The tartan tarp in the Alaskan Brewing Co. tasting room might as well have been a matador’s cape.
Once it was lifted, a stampede started toward the boxes of records present for KXLL’s Pop-Up Record Shop Thursday evening.
“When we started, we’d have eight boxes, and there’d be people throwing elbows,” said Annie Bartholomew, program director for KXLL.
For the most recent shop, Thursday, Dec. 6, there were multiple rows of boxes and plenty of space in the new tasting room, although vinyl vultures made their passes through the wares in tight clusters.
McLean Steadman was one of the collectors on hand before the shop opened.
He’s been collecting records for about 20 years, he said. Most recently he came into record-playing equipment when a friend upgraded what they had and old gear found its way to Steadman.
Steadman said he relished the opportunity to peruse boxes of records because oftentimes there aren’t many local options, and no store dedicated solely to records.
In addition to making it hard to add to his collection, the dearth of record stores in Juneau means finding replacement parts for turntables is difficult. A stylus, or needle, generally needs to replaced after about 1,000 hours of playing time. Occasionally, cartridges or belts may need to be replaced, too.
“Trying to find needles and stuff is impossible,” Steadman said.
The reality that demand for records outpaces supply was communicated by many in the crowd Thursday night.
“In town it’s definitely hard to find records, so I’ll order online, or I’ll check out record stores when I’m traveling,” said Alex Tadda.
Similarly, Kim Valverde said when she travels to the Lower 48, she usually stops by “a secret spot” to add to her fairly new but growing vinyl collection.
“I’m somewhat new at collecting and also looking for gifts for friends and family,” said Valverde, who let out shouts of excitement when she found a “The Sound of Music” soundtrack on vinyl.
Valverde said she also found some classic rock albums at the shop, but she was mostly happy to have a copy of Julie Andrews and company singing on wax.
“I’ll drive my partner and daughter nuts with this,” Valverde said.
Bucking the trend
Opportunistic shopping habits are required for Juneauites despite vinyl’s coronation last year as a billion-dollar industry.
Mid-year statistics from the Recording Industry Association of America show in other parts of the country, records remain a growing business with more than 12-percent increase in sales from the first half of 2017.
The growing RIAA numbers only capture a fraction of sales during the ongoing record renaissance.
Many records are sold through online retailers such as eBay and Discogs. Those sites allow users to buy and sell used records that don’t add to the official totals, and secondhand markets like Thursday’s pop-up shop consisting of records donated to the radio station also factored into the uncounted date.
That means national vinyl sales could be as much as two and a half times larger than those figures indicate, as reported by Forbes.
Beginning again and
just getting started
Vinyl sales are fueled by a mixture of first-time turntable owners and folks who grew up when analog media was the only option.
Parents and their children shopped together Thursday. The elders provided guidance on which Fleetwood Mac records were worth taking home and pointed out less obvious gems in the stacks.
James Hunter is relatively new to vinyl himself, and walked through the tables of records with his 12-year-old son, Jasiah, close behind. They each pored over classic rock LPs.
Jasiah Hunter said he especially likes Jimi Hendrix.
“He’s just like me,” James Hunter said.
Katherine and Alexis Eldemar were a mother-daughter shopping tandem, and each carried stacks of records.
One highlight of their haul was a live Three Dog Night album. The Eldemars said they saw the band live recently, and Alexis Eldemar said the exceeded her expectations.
“They rocked,” she said.
Alexis Eldemar has an all-in-one record player she uses to listen to classic rock, and Katherine Eldemar said they also have a stereo made up of separate components — a turntable, receiver, speakers connected by wire.
The elder Eldemar said she misses the days of a dedicated record store. Her memories go back further than the closure of Capitol Records, which closed in 2009, to the record store of her youth, Alaska Music,
“It’s just fun,” Katherine Eldemar said. “Back in the day, you’d go to Alaska Music and spend the day. I’m an old-timer. Born here and raised here.”
The Eldemars said it can be difficult to add to their piecemeal collection, which isn’t ideal, but they were glad to have any opportunity to get their hands on records.
At least one Juneau resident stalking the stacks said he doesn’t mind the local vinyl market.
Tom Meyer, who returned to record collecting after decades off, found a handful of jazz and classic rock records.
Meyer said he likes sifting through crates of records at Rainy Retreat Books and the Salvation Army and is glad to listen to whatever he finds through his component setup.
“Yeah, I like the hunt instead of ordering on Amazon,” Meyer said. “I like to wait and see what happens at things like this.”
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.