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Don't Call It a Comeback: New York's Vinyl Resurgence

By Daniel Jumpertz | March 25, 2013 8:04am

DITMAS PARK — Becca Simone spins vinyl most weeks at the Monday Night Vinyl Club at Sycamore bar in Ditmas Park, part of a growing group of New Yorkers who are buying, sharing and playing vinyl records across the city.

“I had been collecting vinyl and had turntables at home, but I had never really played outside of my apartment except for some parties for friends," said Simone, 30, who lives in Ditmas Park. "It seemed like an interesting opportunity to play music outside the home without too much pressure."

While digital downloads and CD sales still dominate overall music sales, vinyl records have been making a stealthy re-entry into the crowded music marketplace.

There were 4.6 million vinyl records sold in 2012, the highest number since Nielsen started keeping records of those purchases in the early 1990s. The second-highest number of vinyl sales was the previous year, 2011, and therefore the trend for 2013 looks promising.

Simone said she stumbled upon the Monday Night Vinyl Club a few years ago, and it became a chance to get out there and meet other vinyl lovers.

Vinyl enthusiasts and wanna-be DJs from across Brooklyn gather at the Sycamore, the bar/florist combo, on the first Monday of each month, one of the many signs that vinyl culture is reclaiming ground not only in hipster pockets of the city, but right across the borough.

There are many reasons for the renewed popularity of the flat, black discs.

“There's something I love about an old musty, dusty record shop. It's like sifting through thousands of tiny pieces of history,” Simone said. "I used to have this belief that everyone needed to own the vinyl of their favorite artist or album, so I started buying vinyl for other people. And then I figured I should abide by the rule myself.”

Each shop has its own character. Some are orderly, others look like a battle zone. But in each specialist music shop you're bound to find someone who really knows their stuff, and if that's the stuff you like, then that person can be more valuable than 100 Pandora algorithms.

Simone counts Records and Tapes in Park Slope as one of her favorites.  “It's been there for about 40 years, and was almost closed a few years ago," she said.

"It's a true representation of what the neighborhood used to be like. They always have great music playing in the shop. I've learned so much just from being in there and digging through crates," added Simone, echoing the words of Nick Hornby, author of the literary ode to music and stores "High Fidelity" who once wrote: “Record stores can't save your life. But they can give you a better one."

Will Daly, a DJ at the Sycamore’s Monday Night Vinyl Club, recommends Good Records NYC, A-1 Records and Academy Records in the East Village.

Daly said he “fell in love with vinyl through looking for music to sample for beats.”

Some of Will’s favorite vinyl records to play when he’s DJ-ing are Dexter Wansel's "Theme From The Planets," Tyrone Thomas' "Seven Minutes Of Funk," Melvin Bliss' "Synthetic Substitution," Steely Dan's "Black Cow," and Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache".

New rock bands are also hip to vinyl. Indie stars such as The Strokes and Radiohead release vinyl albums, and many also press exclusive 7- and 10-inch records, luring impressionable fans into the vinyl collector's vortex.

Record Store Day, an annual celebration of independent record stores and vinyl  — this year on April 20 — features limited edition releases from vintage and emerging artists exclusively to record stores for that day.

The 2013 ambassador for Record Store Day is former White Stripes rocker, Jack White.

Expect to see stores such as Kim's Video and Music and Other Music stocking some of the exclusive vinyl released on Record Store Day — if you get there early enough.