Indirectly, Eric and the rest of my family were teaching me the concept of digging boxes. While it was good to like what I heard on the radio, there were lesser advertised talents that deserved the same attention. I followed this perspective in high school and in my career as a music journalist, author, editor and curator.
Long before I moved here in 2016, I was hopping on the bus to New York to look for records. It seemed there weren’t a lot of stores to choose from. It was the mid-2000s, music streaming was starting to dominate the industry and many moms and dads were being forced to shut down.
âRecord stores as we know them are dying,â Josh Madell, co-owner of Other Music in Downtown Manhattan, told the New York Times in 2008. âOn the other hand, there is always space. in the culture for what a record store does, being a hub of the music community and a place to discover new music.
Mr. Madell, whose store finally closed in 2016, was on to something. As record stores broke, vinyl also began to make a curious comeback. The Recording Industry Association of America found that vinyl record shipping jumped more than 36% between 2006 and 2007. There was no clear answer to this resurgence. Head companions will tell you that there is nothing like analog sound. While digital music sounds cleaner, vinyl sounds warmer and fills the room. There’s nothing quite like leaning over the album cover and delving into the cover notes. It’s a time capsule.
When New York City became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, local record store owners found themselves in familiar territory: even though vinyl sales had exceeded CD sales last year for the first time since the 1980s, would record stores, along with many of the city’s other independent storefronts, survive? Platinum lab, a niche record store in Manhattan’s East Village, closed that year to focus on online sales. Other stores like Academy and Limited to one, also in the East Village, were able to keep their leases, but turned to online sales to make ends meet.
These days, crate digging is done as much online as it is offline. A stroll through the Bandcamp virtual music store can unearth everything from South African Boogie to the forgotten atmosphere. But clicking doesn’t replace the act of visiting your favorite record store and discovering a rare find that you were looking for or didn’t know you needed until you saw the cover art. Every place is different: Where Head Sounds is at the back of a hair salon, Academy is a big place with a little more dust on the album covers.
A new store, Legacy files, just opened on Water Street in Dumbo. I went there a few weeks ago and landed an original copy of the 1996 Fugees album, “The Score”.