Dave Probizanski is a kid in his own candy store.
A doctor by trade, even a long day battling the onslaught of flu season can’t keep his eyes from lighting up as he rushes over to pull a brand new copy of Cold War Kids’ Dear Miss Lonelyhearts from the shelf and holds the vinyl in his hands.
It’s not a collection of singles. For Probizanski a good album is like a book and needs to be enjoyed from front to back.
“It’s amazing, it’s like a journey,” Probizanski said. “It takes you on a trip.”
He and his wife Robin love vinyl so much they set up a listening room in their home. With some wine and maybe a deck of cards, they grab one of the thousands of albums they have, drop the needle, and listen.
“You put that album on, you make a commitment,” he said. “You’re going to listen to an album.”
Despite $6.9 billion in iTunes music sales last year, the couple knows they`re not alone in wanting the feel of a record in their hands and the sound of a needle in a groove. So sure in fact, they`re opening Hard Copy Records in Thunder Bay Nov. 8 with 6,000 records on display at their Bay Street Store.
And that`s just one of two stores that will deal in vinyl by the end of the year.
Over on St. Paul Street Will Rutledge is busy getting ready to open New Day Records and Accessories for the beginning of December.
Along with nearly 2,000 records, New Day will also sell turntables, amplifiers and everything else needed to get people listening.
Not quite extinct but definitely endangered through the 90s, vinyl has seen an increase in sales annually for the past eight years according to Neilsen Soundscan. In Canada last year that meant 130,000 sales as opposed to the 32 million sold in other medium, most notably digital downloads.
Rutledge said it’s still small but the market continues to grow.
Rutledge added that digital downloads will never die - at least not in the foreseeable future and not by past technology - but the vinyl revival isn’t about replacing that market. It’s complementing it.
He actually credits the digital rise for vinyl’s comeback. Records take up space and need to be taken care of. In the not too distant past those were looked at as cons and part of the reason for vinyl’s decline. But there`s a physical interaction between the listener and the album that digital music can`t replace. And more and more listeners are starting to miss that experience.
“You have to interact with it, you have to flip sides, you have to clean it,” Rutledge said. “It`s an entirely different experience than the digital format and the polar opposite. It’s a format that offers us the opportunity to slow down.”
Probizanski agrees. You can listen to any song at any time on the Internet. That`s not what vinyl is for. He and Rutledge said records are for fans that want the big artwork and the excitement of something tangible in your hands.
“It`s about owning a piece of that rock group,” Probizanski said.
The industry seems to be trending that way too.
New artists are releasing albums on vinyl with complimentary digital download codes while older bands are re-issuing entire back catalogues completely re-mastered.
Hard Copy’s new release section has The National’s High Violet right next to a 20th anniversary copy of Nirvana’s In Utero.
There’s also a newly released Beatles box set that features every album on vinyl with a 250-page book.
“They can’t all be wrong,`Probizanski said of artists new and old getting back to wax. “There must be something going on.”
And like any record collector, he said getting an album on vinyl also about the sound. Digital formats like Mp3s compress a lot of the frequencies in an audio file. That`s part of the reason so many songs can fit in a person’s pocket.
A lot of modern music is mixed for iPod docks and computer speakers, which neglects a lot low-end range, resulting in a tinny sound. Vinyl allows the music to be expanded and heard the way it was meant to be heard Probizanski said.
“It`s much wider and full,” he said.
Along with a listening station, New Day is going to have a chair set up in a `sweet spot` so Rutledge can let listeners hear the difference.
“When you hold a record you’re basically holding the music,” Rutledge said.
There`s something the Internet can`t do. While people can purchase vinyl online and have it shipped to their door, Rutledge and Probizanski want their brick and mortar shops to be more than a business.
They’re looking to build a community of people who want to dig through stacks and have face-to-face conversations about the music they’re listening to. Unlike the record snobs in High Fidelity, they insist that record stores are inclusive places that keep an open mind when it comes to music.
“I want to learn from my customers,” Probizanski said.
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