Over the last five or six years, vinyl records have been making a comeback. Long relegated to the dustbin of antiquated technology, it was thought that CDs killed the record player and then MP3s killed the album.
But record shops are popping up once again, artists are releasing vinyl albums, and people are searching for a new sound — more specifically, the old sound.
In Gig Harbor, Erik Owen is offering that classic sound by fixing up equipment, selling used and new records, and spreading the gospel of album-based listening. The downtown Gig Harbor business is set up like a living room with a couch, a record spinning, and coffee and beer on offer. Former employee Matt Silberstein and Owen said the shop attracts people who are looking to get record players and reel-to-reels fixed. In the meantime, Owen said, those waiting make themselves at home.
“You can grab a cup of coffee or a beer and watch us work on your piece,” he said.
Gig Harbor Audio fixes a few players a day, and also builds its record players and speakers. Owen said about 10 tables have been built in-house.
And a lot of records are being traded and sold.
Why, in a world were music literally lives in the air, and plays through phones and other devices, would anyone want to deal with a needle on vinyl? Silberstein and Owen say it’s because digital music isn’t tangible. It doesn’t match the feel of pulling a record out of a liner, reading the information inside, and flipping from side A to side B. Listeners want to experience music.
“They have thousands of songs on their phones,” said Owen, “but they have no attachment to it.”
With records there aren’t iPhone push notifications, or email updates, or texts, or playlists. There’s just the sound.
“We’ve heard from young people that a large library intimidates them,” said Silberstein.
Another reason for the boom in record sales is the affordable price points on used records. They pointed out that people could get records for as low as 99 cents. At Gig Harbor Audio, the average cost is $4 per record. All of the records, as well as sleeves, are cleaned before being stocked.
“Every album here we clean both sides on a vacuum,” Owen said.
“It’s preservation; we don’t want people buying dirty records from us,” Silberstein said.
Events at the store include a “Disc After Dark” series, where people are coming to share the experience of listening to music.
“It’s been a gathering place. It’s been a place where people are rediscovering music,” Silberstein said. “We expose people to new and old.”
Among all age groups, artists like The Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd are popular. There’s also an exchange going on between young and old, as artists like Wolf Atlas, Grimes, and Kendrick Lamar are introduced.
Gig Harbor Audio is the result of a lifelong love, not a growing trend, they both noted.
Silberstein used to be a salesman for Rega. He and his player survived the 1990s and early 2000s when it was thought “dated” to own a turntable. Silberstein is “one of those odd folks that’s had a turntable since age 13.”
The first album Owen ever received was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But it wasn’t actually the record he wanted. What he had asked for was the less-lauded soundtrack to the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring the Bee Gees.
“Which was terrible,” he said of the film and soundtrack. “But it looked so cool.”
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3019 Judson St., Suite D
Gig Harbor, 98335