The Record Strikes Back

The vinyl record was the dominant medium of music for nearly a century. It has been used to record and play music since the 1910s, and was the most common way of listening to recorded music until CDs caught on in the late 1980s. But despite the advent of digital audio technology, the record has not yet rang its death knell. In fact, the last few years have seen resurgence in the analog disc, as audiophiles have chased the alluring tones and subtle warmth that they provide. Records even seem to be emerging from a mere niche market into a culture all their own. This is especially prevalent in the US, as vinyl record sales went from just under $1 million in 2007 to $4.6 million in 2012.

Although the main constituents of the vinyl market remain audiophiles, DJs and collectors, records seem to be broadening their grasp in the music market as a whole. This is at least in part due to an increasing number of current artists releasing work in the form of LPs, as well as record labels re-releasing older music in newer pressings (like the Beatles’ “Abbey Road which was the second-best selling LP in the US in 2012). Some artists have even gone to great lengths to integrate the analog format into their ongoing work — none more so than Jack White.

White, most widely known for the bands The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather has created his own record label — Third Man Records. Since its inception in 2001, Third Man Records has put out vinyl editions of all of Jack White’s varied works, as well as a myriad of other artists. White’s debut solo album “Blunderbuss (pressed by his own label) was the highest selling LP in the US in 2012.

To celebrate and support this resurgence, the Record Store Day organization was formed in 2007. The organization serves to acknowledge independent record stores the world over by coordinating shops, customers and artists to all come together one day a year to celebrate the record and its unique culture. Now a very popular annual event, Record Store Day offers special or rare merchandise put out by the artists themselves for the occasion, as well as live performances or a variety of other festivities.

The occasion has even made its way to Bozeman — via Cactus Records. The organization only allows small, independently owned shops like Cactus to participate in Record Store Day, so that they can further promote the local, small-scale music industry. In fact the list of participating shops in the organization is so exclusive that Cactus is one of only two in Montana. There are less than 1,000 participating stores nationwide. The organization is not limited to the US though, Record Store Day is celebrated all over the world. This year’s event passed just last Saturday Apr. 19, but be sure to catch it next year and celebrate with Cactus Records.