Record Store Day Celebrates Music Culture and the Resurgence of Vinyl

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

They can be places of discovery, of cultural exchange, of the latest on the music scene. And, as record stores will show this Saturday, they’re anything but passé.

Record Store Day is a celebration of the culture of independent record stores,” explains Jon Lambert, the general manager of Princeton Record Exchange. “On that day, musical events are held all over the country, freebies are given away, promotional items, but the big draw is hundreds and hundreds of items that aren’t available anywhere except for stores like [Princeton Record Exchange].”

Over 400 limited edition titles will be released exclusively for Record Store Day this year by artists like Bruce Springsteen. James Donio is president of the Music Business Association, an organization of music retailers, distributors and others in the industry.

“From an artist’s perspective, they look at vinyl as the true, raw, original sound,” says Donio. “And I think that’s why artists have embraced it, and I think that’s why artists continue to rally around Record Store Day and actually create very specific, very special, very unique recordings released on vinyl for Record Store Day.”

“Almost every musician I know cut their teeth in record stores growing up,” says Lambert. “That was something exciting and special and meaningful for them, so they want to make sure that that kind of culture keeps going.”

Physical media buying has been on the decline with the rise of online sales, and now online sales are falling as more people are choosing to stream their music. But, amidst these downturns, vinyl is on the rise.

“It’s a very cool thing right now and has been for a number of years,” Donio says. “It’s still a very small portion of the overall music economy. It’s a very small portion, but it’s a growing portion.”

Record purchases hit 9.4 million last year — a seven-fold increase since 2007. Sales jumped an astonishing $187 million. Lambert attributes this trend to the lush sound vinyl offers and the unique consumer experience stores like his provide.

“You’re hearing things you haven’t heard, you pick it up, you feel it, you smell it, you’re talking to people who might share ideas with you. You’re seeing a lot of out-of-print stuff you can’t find anywhere else. You’re seeing used product for a buck, two bucks, three bucks,” says Lambert.

“I used to be an avid record collector,” says Norman Skolnick, a Princeton Record Exchange customer from South Plainfield. “I think I’ve been coming to this store for about 30-odd years and mining the interesting collectables that they have here. I just love this place.”

Lambert hopes Record Store Day will introduce the vinyl tradition to others who will love it, too. “You know, if you told me eight years ago that on a Saturday morning in April, there’d be 300 people waiting to buy records, I would’ve thought you were insane. But here it is, and it’s going strong,” Lambert says.

Princeton Record Exchange anticipates such a high demand, that customers will be limited to buying only one of each title.