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‘Just Like the Stock Market’: Record Store Owner Reflects On 50 Years in the Industry as Vinyl Spins Increase During COVID-19

An uptick in sales of vinyl records is welcome news for record store owners like Edward Smith of Re-Runz Records in Orlando, Florida. Smith has been spinning records for more than 50 years and held fast to a belief that vinyl records would make a comeback.

They indeed have, as records now are outselling CDs for the first time since the ’80s, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. RIAA reported vinyl sales are up 4 percent while CD sales are down 48 percent. It’s in large part due to a nostalgic urge for vinyl by many Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. This increasingly proved true as many people faced stay-at-home orders starting in March to help cut down on the spread of the virus.

“I’ve seen records go up and down, just like the stock market,” Smith said. “These young kids have taken an interest to vinyl. I want to see more brothers and sisters searching for good music in record stores; it’s not like the ’90s. That’s how I went out of business.” 

Smith’s first music store closed because of the large digital push to CDs back in the ’90s. He said he reopened in 2016 after the demand for vinyl hit the roof. He said just like pieces of vinyl, he has collected thousands of memories over the years. One such memory relates to the time he loaned records to the late Bushwick Bill of the famous rap group Geto Boys.

“He came in and said, ‘Man I need some beats, man; you got all the good stuff.’ So, he picked out some stuff and then said ‘I don’t have any money.’  I said when you get back to Houston, mail me a check. I haven’t seen that check yet,” Smith said jokingly.

He added that he’s glad he stayed in the business this long to see the organic sound make its return.

“That’s how music was supposed to be played. Not CDs. CDs is digital. Records are analog. If you put the music on a meter you could see the highs, lows and mids. You take a CD — there’s a continuous sound,” he said.

“I couldn’t agree more with him,” said Kalvin McClure, producer and artist at Knucklehead Incorporated. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. “Digging through the crates is how hip-hop started. Vinyl records started it all. Real DJs don’t even recognize DJs that don’t spin vinyl.”

McClure told Atlanta Black Star that he’s been sampling vinyl records in his music for years. 

“Samples are still prevalent in music,” said McClure. “Some of the best songs you hear on the radio have samples. You don’t know where it came from, but someone dug in a crate somewhere and flipped that beat. It’s very important to keep vinyl relevant in today’s music because it’s where it all started.”

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