Record stores live on in digital age -
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Homer's in the Old Market sells lots of new and used vinyl.(JEFF BEIERMANN/THE WORLD-HERALD)
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photos by JEFF BEIERMANN/THE WORLD-HERALD Homer’s employee Eric Ziegler unpacks vinyl records for Saturday.
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19_RECORDSTOREDAY_photo Id: 358573 Story at Homer's in the Old Market in Omaha, Neb., on April 16, 2012, on vinyl to preview Record Store Day on Saturday JEFF BEIERMANN/THE WORLD-HERALD
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Matt Hilgers shops Homer’s for the new 311 album on vinyl before heading to work.
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JEFF BEIERMANN/THE WORLD-HERALD Story at Homer’s in the Old Market in Omaha, Neb., on April 16, 2012, on vinyl to preview Record Store Day on Saturday


Record stores live on in digital age
By Kevin Coffey

See where to find record stores participating in Record Store Day in Omaha and Lincoln.

* * *

Downloads and digital music haven't stopped record stores from thriving.

Record Store Day releases

Record Store Day 2012 features more than 250 exclusive releases (I counted!) that you won't find anywhere else. Most are vinyl, some are unreleased material and others are special packages. Almost all are collector's items, as evidenced by very small print runs (some as low as 100 copies for the entire nation). As I do every year, I combed through the list to find some of my favorites as well as others that will prove to be popular. As a fan of Record Store Day, I only ask one (very selfish) favor: Please don't buy every copy of these albums before I get a chance to make it to the stores on Saturday.

The Omaha boys are issuing a 12-inch vinyl with remixes of four songs from their most recent album: “Trouble,” “Weightless,” “Sunset in July” and “Time Bomb.”

David Bowie
The British singer is releasing a 7-inch picture disc of “Starman.” This one will be very popular.
Jimmy Fallon
Tebowie, the late night host's combo of David Bowie and Tim Tebow, has his own 7-inch release.

The Civil Wars
This authentic country duo will have two releases: a 7-inch vinyl single featuring their cover of Michael Jackson's “Billie Jean” and a CD of a live concert. The single is limited to 1,000 copies.

Bruce Springsteen
The Boss will release a vinyl single version of his new song, “Rocky Ground.” This one shouldn't be too hard to get with its 8,000-copy run.

The Brit pop-rockers are releasing a 7-inch vinyl single with “Up With the Birds” and “UFO” from the band's most recent album, “Mylo Xyloto.”

Saddle Creek Records
The Omaha-based indie label will release several vinyl pieces. Cursive will have a reissued 12-inch “Burst and Bloom” and three other bands will debut as-yet-unreleased material on 7-inch singles: The Mynabirds' “Generals,” PUJOL's “Reverse Vampire” and Icky Blossoms' “Babes.”

M. Ward
A member of Monsters of Folk and She & Him, Ward will release “Primitive Girl,” the single from his solo album, as well as covers of “The Twist” and “Roll Over Beethoven” on 7-inch vinyl.

Buck Owens
One of the more odd releases is a coloring book and flexidisc (a paper-thin vinyl record) featuring the country singer and guitarist who died in 2006.

Uncle Tupelo
The band that introduced us to Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Jay Farrar of Son Volt will release a box set of four 7-inch singles.

Eddie Vedder
After releasing a ukelele album, the Pearl Jam frontman will release a 7-inch single with covers of two Pearl Jam songs: “Love Boat Captain” and “Wishlist.”


Featuring James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Andre 3000 of Outkast, this release of “Do Ya Thing” on 10-inch vinyl is limited to 500 copies. Happy hunting.

Jukebox the Ghost
This band does a mean cover of “I Love You Always Forever,” which will be one side of a 7-inch single.

— Kevin Coffey

iTunes, Amazon and Napster were supposed to have killed the record store.

Napster kicked off the digital music boom by letting people download songs and whole albums for free. Apple's iTunes — and later Amazon and others — came along with low prices and made digital music legitimate.

Why go to a brick-and-mortar record store when you can hop on your computer and have it in your hands in minutes? Plenty of people have an emphatic answer to that question.

In fact, while the Omaha and Lincoln area has fewer record stores that in the past, observers say it still has more than other similarly-sized cities. Within a half-block in Omaha, Homer's Music, Drastic Plastic and Antiquarium Records all do business selling CDs, records and T-shirts. And an official from Homer's, the area's largest store, says sales are healthy.

Kevin Hinrichs of Omaha likes record stores because of helpful staffers who recommend music and better music quality on CDs compared to mp3s.

"I still go out on release day and buy actual discs," Hinrichs said. "And record stores have better selection, not just what's popular."

