“Vinyl is definitely back!”
That’s Craig Wright’s verdict, as his store in Amagansett, Inner Sleeve Records, passes the one-year mark. Wright gets customers of all different ages—some looking to get special pressings of new releases, some looking to get ’70s classics in their original format and others just eager to delve into the deep record stacks in the well-stocked store.
“People come in and browse for hours, which is great. They might hear something that grabs them”—Wright is constantly spinning semi-obscure records over the store’s sound system—“and walk out with a record by a band they’ve never heard of before.”
Before digital downloading impaired their business model, record stores were a familiar presence all over. Now, in cities like New York, where high rents have driven out even landmarks like the used record store Bleecker Bob’s, it’s becoming hard to figure out what to do if you’ve got extra time on your hands.
Not so in Amagansett, where Inner Sleeve is currently tucked into the Amagansett Square shops. Come July, they will be moving across the street to 199 Main Street. People can stop in after picking out some shoes at the Bass outlet or before heading to the Hampton Chutney Company for a quick bite. Of course, along with such casual browsers, Inner Sleeve attracts serious collectors from all over, usually interested in rare finds, many of which Wright has displayed on the wall of the shop.
There have been some surprises for Wright in his first year. “I didn’t expect there to be quite so much interest in records from the ’70s,” he explains. He finds, for example, that today’s vinyl buyers are interested in copies of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, a record that sold so phenomenally that for many years people were practically giving it away at yard sales. Likewise Joni Mitchell’s Blue, a record that Wright has learned to keep in stock.
“Blue is a record that seems to be going up in price almost on a weekly basis,” he notes. Wright himself is able to replenish his supplies of good-condition used vinyl from his own collections and from other collectors.
What hasn’t been surprising is the enduring popularity of The Beatles, whose records have been the best-selling items at Inner Sleeve over the last year. The store carries a large selection of Beatles pressings, ranging from newly minted vinyl releases of digital remasters to sought-after rarities, which recently included a good-condition copy of the original mono release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—a must-have for any serious Beatles aficionado, and priced as a collectible.
Those eager to begin their vinyl collections but lacking a way to play records need look no further than Inner Sleeve’s selection of turntables: you don’t need to shell out for a huge system to begin enjoying your purchases. The Crossley turntables are compact, designed to hook up to most modern audio systems, and come with a warranty. Wright had also dabbled in selling vintage gear, but found that most customers wanted to be sure that they would be able to get replacement needles and cartridges.
People continue to argue about whether analog vinyl SOUNDS better than digital CDs or downloads, but the fact is, most people probably don’t really care that much. After all, unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of money on a set of speakers, your sound is going to be compromised no matter whether the medium is analog or digital. Many of today’s vinyl buyers are doubtlessly spinning their new purchases on inexpensive turntables and listening through tinny iPod speakers. In other words, they’re not going “back to vinyl” in pursuit of some audiophile ideal.
More likely, they are attracted to records for the simple fact that records are physical objects, and human beings tend to feel a connection with things they can have and hold—unlike the digital downloads that come from iTunes. Vinyl also encourages a different kind of engagement with music: since it’s not really portable, you’re more apt to sit and listen. And since it’s harder with vinyl to skip from song to song, you’re more likely to listen to complete albums. Vinyl moves music from the background to the center—where it belongs.
Inner Sleeve Records, 4 Amagansett Square, moving to 199 Main Street, Amagansett on July 1. Call 631-375-5316 for additional information.