Sheboygan Record Store The Music Boxx Brings Vinyl Back To The Digital Age

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SHEBOYGAN – Originally a CD collector, it’s the clean sound and nostalgia of vinyl records that Sam Lutzke fell in love with.

“I started hanging these all over my wall after stopping by the Music Boxx buying about five a week,” Lutzke said in a post.

The Music Boxx, 1119 N. Eighth St., is seeing vinyl sales increase even in the digital age of music.

“We probably sell four records for every CD we sell,” Music Boxx owner John Selak said. “It was probably like two to one, maybe four or five years ago. So I had seen this trend happen before. I didn’t expect it to be that big.”

Vinyl sales have ‘skyrocketed’ since COVID-19, says Music Boxx owner

Owner John Selak at Music Boxx Records on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Sheboygan, Wis.

Lutzke started collecting CDs six years ago, but two years ago when he started listening to older music from the 1960s and 1970s, he said it was easier to find it on vinyl.

He said he has around 150 records, ranging from 1980s metal like Mötley Crüe, Cinderella and Dokken to “underground” music from artists on YouTube who may be lesser known.

Along with getting into older music two years ago, Lutzke started playing guitar.

“I want to listen to vinyl to someone who is passionate about music and a musician like me can really appreciate the clean sound it gives off,” he said in a message.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl sales hit $1 billion in the United States in 2021, the biggest increase in sales since 1986.

Overall, vinyl sales have been increasing since 2014, and Selak said the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted Music Boxx sales even further.

“The pandemic kind of skyrocketed them and people weren’t going out and going on vacation,” Selak said. “It actually helped us.”

In 2020, vinyl sales were nearly $644 million in the United States, according to the RIAA.

But despite the growth, vinyl is still only a tiny part of a multi-billion dollar industry. Vinyl sales accounted for just 6.9% of the $15 billion in total revenue for 2021.

With the rise of CDs, the introduction of the iPod, and the emergence of music download services like Napster and LimeWire, Selak witnessed some challenges for vinyl records in the early and mid-2000s when he started working at the Music Boxx.

When the Music Boxx opened in 2004, CD sales were $11.4 billion in the United States, accounting for 92.7% of recorded music revenue.

CD sales have been declining since then, as download services have made music accessible with just a click. Only recently have CD sales increased from $483 million in 2020 to $584 million in 2021.

Sales of downloaded albums peaked at $1.2 billion in 2012 and 2013, but also declined due to the rise of streaming services which have accounted for most of the record revenue since the mid-2010s.

Last year, paid, paid and ad-supported on-demand streaming revenue accounted for 75% of recorded music revenue.

“It’s still going to be broadcast far and above,” Selak said. “I put stuff out, like on the go, but at home I love putting records on. And I think that’s kind of the idea most people have. It’s like you’re not buying not every album from every artist you like, but you’re going to buy the ones you really like, connect to.

Kalyn Mindock streams music and listens to records, but she feels there’s a different sound between the two.

“The sound itself of whatever you play sounds so much rawer,” Mindock said in a post. “It’s also very relaxing.”

A customer looks at vinyl albums near racks of CDs at Music Boxx Records, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Sheboygan, Wis.

More and more people are buying CDs and vinyl records

Selak has seen more and more people turn to CDs and vinyl records.

“It’s more like collectors buy them, then people who just like to have something physical to hold in their hand,” Selak said. “That’s something you don’t get with digital like streaming. (People say), ‘Oh, hey, look at my Spotify playlist.’ Cool. But, ‘Look at my record collection, look at my CD collection.’ I’ve even noticed younger kids buying CDs which picks up quite a bit more.

Mindock said her father introduced her to hundreds of records, which inspired her. She started collecting vinyl four years ago and has around 40 records ranging from bands like Green Day and Van Halen to solo artists like Amy Winehouse and Harry Styles.

Kirsten Ali, who also develops film on a 35mm camera, feels that the tangible media for records and films are lost in modern society.

“They make me feel like I’m directly connected to this world, to the artist, and to the products they create,” they said in a post.

Ali said their love of records started when they visited the Music Boxx in 2016.