Omahan Melissa Kucirek loves the variety, too, especially that "someone with a Henry Rollins or Sex Pistols T-shirt might be standing next to someone looking for a WHAM! or Yanni CD."

You also can give credit to vinyl, a once-abandoned format that is gaining in popularity year over year, for the staying power of record stores. Some stores have responded with increased shelf space for vinyl. Others, open for decades, have always been devoted to vinyl and are seeing fans come back to it.

"I'm still seeing all these guys from California that freak out when they see 2,000 feet of vinyl because they're not used to seeing that many records in one place," said Stuart Kolnick of Lincoln's Recycled Sounds.

On Saturday, independent record stores — including Kolnick's — will celebrate Record Store Day. The nationwide event includes hundreds of limited-edition vinyl releases and attracts lots of customers.

Even though music megastores such as Tower Records no longer exist and big-box stores such as Best Buy are scaling back their music sections, local independent record stores are thriving.

In 2011, 223.5 million CDs and 3.9 million vinyl albums were sold nationwide. Of those, more than 87 percent were bought in physical stores. More than 23.7 million of them were bought in independent stores such as Omaha's Homer's Music or Recycled Sounds.

While Web-based services sell a lot of music, the vast majority of those sales are individual songs. When people buy full albums, most of them (more than 67 percent) buy physical CDs or LPs, according to Nielsen Soundscan, which tracks music sales.

(And that's only new copies. When someone buys a used record or CD, a big part of business for indie stores and the only thing available at places like Antiquarium Records, it doesn't count toward those numbers.)

The best example of people choosing physical over digital music is Adele, the current queen of the pop charts. Her smash hit, the Grammy-winning album, "21," sold more than 5.8 million copies last year. More than 4 million were physical copies, not downloads.

"There's still a huge desire for physical product," said Mike Fratt, general manager at Homer's Music.

Fratt, who has worked for Homer's since 1979 and worked for other record stores before that, has seen the music business through ups and downs, through eight-track, vinyl and the CD era, and now to people moving back to vinyl.

"Change has been an ongoing part of this business," he said. "We've had 12 years of people telling us that record stores are going away and, statistically, if people want to buy an album, they're still choosing physical."

For years, so-called "big box" stores such as Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy threatened the stand-alone record stores. These mass merchants could offer large selections and, since they buy large quantities of albums for all their stores, offer lower prices.

Now some have moved away from music and most have drastically lowered their inventories.

"Now that mass merchants are the getting out of it, we're our biggest competition," Fratt said. "Can we be good enough that when people walk in the door, we have what they want and give them quality customer service?"

Independent stores also try to be diverse. Drastic Plastic carries a lot of rock and pop culture T-shirts made by Impact Merchandising, its parent company. Recycled Sounds has a huge selection of rock posters, which Kolnick said appeal to married guys "creating themselves a man cave."

At Homer's, Fratt said, having both new and used music is very important, and DVDs have been also been a brisk seller. Fratt wants to expand his store's gift items, and even cassettes and eight-track tapes have been popular.

Both Homer's and Recycled Sounds also sell turntables and Homer's sells speakers, amps and CD players.

The fact remains, however, that fewer record stores dot the landscape than in years past.

Homer's had as many as 15 stores in three cities, including Omaha, Lincoln and Des Moines, though some of them were purchased to absorb competition and were soon closed. Now Homer's — the metro area's largest store — is down to one outlet in the Old Market, where sales have been up.

Still, Omaha and Lincoln appear to have even more stores than larger cities. Delta's "Sky" magazine did a feature on Homer's last year and American Airlines' "American Way" asked, "Why are three record — actual vinyl record — stores here, within a block of each other, in downtown Omaha?"

Affordable commercial real estate is one reason, but the selection in the stores — all of which are decades old — also contributes because it attracts customers. Antiquarium has loads of vinyl you could get lost in and Homer's wants to rebuild its shelves to expand selection.

At Recycled Sounds in Lincoln, Kolnick said he knows what brings people in.

"It's the variety," Kolnick said. "I'm always looking for odd things and anything I don't have."

Great music also helps. With something as good as Adele, people will come out to buy. And many — such as Omahan Bronson Sweet — want something they can touch.

"I like having a tangible item and I get to listen to the album on the way home, (and) I also like drilling through a bunch of CDs," he said.

Contact the writer:


Record Store Day: Participating shops in Omaha

View Record Store Day Omaha in a larger map

Record Store Day: Participating shops in Lincoln

View Record Store Day Lincoln in a larger map

Contact the writer: Kevin Coffey    |   402-444-1557    |  

Kevin covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally covers other entertainment, including video games and comic books.

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