April 22 marks the tenth annual Record Store Day (RSD), a national initiative to get audiophiles and casual music fans alike into mom-and-pop record stores, but there’s a lot to celebrate right now in the world of records. Vinyl has seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the past few years. According to Forbes, vinyl sales have grown by 260% since 2009. In 2017 alone vinyl sales are expected to gross over one billion dollars. The last time that record sales were this successful? 1981.
The East Side has three independently owned record shops, and interestingly enough the oldest record shop on the East Side abstains from the RSD movement. Round Again Records has been on Wickenden for 37 years, opening in 1979. Owner Steve Kotler says, “I don’t want to involve myself [with Record Store Day]. You see, the distributors make money that day. They’re all about getting people in, getting people out. They don’t understand that every day here is Record Store Day.” This is a sentiment shared by many when it comes to the novelty of RSD. The limited edition pressings are fun, but the focus should be on the store itself.
What Cheer on Angell Street got started in the 1990s by renting a booth at the This and That Shoppe on Wickenden, and after moving to Wayland Square for a time, they settled into their current Angell Street shop about five years ago. Owners Chris and Jennifer Daltry weigh in on how their business has survived: “While we’ve always sold records, we first started out as more of an antiques and vintage shop, later giving way more and more to records. We also started organizing an event in the mid-2000s called the Providence Rock and Roll Yard Sale. But this was well before vinyl records came back in style.” This ability to adapt and survive not just on records sales but also on vintage items has kept What Cheer afloat. Unfortunately, Chris and Jennifer have been having issues with their lease and are considering closing the nearly 20-year-old shop.
Kevin Morosini of Olympic Records, also on Wickenden, opened his shop in 2011. For the past half decade he’s watched the resurgence of vinyl collectors and welcomed it with open arms. His thoughts on why vinyl has become so popular? “Records have always been around but turntables have been more shy. They weren’t making them for a long time. Now you can buy a turntable everywhere. It put records out into the consciousness.”
Kotler of Round Again offers some concerns about the accessibility of turntables. “Crosley’s are trash,” he says, “Ruins the record.” Kotler has the most unique view on this vinyl resurgence since he’s really seen it all in his near 40-year run and so have his customers. Kotler says that some of his patrons have been coming in since the month the store opened. He credits his customers and his landlord, Manuel Pedroso, for being the reasons behind his success. As for the resurgence? Kotler laughs and says: “It’ll last a couple of years.”
As for this year and Record Store Day, What Cheer will be pulling out all the stops with live music, special releases, and an event sponsored by Narragansett Beer. Olympic Records will have some great albums out and will welcome new patrons into the shop. Round Again Records will be open, as well, but will not be participating in any of the RSD hullabaloo. Like Kotler says, they’re all there all year long. For them, every day is Record Store Day.