Dozens of students thumb through the seemingly endless supply of records while friends eagerly discuss their finds. The genres span from the earliest of rock 'n' roll to the latest progressive house. For some, a long dig through albums, soundtracks and compilations will hopefully yield a musical gem.
Despite having been overtaken by CDs and the internet, vinyl records are still enjoyed by many. Over the last few years though, their audience has expanded beyond hipsters and the elderly. How else can you explain the incredible resurgence in vinyl sales over the last few years?
For a demographic that was born years after vinyls' peak in the '80s, college-aged students make up a significant portion of the market. Eric Glube, owner of Campus Discs, recognizes this fact. For students, purchasing vinyl records doesn’t bring feelings of nostalgia: it's something new.
The tenth annual international Record Store Day was this past April. Nielsen figures in Canada reveal that sales of vinyl singles grew by 1,600 per cent during the week sandwiching the holiday.
Glube started his business with a friend over 20 years ago, beginning with a few used CDs at a Queen's University bookstore. Now, he tours universities across Ontario with a vast collection of records, CDs, cassettes and DVDs.
“There’s a base on our Facebook page,” says Glube. “And at some campuses, I see a lot of the same faces all the time."
Glube worked hard to bring a large selection right to the students but believes there isn’t a sole reason for vinyl’s continued relevance. He thinks vinyl's appeal is similar to people's desire for brand-name jeans over no-name jeans. To many, vinyl is the brand while digital is the knockoff.
Despite their price, Glube is aware of the myriad of appeals that vinyls offer, something he shares in common with Troy Hutchison, the owner of Grooves Records on Dundas Street.
Having been in business for over 14 years, Grooves has never really seen vinyl go away and has maintained a dedicated customer base over time. However, Hutchison has noticed a slow, steady increase in that base over the last 10 years. In this sense, he doesn’t see vinyl as a fad.
“It wasn’t a big explosion like fidget spinners,” he says. “I think I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life.”
Like Glube, Hutchison cannot pin down one unifying factor behind the love of vinyl. He cites the fact that many new vinyl pressings don’t have a lot of prints, and thus, become valuable very quickly. There’s also the never-ending sound quality argument.
The actual act of shopping for vinyls is an integral part of record browsing. Music enthusiasts can feel at home because everybody shares a similar passion. Hutchison notes that there are some people who come in just to look at the oversized album art.
Students browsing Campus Discs’ table on Concrete Beach seem to agree with Glube and Hutchison.
“It's not necessarily better quality, but it just has more character. It gives the impression the band is in the room with you,” says Simon Benoit, PhD candidate in neuroscience. A nearby student points him to one of his favourite bands, Yes, at the end of the table and they share a laugh.
“There’s a serendipity to flipping through records that you don’t get in the online world,” says Hutchison.