Vinyl and CD Stores Stay Viable

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A selection of the vinyl available at Museum of Unfine Arts in Eugene.

By Corey Buchanan for Eugene Daily News

It seems as if two people exist in this world, those who illegally download music on the Internet and those who buy music on ITunes.

The concept of leaving ones home to attain music seems ludicrous to most in an era defined by convenience and immediacy.  So where does that leave the once popular but now quite retro, physically present music store?

For Museum of Unfine Art and Record Store, the answer is vinyl. Owner Shawn Mediaclast believes that vinyl records will always have a place in the heart of die hard music fans because of the most important aspect of the music listening experience, sound quality.

The higher resolution of records versus CD’S or MP3’s allows the listener the experience of being able to listen to a band up close and personal without seeing them in concert.

Many vinyl listeners won’t ever listen to a CD or MP3 because of this vast superiority in sound. CD’S, on the other hand, are a different story.

While Mediaclast believes, like books, the aesthetic value of being able to physically hold and own a CD is important to many music fans, its relevance is decreasing each year.  He believes this is because CD and MP3 listeners generally fall in the casual listeners market.  

MP3’s are almost completely taking over that market and are increasing their portion of the market each year.  On the other hand, vinyl listeners are a completely separate market filled with old and young diehard music fans alike.  While vinyl records are Museum of Unfine Arts main source of revenue, they also make ends meet by selling art, beer/soda, clothing and cigarettes in order to not only attract customers but to provide an all encompassing service and create a unique atmosphere.

A selection of the vinyl available at Museum of Unfine Arts in Eugene.

Mediaclast started the store after being tired of working at coffee shops and restaurants. He wanted to do something beneficial for the community and the musical culture and already had a pretty large CD/Vinyl collection; so he thought, “what the hell”.

He says, “a piece of art is in a sense a product, but its more than that, to create an original piece is an extension of a human being.”

Whether it be selling local artists like The Kitchen Syncopators and Honey Visor albums over the years or universally renowned albums like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” or Michael Jacksons “Thriller”, Mediaclast is happy to be able to make a living for himself while contributing to music culture.

House of Records has been a reliable Eugene music hub since 1971.  26-year-long employee Greg Sutherland has been around for the ups and downs of the record store industry and has seen many changes in terms of popularity among music listening devices.  Record stores were very popular until the year 2000 and when the IPOD was released in 2001, CD sales plummeted.

He believes that stores “blew it” by over charging for CD’s and when iTunes came out, it was understandable for consumers to prefer a cheaper for immediate product.  Unlike Mediaclast, Sutherland believes CD’s have staying power.  He points out that in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s he thought that Records were going to die out due to the popularity of CD’s.

Now, records are just as popular, if not more popular, than CD’s.   At the same time Sutherland agrees with Mediaclasts’ preference for vinyl.

“Everything in a CD mix sounds the same, all the instruments are equally loud,” explains Sutherland. “That’s not really the way it is when music is made.”  Vinyl, on the other hand, provides a more spatial, organic and vertical sound with dynamic range.

He also likes the aesthetically pleasing aspect of vinyl that comes from its large package, which provides more depth and vibrancy to the cover illustration.  He believes that CD’s future in the industry exists as a medium between MP3’s and vinyl.

House of Records in Eugene, Oregon.

CD’S sound better and are more artistically pleasing than MP3’s and have more girth in terms of a wide range of albums than vinyl.  CD’s currently sell as much as vinyl at House of Records for this reason.

Sutherland believes illegal downloads have hurt sales a bit, but only in the casual music fan market.

“We used to get people in here who would buy two or three records.  We don’t see those people anymore”, he says.  “They are downloading music for free.”

On the other hand, die-hard music fans with whom music has a major importance to their life still come back. Sutherland says that House of Records has simply adjusted to consumer demand over the years and has developed a solid array of loyal customers, which have contributed to their ability to stay around for 41 years.

In the end, the market is so unpredictable and technology is evolving so quickly that it’s hard to tell which listening avenue will last the longest.  But no matter if consumers are buying CDS or Records, its good to see local music businesses succeed in an industry which some have proclaimed to be dying.

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