It's a dismal evening in Chicago, but local hipsters are getting their vinyl fix.
On a recent Thursday, three people browsed around for speakers, high fi systems, turntables and records at Audio Archaeology on Devon Ave, in Rogers Park.
“Always and forever, people will want to have a physical copy of music,” said Sunshine, an employee, who meticulously sorted rock, punk, electronic and alternative records, in alphabetical order based on artist.
“Young people usually stream popular music in singles, but when they buy records, they seek music reminiscent of what their parents would listen to, and they play those records over and over” she said enthusiastically.
Audio Archaeology is one of the only record stores in Rodgers Park, a neighborhood filled with college students and cosmopolitans. They have always relied heavily on a business model of nostalgia.
In the era of Apple Music and Spotify, there has been a decrease in physical music sales, except for vinyl. According to The Guardian, vinyl record sales hit a 25 year high as of 2017.
“People don’t want to give up that feeling of opening a new record, smelling it and looking at the cover” said Sunshine. “The bottom line is, vinyl has much better sound quality”.
2018 was the first year Audio Archaeology had made money off records. Sunshine predicted that 2019 would look even better.
Record sales only accounted for a small margin of Audio Archaeology’s total revenue in 2018. Consumers tend to be more interested in the electronics side, and that’s what Audio Archaeology focuses on for profit.
“We can’t even keep consoles in stock, since we are one of the few stores in the United States that sells high-quality ones,” Sunshine said.
Sunshine noted that smaller independent stores like Audio Archaeology tend to have better quality players than those at retail stores like Target.
“The sound quality on a high-quality player is much better” said Sunshine.
At Audio Archaeology, shoppers ranged from middle aged hipsters with piercings to quirky teenagers, but everyone seemed interested in similar records.
“Queen have come back in a hurry since their new movie came out,” Sunshine said, referring to the new biographical film, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Sunshine also mentioned that Prince has been making a comeback: "People don’t realize how much of a huge discography he has, luckily, they are releasing his unreleased work”.
According to Sunshine, many of those from the lost generation of CD’s — hope that old CD’s will resurface on Vinyl, since it would yield much better sound quality.
“Back in the old days, it was easy to record on master tape, then put it on vinyl. But now, artists have been recording on digital, making it easy for digital CD’s, but harder for vinyl”.
JJ Colligan, a Loyola University of Chicago Student from Iowa, said he thinks young people are returning to vinyl due to the fact that streaming and digital downloads have become normal.
“Young people want to try something new. I think that many 18 to 20 year old’s have mostly known only digital copies of music and having this archaic physical copy is interesting to them,” he said.
Record owners have different reasons for collecting them. Colligan said that he collects them for display. “I just bought a few Led Zeppelin albums to frame around the house,” he said.
Colligan noted that visiting Audio Archaeology made him extremely thankful, since it is one of the only record stores in the Rodgers Park community. “It has a very impressive collection of records and equipment,” said Colligan.