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Vinyl Records are Hot Again: Revival Driven by Both New and Vintage Titles

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SACRAMENTO -- A tiny needle slips into a groove on a hard vinyl disc and suddenly a rich, warm sound fills the room. Music lovers took this for granted when vinyl was the only way to purchase music.

But now, in an age in which you can stream or download an album out of thin air, a new appreciation for vinyl is becoming something of a phenomenon.

Record stores are thriving again.

"For us, it's all about getting the right records," said AJ Sachs, a salesman at Records on Broadway in Sacramento, a store that buys and sells used vinyl. "Then the demand is there."

"I came back to vinyl because the computer (breaks), and you are nobody," said a shopper at Records who goes by the name DJ Fonki Cheff. "The vinyl...(It's) gonna be there forever."

The Recording Industry Association of America offers proof that vinyl is coming back around again. According to RIAA data, vinyl revenues have been rising in the U.S. for nine years. Revenues in 2015 were up 32 percent over the previous year, totaling $416 million. The last time vinyl made that much money, Ronald Reagan was president. It was 1988.

For some vinyl enthusiasts, it's all about the sound.

Fred Fong, a salesman at Brooks Novelty Antiques & Records in Old Sacramento describes the vinyl sound as "3D to your ears."

"It's more organic," Fong explained. "It just brings a warmth that is more naturalized."

Fong also points out, digital recordings are sometimes too perfected, whereas vinyl records are more authentic.

"The sound of breathing, the sound of the calluses on your fingertips when you're strumming the guitar," Fong offered.

This desire for something raw, something authentic, is a theme that kept coming up in FOX40's conversations with vinyl enthusiasts.

"Somebody 25 years old, 26 years old, will bring a couple records up and say, 'Can you promise me there will be some cracks and pops on this record?'" said Marty DeAnda, owner of Medium Rare Records and Collectibles, a store that shares retail space with another record store, Kicksville, in Sacramento.

DeAnda says the top consumers of vinyl appear to be Gen-Xers, born between 1960 and 1980, looking to return to something they enjoyed in their youth.

"So it's still part of their heritage," DeAnda observed. "They're also getting to be middle-aged. They have good jobs now. They can afford to buy more records. They've got families. They've got kids that they're playing records for now."

And right behind Generation X, DeAnda says millennials make up a significant segment of his customer base. He sees music-lovers in their 20s wanting to experience classic artists on vinyl.

"Etta James and Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra," DeAnda listed. "Very interesting to see, and very, very exciting to see actually."

Sacramento musician Vinnie Guidera, is a millennial and a vinyl collector.

"I've always been a fan of physical media," said Guidera. "If I'm spending money on a product, I like to have something concrete."

Vinnie's drummer has a day job as an employee of this station. But that's not why we wanted to talk to him. He and his band, Vinnie Guidera and the Dead Birds, recently released an album on vinyl called "Lows," which brings us to the subject of new vinyl releases.

Artists are finding it increasingly important to provide this option for their fans. Dimple Records has devoted more space to new vinyl in recent years. And the album packages often include a code for a digital download.

"A little more care goes into every step of the process," Guidera explained.

Vinnie's band had their record pressed at Gotta Groove Records in Ohio, and found that the pressing plant was very busy. The turnaround time was a few months, compared to a few weeks for a CD.

It cost them about $3,000 to have 300 records pressed, some of which was offset by a Kickstarter drive. The band decided it was well worth it.

"Ultimately, I'd rather have something that I'm proud to put out there than something that immediately makes money," Guidera concluded.

The five top-selling vinyl albums of 2015, according to RIAA, demonstrate how the vinyl revival is indeed driven by a mixture of old and new.

1) Adele - "25"
2) Taylor Swift - "1989"
3) Pink Floyd - "Dark Side of the Moon"
4) The Beatles - "Abbey Road"
5) Miles Davis - "Kind of Blue"

There are many more stores in the greater Sacramento/San Joaquin region selling vinyl than the ones mentioned in this report. Chances are, anyone looking to discover or rediscover vinyl can find a store nearby.