fun to look around or visit with other collectors and see what they have.”