National Vinyl Day 2022 was celebrated in the U.S. on August 12, recognizing the lasting impact and place for vinyl records in the music industry.
Phonograph or gramophone records have been a popular music storage medium since the 1800’s, though they picked up the name ‘vinyl’ in the 1940’s when the use of polyvinyl chloride (rather than the previous medium, shellac) became common. Throughout the 20th century, they were the primary method of listening to music.
By the 80’s, however, CDs overtook records due to their smaller size and increased storage space. Records continued to be manufactured on a smaller scale, remaining especially important to niche groups like disc jockeys who capitalized on the ability to scratch, pop, and otherwise physically manipulate their sound. Audiophiles as well continued to support the industry.
In 2014, a resurgence began in the use of vinyl records, especially in the rock genre. In the U.S., 9.2 million records were sold in 2014, marking a 260% increase since 2009. As of 2017, there are 48 record pressing facilities worldwide: 18 in the U.S. and 30 abroad.
Use of vinyl records continues to grow. Even casual listeners enjoy its authenticity, unique imperfections, and elegant sound quality, and record players and records are available for purchase in major national retailers and specialty record stores alike.
Jon Lottman joins us for National Vinyl Day 2022. He is the owner of one of these specialty record stores, Spin Time Records, located in Washington, D.C.
Lottman has roots in the music industry, having worked at record stores, some performing, recording, management, radio DJing and club DJing, “but that stuff was a long time ago, and I was never that good at much of it. I’m pretty good at keeping lots of good records around, though.”
A lover of the community created by gathering in an artistic space, Lottman founded his record store to encourage the growth of spaces like these. He hopes to restore mutual love of music for music’s sake.
“My motive was to do what I could to save the soul of my neighborhood and help make it stand for something as part of the city,” Lottman explains.
“What we had in those early days of home rule, you can kind of feel it slipping away, even as the people endure. That includes all the little vinyl shops we used to have. So, having one in the neighborhood that also tries to stand for the whole history of DC music not only brings some of that back, but can even make up for lost time.”
He appreciates that vinyl is a unique medium and format for musicians.
“Vinyl more than anything else does justice to that attachment to music as something real and something that was crafted over time and endures over time—and I think that’s true both for listeners and for artists,” says Lottman. “That has to be the chief motivation for most artists to even make vinyl records nowadays, so in a way, they put more into it.”
“If you think about it, no one’s really getting rich off of vinyl any more—and of course it’s more expensive than ever–but people keep jumping back into it anyway. It’s really about all the other rewards,” he added.
This sentiment is shared by Johnson Lee, owner of Silver Spring, Maryland-based record shop, Joe’s Record Paradise. He got into the record industry from his father who passed him the store.
“My father, Joe, started the record store the year before I was born, so for me, it has just always been a part of my life. He got into the record industry because he didn’t want to get a real job, I guess,” he joked. “He always loved music and was also booking artists to play at local clubs, so why not make a career out of it?”
For Lee, vinyl is a discovery medium. Being able to find older songs that may not be on streaming platforms can create a sense of musical exploration and lead casual listeners into a deeper sonic appreciation.
“Kids today can see clearly just how bad the industry treats them with formulaic pop music and other drudgery, so the search for something better often leads to older music on older, classic formats, hence the vinyl resurgence,” explains Lee. “Happy to be here for it.”
Whether you’re an audiophile, DJ, artist, or just a casual listener, vinyl records offer a unique acoustic experience with an interesting historical background. But even more importantly, it connects generations, opens minds to both new and old music, and fosters physical community— and isn’t that what music is for?
Jaci Jedrych is a World Politics student at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She loves going to concerts and exploring different genres, and has a passion for arts and news writing.
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