Round and round

After drop in popularity, vinyl records make comeback

Allison Stawara of Chatham peruses Geoff Walker’s record collection. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

MARQUETTE — Music media has rapidly evolved in the last century, from the phonograph, which originally recorded and played back sound via a tinfoil sheet wrapped around a cylinder, to the digital MP3 format popular with music fans today.

Despite the convenience and lower expense of digital files, traditional records have seen a revival in popularity in the past decade, with vinyl album sales rapidly rising since 2007, according to data journalist Felix Richter in his article “The LP is Back!”

The popularity of vinyl has a presence that can be felt in Marquette. From Gitche Gumee Cafe & Records shop, which regularly hosts record sales at Blackrocks Brewery, to the Northern Michigan University Vinyl Record Club, which organizes three record sales a year that attract collectors and dealers from all around the state.

On Saturday, the NMU record club held its most recent event, garnering an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 vinyl records and pop culture items for the public to view and browse, said Jon Teichman, faculty adviser to the club. Around eight vendors were present and between 200 to 300 visitors stopped by the Peter White Lounge of the University Center, where the event was held.

Of the vendors, Geoff Walker traveled the farthest to share his collection with fans of the format, visiting all the way from Detroit.

Eight vendors and around two to three hundred people came by the Peter White Lounge at Northern Michigan University to check out the thousands of records, CD’s and other pop culture memorabilia on Saturday. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

Walker grew up in Marquette and acknowledges that record culture shaped him during his development, using the money he earned from his paper route with The Mining Journal to buy records at Tele-Tronics Discount Records.

“Record store culture offered me an opportunity to learn about people from other places, (and) to learn about different languages and cultures,” Walker said.

His friend Geoff Wiitala chimed in: “It was our internet, it was a way you could look and see into other places.”

Walker agrees that vinyl has a fixed status in our culture, and offers a reason for this phenomenon.

“Frank Zappa, who was a well-regarded artist, talked about records having what he called ‘fondle and fetish value,’ and I think he was right,” Walker said. “There’s something more available to you in terms of its art and its aesthetics than would be true if you were looking at a thumbnail on the internet or the cover of a CD, which is 5 by 5 (inches).”

Walker says there is a tangible feeling to records that create an emotional connection with their owners.

“These have an inherent value that is different from digital media and online media; streaming media is useful, but I don’t find it valuable,” he said. “Records have an aesthetic and emotional weight.”

Walker will be hosting a record sale at the Ore Dock Brewing Co. in Marquette Nov. 8-11, and the next NMU record sale is set for Jan. 13.

Rachel Oakley can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is roakley@miningjournal.net.