6. “I Can’t Tell You Why” (Or: Will it last this time?)
Every time I try to walk away
Something makes me turn around and stay
And I can’t tell you why.
— The Eagles
“It’s booming! I’ve seen a huge surge. I’ve been in the record business for 30 years, the last eight pressing records, and I’ve never seen anything like it.” That’s Tom Dillander on the phone. He owns Palomino Records Pressing in Shepherdsville, and I’ve called to ask if the business of making vinyl is as good as the spin. And, yes, he sounds as enthusiastic as his quote reads. And why not? Dillander says his company is doing 500 percent more vinyl business today than it did in 2010. Palomino, he adds, is at full capacity and booked solid through September, pressing 500 to 1,000 records a day.
Why the boom? “I scratch my head every day,” Dillander says, laughing. “But if you’re an up-and-coming band, you better have vinyl. You can’t sell CDs.”
Business has been so good, Dillander adds, that he resisted for weeks an inquiry from the Courier-Journal to do a story on Palomino. “I just don’t need the exposure,” he says. “Word of mouth has done this.”
So sold on records is Dillander that he predicts that, by 2014, CDs will be obsolete and we’ll be living in that once-unimaginable world of vinyl and digital, past and future.
At Magnetic Tape Recorder, owner Green reports that turntable sales and repairs are up. “Most people like the older tables. They like the look, the quality and so forth,” he says. “A lot of bands are going to vinyl to do their mastery. The trend is that they’re selling records instead of a CD and then they’re offering a free download that brings their fans to their website, where they’re exposed to a lot of information.”
Green notes that some of the newly manufactured turntables can be hooked to a computer so that records can be transferred to the computer’s hard drive, then to your digital smart gadget.
And get this: You can buy turntables at Best Buy and Target. It doesn’t get much more mainstream than that.
7. “Spin the Black Circle” (Or: What goes around comes around.)
See this needle...a see my hand...
Drop, drop, dropping it down...oh, so gently...
Well here it comes...I touch the plane...
Turn me up...won’t turn you away...
Spin, spin...spin the black circle.
— Pearl Jam
Back at Matt Anthony’s Record Shop, the conversation has turned to a parallel between the record business, specifically vinyl, and print publications, specifically magazines like this one. They’re both niche products that reach back generations. They’ve survived thanks to, modesty aside, quality and a devoted following. They’ve both suffered under the sudden cyber empire. But they press on, pardon the pun, because there will always be a market for quality, for content, for something tangible that one can possess, hold, look at without worrying that the screen will soon refresh.
Anthony adheres to the cover test when it comes to records. “The cover,” he says, “represents the aesthetic of the artist. A good cover usually means a good record. A bad cover almost always reveals a bad artist.” It reminds me of the monthly agony this and other magazines go through to choose just the right cover. It’s to attract the reader, yes, but it’s also a reflection of the aesthetic of the magazine staff itself. And, unlike the latest blog post, download or stream, it’s lasting.
“I hate downloading,” says Anthony, who adds that he still has hundreds of songs digitally downloaded. “It’s not satisfying. You watch a bar run across a screen and then it ends and you’re like, ‘Do I have it?’
“Look, I’m selling records to people who don’t even have turntables. Albums are collectibles. Imagine if the Beatles had never put out the White Album or Sgt. Pepper’s. That they just threw it all on a website. We wouldn’t have it. . . . A world in which music is only online frightens me. That’s Doomsday.”
Herron and others in the local music business make the point that Anthony’s shop — like Astro Black in Quills and Better Days and Please & Thank You — indicates a trend toward sound quality (read: vinyl) that may be more local than national.
Louisville’s national musical reputation extends at least back to the early 20th century when, according to the Encyclopedia of Louisville, “the Ohio River and the railroads were two vital transportation avenues along which many jazz pioneers migrated.”
By the end of the century, also according to the Encyclopedia, Playboy magazine identified Louisville as a rock-music mecca. The city has been known for its classical music and its punk scene. Of late, indie bands have proliferated. Herron notes that, a few years ago at the Forecastle music festival, he was charged with finding local acts. He had no trouble coming up with 30 of them.
“I have this theory,” Herron says. “If you look at what’s happening in your profession (print journalism) and arts and entertainment, to be successful, you have to capture the zeitgeist. There has to be some strong local connection. . . . Yes, record stores are going to be hybrids or niche. The mothership (ear X-tacy) is gone, but Louisville is getting noticed more and more as a viable music market.”
In other words, Louisville seems increasingly flush with record makers and record buyers. Which strikes one as a supply-demand combination that could at least last longer than skinny jeans or PBR.
Additional reporting by Mary Chellis Austin and Carmen Huff.
Photo: courtesy of Amanda Bates