Columbia, put your records on
Slackers will be celebrating Record Store Day on Saturday with live acts and special sales.
Your fingers flip through the collection, pausing here and there as a familiar album or an intriguing cover catches your eyes. You're a homesick college student surrounded by old friends, the soundtrack to days when you weren't broke and you didn’t have to listen to Justin Bieber blaring from the rooms of various girls in the dorms. The Black Keys, Johnny Cash, Steve Miller Band, The White Stripes — they’re here with you, but it’s a bit different than usual. You're not scrolling through your iTunes collection on your phone. You're in a bona fide record store.
Slackers, that store that you were in (don't you remember?), is one of two record stores in Columbia and the only official participant in Record Store Day on Saturday.
Record Store Day, celebrated in more than 700 stores across the country, as well as a few hundred outside of the United States, was founded in 2007 to bring together independently owned record stores and their customers and artists.
Although the holiday is generally celebrated by independent stores, Slackers, which has stores located throughout Missouri and Illinois, will be participating with a lineup of live bands for the day. Live talent includes local bands Rip Rap, Jimmy Angelov and The Spit as well as Omaha-based band Cursive. Slackers will also be hosting sales throughout the day.
A big factor in the significance of Record Store Day this year is the apparent surge in the popularity of vinyl. Slackers assistant manager Ted Sharp says records are definitely coming back into style.
“Oh yeah,” Sharp says. “Big time.”
Streetside Records manager Nick Soha is excited about the comeback of vinyl as well.
“It’s the in thing right now,” Soha says. “It’s really catching on to where people you wouldn’t think would buy vinyl are buying vinyl.”
To further explain what he means, he says a 60-year-old woman was recently in the store purchasing an Eazy-E album. He theorizes that she may have been purchasing the album for a grandson or something of that nature. (We prefer to think she needed some jams.)
Hip-hop listening elderly aside, Soha is serious about his passion for vinyl. It’s more relaxing to sit there and listen to the entire record rather than simply switching tracks on a CD, he says. He also says the sound produced from a record is better.
“It sounds better, warmer,” he says.” There’s a better analog sound.”
He attributes this improved sound quality to the lack of compression of the sound waves on a record. On a digital file, he says, the file is compressed and compressed, losing a little bit of quality each time.
Soha says he has noticed record sales increasing rapidly in his store. Four or five years go, there were only 20 records in the entire store. Now, Streetside boasts a collection of approximately 4,000. Soha has no intentions of stopping there, though.
“Someday I envision this section to get to 8,000,” he says. “But it just kind of depends how the trend goes.”
Soha says there used to be a specific crowd, comprised mainly of college students, that frequented the store. But two Christmases ago, he noticed a change. People of all types began to come in, and more than 10 percent of the stores’ sales are attributed to vinyl.
“For now, we’re just kind of taking advantage of it,” Soha says. “I think it’s here to stay.”
While Slackers and Streetside are working hard to meet Columbia’s demand for records, Soha says he doesn’t understand why the town doesn’t have its own independent record store.
“It just doesn’t make sense that a college town like this doesn’t have something,” he says, noting that St. Louis, Kansas City, Jefferson City and even Lawrence, Kan., are all beating Columbia in this department.
If things in the vinyl business continue as they are, this may be a possibility for the not-so-distant future. As Slackers and Streetside indicate, vinyl is coming back.
As Soha says, “It’s hot."