From the Basement to the Bar, Ballard Musicians Redefine Success
Comic by Nikki Maracigan
The music industry has a new set of rules than it did a decade ago, thanks to the development of technology and the Internet. Bands have found other ways to market their music and Ballardites are leading a vinyl renaissance.
By Chris Foster and Stephanie Kim
While the sales of CDs are plummeting, the record-selling business has blossomed more than it had when vinyl first came on the scene. A vinyl renaissance has begun.
Dave Vorhees, owner of Bop Street in Ballard, said he sells between 50 and 100 records for each CD sale.
Vorhees began his vinyl-selling journey out of his parents’ basement in 1974. Since then, he’s had record stores all around the Seattle area. Bop Street opened its doors in Ballard in 1984 and has been on Market Street since 2010
With thousands of records available at Bop Street, it’s not surprising that it attracts big-name performers. Vorhees, wearing a faded Thee Emergency shirt remembers the day Colin Greenwood, Johnny Greenwood and Thom Yorke of Radiohead came in.
Dave Vorhees, owner of Bop Street in Ballard, has been selling records since 1974. He says he’s selling more records now than he has in the past. Photo by Stephanie Kim.
“Johnny and Colin were there for eight hours,” Vorhees said. “Johnny said this store takes the cake in the country,” for the best record store he’s been to.
He said others such as Ben Shepherd of Sound Garden, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Jerry Naylor of The Crickets have bought records from his stores.
Other than old psychedelic CDs from the ‘50s and ‘60s, Vorhees said he’s not interested in selling new releases in CD format because “my niche is vinyl.”
A research shows that the sales of LPs and EPs skyrocketed by almost 45 percent from 2010 to 2011. Digital album sales also increased in the past year by 9 percent. However, CD sales were abandoned and dropped by about 21 percent.
Dr. Gina Neff says a vinyl renaissance is on its way. Photo by Stephanie Kim.
Vorhees said he prefers the sound quality of vinyl, rather than that of CDs and MP3s. He said when listening to a CD or an MP3, “you’re not hearing the original recording. You’re hearing something that’s close to it.”
He added that through records, musicians are able to connect with their fans on a personal level. Musicians are also able to express themselves creatively through album covers. With MP3 players, people only see the front cover of an album, but not what’s inside.
“A lot of groups put songs in a particular order,” he said. “What’s the first song on side one and what’s the first song on side two.”
Because CD players and music players such as iTunes allows a person to shuffle songs, they often don’t experience the album the way the artist intended.
Kurt Colfelt, bassist for the Ballard-base band Stereo Upstairs said they originally wanted to release their record on vinyl. The band released its first full-length album “Searching for Dinosaurs” in August.
About 240,000 records were sold from January to June of this year. Only 170,000 were sold during the same months in 2010. Photo by Stephanie Kim.
“The original plan was to release it on vinyl and have a key card to get the MP3 online,” Colfelt said, “but that costs money. When the album was all mastered and ready to be released, we had completely run out of funds so we ended up releasing it for free.”
He said releasing records with MP3 codes is a good approach.
“You’re keeping the collector’s mentality of cool vinyl,” he said. “It’s big, it’s beautiful and got a nice cover. And then also the accessibility of having it online and throwing it on your iPod.”
Ballard bands aren’t the only ones who want to release their albums on vinyl. From January to June of this year, more than 240,000 records were sold on vinyl. Only 170,000 were sold in the first six months of 2010.
Bop Street opened its doors on Market Street in 2010. Photo by Stephanie Kim.
Dr. Gina Neff, a professor in the communication department at the University of Washington wrote her dissertation on technological change and its impacts. Because of the aesthetics a record provides, she predicts vinyl will never done. She even predicts a vinyl renaissance is on its way.
“Audiophiles really love the warmth that audio can give you,” she said. “If you’re committing to listening, there’s this kind of experience that you’re going to get. You certainly won’t get that from an MP3 under most compression standards.
“Vinyl will never die,” she said. “Vinyl aficionados, they love the object. You have to care for the object. There’s a lot of commodity fetishism there with vinyl. It’s also the coolness factor. It’s a thing you can show people.”