MORONGO BASIN — Music lovers and audiophiles have been singing the praises of vinyl for decades but on Sunday, they’ll have an actual reason to celebrate.
Sunday, Aug. 12, marks Vinyl Record Day, an obscure day devoted to the vintage music format.
Vinyl has been making a steady comeback. Some listeners never gave up on it, but others, particularly younger generations, have turned it into a hobby.
Yucca Valley music retailer Manuel Garza said it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t sell rap records or carry the music of top 40 contemporary musicians.
“Eighteen-year-olds come in and they’re going for this kind of music,” Garza said Friday afternoon from his Vista Music storefront.
The music store specializes in oldies, ’80s and Spanish records.
He suspects the vintage vinyl format is what draws them in.
“Young people are buying vinyl now. The only thing that is growing in popularity is vinyl,” Garza said.
To many, vinyl is a format of the yesteryear, but it has its place in the music world. In a feat of what some call triumph and others irony, vinyl records are actually starting to overshadow CDs in some markets.
Nielsen SoundScan data from 2011 shows CD sales declined by 5 percent in 2011. In contrast, vinyl record sales rose 39 percent the same year.
CD sales dropped with the introduction of digital music players and services like iTunes, but the digital era helped fuel the resurgence of vinyl.
Consumers say digital downloads leave something to be desired.
For vinyl lovers, as music formats shifted from records with accompanying artwork, to cassettes, to CDs and then MP3s, the value of the music and its packaging has eroded.
The focus lies more with individual songs than full albums, and artwork is easily overlooked, if it’s present at all.
It’s a trend that doesn’t sit well with music lovers like Gary Freiberg of Los Osos.
“I’m a baby boomer, so I’ve been through the cassette tapes and the CDs and what has endured is vinyl. It’s tangible. I don’t think it’s a completely nostalgic appeal,” Freiberg said. “It’s one of those things that technology changed and now with iTunes and people downloading, that’s really, really a shame.”
He describes the process of listening to music via turntable as “a much more personal experience.” Records require more work of the listener, but for the growing number of vinyl enthusiasts, it’s worth it.
“The audio range of vinyl is much greater than digital. A lot of people describe the sound as ‘warmer.’ There is something about putting the record on and pulling the needle over,” Freiberg said.
His love of and advocacy for the preservation of vinyl led Freiberg to establish Vinyl Record Day. It was created a decade ago, after Freiberg lobbied the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to proclaim Aug. 12 as an annual homage to wax.
“That’s the date that Thomas Edison filed his patent for the phonograph in 1877,” Freiberg explained.
He’s been celebrating with music lovers around the world since Vinyl Record Day’s inception, doing interviews with Sirius XM radio and most recently, a Russian television station.
In recent years, bands and record distribution companies have gotten wise to the growing trend of vinyl, releasing new music on vinyl, CDs and as digital downloads. Most independent record companies now sell long-playing records, or LPs, with accompanying codes so customers can download the album, too.
What’s unique about Vinyl Record Day is that it doesn’t advocate consumerism, but simply, the enjoyment and preservation of music and history.
“A very important aspect of Vinyl Record Day is the preservation of our audio history. Only 5 percent of the analog recordings have been transferred over to a digital format because it’s just not commercially viable for record companies to release everything on digital,” Freiberg said. “I have an album that has the voices of Thomas Edison and Florence Nightingale and other historical figures.”
Freiberg said keeping the wax record around is as important as preserving paperback and hardcover books in an era of e-readers and tablets.
“Vinyl Record Day is about having that same regard for audio history. What I’ve advocated and encouraged is for people to celebrate the vehicle, the connection that music has. To think about what we were doing and who we were with. It’s connecting into the human element,” Freiberg mused. “I think the good ol’ days are now and regardless of what’s going on in the world, we all have our family and friends and special relationships and there’s a musical thread to it. We all have the soundtrack to our lives.”
Freiberg’s sentiment holds true for locals like Michelle Mark, who refuses to ditch her record collection for that reason.
“I got my first record player when I was 5 and I listened to all my parents’ 45s. Both my grandpa and dad were in bands, so music was a huge part of our family. I love vinyl. It may not be convenient, but I love the nostalgia!” Mark, who lives in Twentynine Palms, said.
Much of the music from the 1980s and before isn’t available on CD or MP3, making rare records an even bigger gem for vinyl collector and talent scout Hal Hiner.
“I’ve been collecting records for 50 years. Pretty much, to me, when CDs came out, both my wife and I were like that idiom, ‘If it aint broke, don’t fix it.’ Records were big, but the artwork was really cool. It was kind of like, why did we have to go and do that?” Hiner said of the CD craze that boomed in the early 1980s.
The Joshua Tree resident doesn’t listen to his records as often as he used to when they were current, but he’s not throwing them away.
The same goes for Garza, who has two 40-foot storage containers at his residence, filled with nothing but 33 1/3 LPs and 45s.
“The records I don’t mind,” he said. “If I had a million more, I’d be happy.”