Fred Meyer Spins the Black Circle


As Peter Buck, R. Crumb, Steve Turner, the dude at Bop Street, and countless other fanatics will tell you, vinyl is still the king.

Mike Seely sent me this link yesterday, which made me very happy. Apparently, somebody at corporate Fred Meyer fucked up when ordering copies of R.E.M.'s Accelerate. He or she clicked "LP" on the electronic order form, thereby shipping out boxes upon boxes of Accelerate on vinyl to Fred Meyer stores all over the place. Most folk returned them, but a few nostalgic ones put 'em on display. Twenty copies sold on the first day, 55 were sold within a week. Considering how miserable music sales are, this is a good number. Now, Fred Meyer is "doing a test" in 60 of its stores. Stocking about 20 old and new record on 180-gram vinyl. Crazy, huh?

Not really.

As Rolling Stone says this week, vinyl sales are up. In 2007, nearly 1 million LPs were bought...that's a leap of about 200,000 from the previous year. To me, this spike is sales is happening for the same reason that Sub Pop has had bands land in Billboard's Top 10. Most CDs suck, yes, and nobody gives a shit about the value of an MP3. But the people buying CDs from indie labels, indie stores, and those buying vinyl, are a passionate bunch. It's a niche market, really, and we're buying music from boutique operations. I've continued buying vinyl because the sound is warmer and more accurate. CDs, for the large part, sound grating. Vinyl was left-for-dead, but lasted because nerds like us kept it alive, and not just because we're nostaglia junkies. Its a music medium that demands you to pay attention to the music. Vinyl feels alive when you watch it spin. I'm sure that most of the people who bought those R.E.M. vinyl LPs did so because 1) they liked R.E.M., and 2) said: "Gee, sweetheart, I didn't even know they made these anymore!"

All good, I say. The more vinyl LPs that land into people's hands the better. See, there is hope out there. If anything, this move by a big-box store means one thing to me: In times of crisis people get creative and take a few risks. Come to think of it, those circumstances also often lead to great music.

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