Digital downloads help vinyl record salesPosted: April 14, 2011
JOUR 5300 TR 9:30
April 14, 2011
On a bright April morning, sunlight filters down East Clayton Street in Athens, Georgia, warming a wide open doorway –– a doorway beckoning for customers to enter.
A variety of indie and rock tunes float through the air and fall on the ears of those passing by as an occasional person crosses its threshold.
Wuxtry Records is open and ready for business as they have been for the past 35 years.
John Fernandes, a clerk and past manager for the downtown Athens establishment, said the money has been tight for the store, but their mood has not changed about their business.
“We have a lot of things that are hard to find other places,” he said. “Hopefully, we provide people with an interesting and fun experience when they come here as far as helping them find music that they might be interested in.”
And when someone walks into the store, the overall music character packs a swift punch to the face.
The maze of music seems almost threatening at first, but Fernandes said a comprehensive selection of vinyl is getting harder to find, and that’s the major draw.
“We have a lot of vinyl. We get a lot of people coming in from out of town,” Fernandes said. “They come just to come to the record store, or to come to the record store and a show, or the record store and a football game. It kind of goes hand in hand with some of the stuff that make Athens a great place to come visit.”
Yet, with vinyl records luring out of towers to the area, students from the University of Georgia often peruse through what the record shop has to offer.
“Vinyl is interesting,” Fernandes said. “A lot of people are getting into vinyl for that really warm sound ––as well as the art work –– but what I’ve noticed with a lot of students that do end up collecting vinyl, is I think they will investigate by downloading things, and then some of their favorite records that they want to have a hard copy of they’ll come and buy on vinyl.”
But this is where it gets interesting.
When it comes to the music industry, those involved agree there has been a massive shift to digital downloading of music. In a story published in November of last year out of The Daily Tar Heel of The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the general manager of School Kids Records of Raleigh, North Carolina Ric Culross said that the advent of MP3s and digital music has led to file-sharing, leaving a wasteland of major music chains along the roadside. Schoolkids Records of Athens declined comment on the matter.
Yet, this entire concept isn’t new. But here’s the twist.
Culross pointed something out that Fernandes has also noticed in Athens.
“As CD sales have decreased — leading to smaller inventories for CDs — vinyl sales have greatly increased, allowing independent record stores to carry more vinyl,” Culross said.”
Fernandes said there has been a real noticeable effect as far as CD sales are concerned in Athens as well.
“With people investigating, the vinyl sales have gone up,” he said. ” In the past, when a new release would come out, we would order a couple of boxes full of Radiohead or REM CDs, and now we order maybe one box. Before, we would order 60 to 90, and now we order 30 and we keep our fingers crossed that we can even sell those 30, sometimes even 15.”
University of Georgia junior Connor Pledger, a music education major from Conyers, Georgia, has been playing gigs in Athens for about two years, and for Pledger, being an independent artist is tough in the digital age.
“When I buy and album I feel like I’m helping the artist, I’m supporting them,” Pledger said. “I feel like it’s more direct. You have a tangible object that you can look at and say ‘I actually went out and bought this.’”
Pledger thinks the digital music transition might be hurting bands in more ways than just negatively effecting record sales.
“It might be the reason why that some bands will come out and be big for a little bit and then everyone will buy their mp3s,” Pledger said. “And then they get lost on their 50 gigabyte iPod and they’ll never hear from them again unless it shuffles around to them. But if you have an album, you flip through your CD case, and boom, you say ‘I remember this album, it’s really good, I’m going to put that in.”
But Fernandes, a band member of “Circulatory System,” is still making money off his music, despite digital leaks on the Internet.
“With the Circulatory System album just put out –– ‘Signal Morning’ –– we sold a quarter of what we sold of our first album even though we’ve been touring with some high profile names with pretty good reviews,” Fernandes said. “Yet our album sales are just way down. It did leak early on the Internet, and a bunch of people downloaded it, which meant that when we went on tour, we made lots of money. They were great crowds.”
Fernandes said that musicians these days can make money playing live, but a lot of times, since everyone’s downloaded it, it’s hard to make money on CDs.
“As a record label, I’ve come to a realization that if we need to do anything with sales, we should do limited edition vinyl and CDs and then just put it out digitally.”
With Pledger jamming to his CDs, and Fernandes anxiously awaiting more opportunities to tour, both downtown Athens musicians are remain hopeful for the future of the music industry.
“When I started playing music, I’d think , ‘if people like Michael Stipe could get their start in Athens, then maybe I could do that,’” Pledger said. “It’s a fairytale story that draws in a lot of musicians, and I figured that maybe if I go to Athens, I could have that chance, too.”