“I saw their authenticity from the sidewalk,” Ali said in a post. “…I had a great conversation with the record salesman. …That conversation, the constant priority of music in my life, and The Music Boxx’s very obvious affinity for the love of music are what prompted me to buy my first player disc.”

Paul Rudnick, owner of Rudnick Jewelers, 919 N. Eighth St., has been going to Music Boxx since it opened. He had a turntable in his dorm during his freshman year in college in the early 2000s.

Since then he has collected around 1,200 records.

“With every song ever written essentially at hand, there’s something romantic about the vinyl ritual,” Rudnick said in an email. “Choosing it off your shelf, cleaning and examining the record, then placing the stylus on top with no easy way to skip or fast forward makes you sit back and contemplate all the story the artist wanted you to hear. Personally , I like to archive and catalog my collection to make sure it continues to perform well for years to come.

Selak himself has an 800-record collection, but he says he knows people who have 3,000 records or more.

As a small business owner, Rudnick said people will always enjoy “an experience.”

“…The experience of flipping through stacks of old vinyl records until you find that album or whatever you’re looking for is so much more satisfying than clicking ‘Buy’ on Apple Music or Spotify,” Rudnick said. in an email.

Ali said their souls would have been crushed had the Music Boxx closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The digital world can feel overwhelming,” Ali said in a post. “In-store experiences like theirs are so relevant.”

The exterior of Music Boxx Records seen on Tuesday August 2, 2022 in Sheboygan, Wis.

There’s still a place for vinyl, even though Selak said records will never be the primary means of music consumption again.

Although Ali said they bought the music download facility because it was easily portable, they were looking for something more tangible.

“Before records, I had always fantasized about music feeling ‘closer’ to me,” they said.

Ali bought CDs before finding records, which they felt best supported the artists they listened to.

“It was also that feeling of feeling like they were true to their work using a CD to stick to total play, rather than being selective and only buying songs from my phone. to pass,” Ali said in a post. “When I started buying records that went through even more intensely, and it also gave me the ability to hear it less loudly, more warmly (and) down to earth – the way it was meant to be listen.”

The Music Boxx spreads music across generations and genres

The Music Boxx features newer artists like Harry Styles, Olivia Rodrigo and Maggie Rogers, but Selak said he also likes to focus on “classic tracks, whatever they are.”

“Anything unusual and hard to get,” Selak said. “I like to focus on that kind of stuff. Like 90s records is a good example of that. When CDs started to get popular, a lot of artists weren’t pressing records on vinyl. So now 20 years 30 years later, companies are buying the rights to the albums, pressing them, and making them available, so instead of having to spend $300 on a Soundgarden original, you can buy a repress for around $30. so pretty cool for people who like that kind of stuff.

Selak said he also focuses on finding reissued jazz records from the 1950s and 1960s.

“A popular John Coltrane record may have only sold 50,000 copies in its time. So the originals cost a lot of money,” Selak said. So they went back to the original master tapes and suppressed those jazz records and made them available again, which is great.

Selak sometimes finds records at garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores, but it becomes more difficult as other people search for the same records. Many used records are also introduced in the store.

“We’re always looking to buy collections,” Selak said. “No collection is too big or too small because it’s our bread and butter, it’s used records honestly. New stuff is great. I love new records, but used stuff – that’s what excites me the most because you never know what you’re going to see in a collection.

Once, he says, he found a Miles Davis record in a pile of polka records.

“That’s the fun part of the job,” Selak said. “Rescuing it from someone who didn’t want it, cleaning it up and then finding it a new home. It is my highlight to work here. I love finding new homes for these records. I think it’s fun.

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Rudnick has many genres in his collection.

“I have a lot of jazz, old country music, crooners, real punk music, classic rock and a ton of Grateful Dead,” Rudnick said in an email. “My favorite artists would be the Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Black Flag, Velvet Underground, Ramones, George Strait and many more.”

Selak said he would like to expand the store in the future, which would allow him to increase his inventory, add a stage inside and host music events.

“JP (Selak) really knows his stuff,” Rudnick said in an email. “If you’re looking to expand your music collection, he’s the one to talk to. He has a lot of taste and is open to new genres and artists of all kinds.

Contact Alex Garner at 224-374-2332 or agarner@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @alexx_garner.

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