When Vince Dabin opened Orange Monkey in 1993, it was during what he calls “the death of the music industry,” as the industry traded vinyl for CDs and eventually streaming.
One by one, record stores around the region, like Sam the Record Man, began to close. But Orange Monkey, as well as Kitchener’s Encore Records, remained.
Until the early 2000s, he says the majority of people buying vinyl were DJs. So when Dabin first opened the store, it was about 70 per cent CDs -- which explains how it was able to weather the digital frenzy.
That is, until about seven years ago, when CD sales started to plummet, and he began prioritizing records for the first time since opening.
Now, he says everyone is after vinyl, from “eight-year-olds to 80-year-olds.”
This sentiment seems to be echoed by the Kitchener Public Library, as they recently reintroduced vinyl to their catalogue for the first time in thirty years.
Record fanatic and Waterloo resident Mick Oakley was just 10 when he bought his first record.
“Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ just came out. They had a yellow vinyl single. I didn’t even have a turntable at the time,” he laughed. But he had to have it.
Fast forward eight years, and he finally got his hands on his first record player. Today, his vinyl collection sits at around 500.
“I think you miss a lot of the tangible quality of music with streaming services these days, and you lose out on that ability to pass it down to the next generation,” he said. “You’re not going to pass your Spotify account onto your kids.”
Both Oakley and Dabin agree that listening to vinyl allows you to be present, in the moment, and “tune the rest of the world out.”
“There’s something therapeutic about taking it out of the sleeve, lifting the cover up and dropping the needle on it, knowing you need to be present for the next 22 minutes that it’s playing. You don’t really get that with digital,” Oakley said.
The demand is so much that record stores are actually struggling to get enough product in.
“We sure could use more vinyl plants to catch up with demand,” Encore Records owner Mark Logan said. “Because I mean, it’ll be six, eight months that we’re out of something. I’ve never been out of this much product. There’s just so much demand that they can’t keep up.”
Although vinyl sales have been steadily increasing over the years, Logan thinks CDs will make a comeback too, because of how affordable they are compared to vinyl.
But Oakley said he thinks part of the appeal for some is that vinyl, especially given the skyrocketing prices these days, is a luxury item.
“I think people are attracted to things that are sold at a premium or somewhat exclusive in a certain way,” he said. But, he added that there is something about going “off the beaten path that people are attracted to.”
“Anyone who is my age or younger never existed in a time where vinyl was the main way of listening to music. So it inherently has that nostalgic factor attached, because albums are never put out these days purely on vinyl.”
You can learn more about the KPL’s new vinyl collection here.