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Independent record stores flourish as vinyl continues steady comeback

Vinyl records line the aisles and back wall of the Record Exchange in downtown Boise.
The Record Exchange
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Instagram
Vinyl records line the aisles and back wall of the Record Exchange in downtown Boise.

“Music sounds very different depending on how you listen to it. I always thought that vinyl kind of had this more like raw, like authentic type sound to them that I just enjoyed so much,” said Madysen Wright.

Madysen is 19 and like me, a sophomore at Boise State University. We bonded over our love of vinyl. We’re digital natives who have grown up with virtually all recorded music at our fingertips. Physical music like cassettes, CDs, and vinyl records simply can’t meet this instantaneous demand for music like streaming can. But we both have found ourselves with collections of 33s and 45s; we’ve found ourselves in the midst of a vinyl comeback.

Sofia Blenkinsop shares her collection of 7-inch, 45 RPM vinyl singles.
Sofia Blenkinsop
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Boise State Public Radio
Sofia Blenkinsop shares her collection of 7-inch, 45 RPM vinyl singles.

This musical medium has steadily risen in the last 15 years, growing from only a million units sold in the U.S. in 2007 to 14 million units just ten years later. Then four years later, that sales number almost tripled to 41 million. Gen Zers like Madysen and me have played a large part in this comeback––we’re proof it’s not just lifelong collectors who can get into the groove.

“I brought it up to my parents, like in middle school. I was like, I like these. Like I want to start collecting vinyl's. I think that would be fun,” Madysen said in an interview.

Last spring Madysen and I took a class together at Boise State on the history of rock and pop music. We were two of many students in the class with a passion for collecting physical music from our favorite bands. Our instructor, Adjunct Professor of Music Michal Jarolimek, says listeners’ desire to connect with their favorite artists in more tangible ways is part of the LP comeback.

“The only reason that anybody wants to collect music now is because they want to physically own it. There's something very romantic about owning the music. You're not concerned about being able to play it anywhere else except for at home,” said Jarolimek.

But physical grooves aren’t thriving in the age of on-demand digital because of a few dedicated collectors. Independent record stores like The Record Exchange in downtown Boise play an invaluable role in making sure the vinyl industry continues to thrive.

Sofia Blenkinsop shares her collection of 12-inch, 33 1/3 RPM vinyl records.
Sofia Blenkinsop
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Boise State Public Radio
Sofia Blenkinsop shares her collection of 12-inch, 33 1/3 RPM vinyl records.

Alongside independent record labels, local musicians and DJs, independent record stores like the Exchange regularly face sudden cultural and financial changes in the music industry. Even with rapid evolutions, Chad Dryden, co-owner and Marketing Director of the Record Exchange, says the store maintains its loyal base of customers thanks in part to digital exhaustion.

“I would call it digital burnout that people are experiencing in the new millennium, because almost everything in our lives are controlled now by our smartphones and our laptops and a very digital world. And I think for a lot of people, that is what has been the attraction of vinyl,” Dryden said in an interview.

The future of technological developments in music is still unpredictable, but Record Exchange General Manager John O’Neil says vinyl enthusiasts across identities and generations make up a strong community that’s here to stay.

Black Friday shoppers wait outside the Record Exchange for the store's 8:00 a.m. opening.
The Record Exchange
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Instagram
Black Friday shoppers wait outside the Record Exchange for the store's 8:00 a.m. opening.

“That's what it is. It's about people… you can get music on your phone, but there's something basic and elemental about the tactile sensation of going into a store and seeing other interesting people. It's what we have that the internet can't replace,” O’Neil said.

Let the record show — music fans won’t be turning away from the turntable anytime soon.

Hi! I’m Sofia Blenkinsop, a sophomore at Boise State thrilled to work with Boise State Public Radio. After co-founding a podcast club in high school and writing and editing for my school newspaper, I’m excited to gain newsroom experience with the wonderful folks here at BSPR.

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