Orientation director by day, album collector by night

Adam Karnopp is known at SDSU for his job as the university orientation director, but he has another title at home. He is the proud owner of about 13,000 albums.  

Karnopp has been listening to all kinds of music since he was young, from his dad’s rock’n’roll to his sister’s “Grease” soundtrack. In third grade, he bought his first cassette single: “Ice Ice Baby,” by Vanilla Ice.  

In high school and college, he became more serious about his collection. 

“I inherited a record player that also had a cassette player on it and a little bit of a collection and started to collect my own a little bit,” Karnopp said. “I’ve always been a ‘rummage saler,’ and so I would pick up anything that looked interesting and stuff like that.” 

When CDs took over in the late 1980s, Karnopp slowly got rid of his cassette collection, but is regretting it now. He’s trying to rebuild it, but it’s only about 10% of his entire collection. When streaming took over from CDs, Karnopp took the opportunity and built up his CD collection, which now makes up about 55% of his albums. 

He’s open to everything when it comes to music but focuses on the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Karnopp said. Most music lovers get stuck listening to music from their formative years and most of his favorite albums come from then, but his favorite artists come from a variety of decades. 

He even remembers exactly where he found his favorite album. 

“I was digging through the bins at the Watertown record store and saw it. The album was Featuring Birds by Quasi and it has a piano playing White Stripes vibe,” Karnopp said.

Karnopp has albums everywhere in his house, including his bathroom. His favorite album cover art is a style called “Cheesecake Art,” and his favorite album art with it is “Every Inch a Sailor” by Oscar Bryan. 

There were record stores in Brookings and Watertown that Karnopp used to frequent, but the stores have since closed. 

“Anything called an antique shop or flea market I would go to,” Karnopp said. “Thrift stores and new or used record stores. Even places like Walmart and Target are starting to carry vinyls and stuff too, but those are usually my last resorts.”  

As far as hidden gems go, Knarnopp said his most interesting finds come from the most unlikely of places. His best rummage sale find was last summer when someone was selling their own vinyl collection. 

“They had Bowie, Queen and Pink Floyd, and I couldn’t pass up so many classics for $200,” he said.  

Karnopp said he recently began buying new albums. Before it was all rummage, but with streaming, he can listen to a new artist and if he likes their stuff, then he buys it new. Karnopp tries to buy it directly from the artist, but if not then he’ll find another way. 

“Anytime an artist can be heard by anyone is good exposure, but record stores are the way to go if you can’t buy directly from the artist,” Karnopp said. 

With so many albums, Karnopp has to have an organization system. He says he has two sections: the ones he’ll never get rid of, and the ones he hasn’t “fully committed to.”

They are all sorted alphabetically. CDs and vinyls make up most of his album collection, and Karnopp thinks he might have to get a storage unit soon. 

Over the years, Karnopp has collected so many albums that he decided to clear some out this year at the record fair in Fargo, but he only cleared out about 90 albums. According to the Fargo Record Fair’s official website, this annual event has been going on for over a decade.  

“I’ve been going to [the fair] for a while, but I’d never been a seller,” Karnopp said. “A friend of mine and I decided we’d try to sell since we had a lot to get rid of. It was pretty fun, actually, I really enjoyed it. I imagine I would do it again at some point.”

In the last five years, Karnopp has taken an interest in 45s. He says they are an easy, cheap way to experience music. 

“I’ve discovered some bands that were formed in Brookings, and so it’s been fun to learn and pass on the knowledge to anyone who might listen,” Karnopp said.   

Recently he found a 45 and picked it up because it has a regional label on it. When he looked into the band a little more, he realized it was a band from Huron. 

Karnopp said he didn’t always love vinyl. He would sometimes replace it with CDs, throwing his vinyl out. But he has returned to vinyl as its popularity grows.  

“Vinyl is a blessing and a curse. It has a warmer tone and overall sound, but it’s so easily damaged and you have to really take care of them,” he said. 

Vinyl record sales have grown rapidly over the past decade. 2021 was the biggest sales year since 1986 with over $1 billion vinyl record sales, according to Texas Public Radio. 

“I’ve now found that I’m kind of sticking more to vinyl and kind of focusing on that, although people right now are embracing vinyl in a way that they haven’t for a long time,” Karnopp said. “CDs are pretty easy and cheap to come by nowadays too, so I still pick up a lot of those too.”