In 1930, RCA Victor presented the world with its first commercially available long-playing vinyl record. Although the record was largely a bust, it did give the industry an alternative to records made of shellac, or wax. During WWII, when supplies of shellac were limited, Columbia Records revisited the technology. On June 21, 1948, Columbia Records released the first 12” Long-Play (LP) 33 ½ rpm microgroove record. The rest, as they say, is music history.
Although vinyl albums were arguably most popular in the 50s and 60s, they are now enjoying a sort of revival. While some would argue that the appeal of vinyl never waned, the movement to 8-tracks, cassettes, and then CDs hurt the popularity of records. Now that music is largely digital, it would make sense that music lovers have stepped even further away from vinyl. Interestingly, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Matt Oland has been the owner of Fargo’s Orange Records since July of 2007. “At that time there was only one place in Fargo selling new vinyl,” he said. Located in downtown Fargo, Orange Records sells a variety of new and used vinyl, CDs, cassettes, DVDs, posters, stickers/pins/patches, incense, and t-shirts. In other words, if it is music related, it can likely be found in Oland’s store.
For Matt, it’s all about a love for music. When asked about his favorite part of owning a record store, he replied, “Listening to Celtic Frosts’ record ‘Morbid Tales’ on repeat every Tuesday.” His favorite musician/band? That’s not as easy of an answer. “I don’t have just one favorite, but some of them are Shellac, the Murder City Devils, Built to Spill, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, and Hammerhead.
Oland hasn’t witnessed the decline of vinyl and certainly doesn’t believe that vinyl is dead. “If anyone’s saying that it probably reps for iTunes, Spotify, or parents trying to talk their kids out of buying that $30 21 Pilots records,” he said. “It’s a small part of record sales, but vinyl sales keep rising…slowly.”
Further into Fargo, you will come across Vinyl Giant, owned by Aaron Swinkels. Vinyl Giant is the newest player in the area’s retail music scene, having opened its door only a year ago. “We started as a culmination of an antique store and a record store,” he explained. “I’ve always wanted to own a record store and there was enough business for records, so we split. Junk Giant is downtown and this one became Vinyl Giant.”
Swinkels enjoys watching the way people and music interact. “I love the joy music brings. It is medicine for a lot of people,” he said. “I like to watch people smile as they leave.” Aaron would like to invite current and potential customers to follow the store on Facebook in order to become aware of special events and sales. “I’m from Seattle and we have a good record culture that never went away,” he said. “They’re all about the customer there, and I model our store after what I’ve seen growing up out there.”
Vinyl Giant sells anything related to records. “We have approximately 10,000 records; one of the largest selections in town,” Swinkels said. The store also sells styluses, cartridges, cleaning fluid for records, basically, anything necessary to maintain and listen to albums. As if that wasn’t enough, the store also repairs vintage equipment, including anything from the intro to advanced systems. “We are the only place in town that services turntables.”
Like Oland, Swinkels’ taste in music is varied. “I’m a huge Wilco fan and I love Prince,” he said. “I put all of my records into the store except my Prince albums. I have one of the rarest prince albums to exist on display in my store.”
Swinkels also agrees that vinyl is anything but dead. “Sales have surpassed what they were doing in 1984, they can’t print them (records) fast enough,” he said. “The average age of someone in my store is impossible to put your finger on; we see anyone from a 70-year old man to kids on bicycles.” Every dollar Vinyl Giant makes is put back into the store. Swinkels has yet to take any income and says he won’t until the store is what he wants.
Even though digital music has found its way into virtually every home, vinyl records are anything but dead. Step into either Orange Records or Vinyl Giant and you will see what I mean. Tell them the music sent you.
By Jamee Larson