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'Reaching critical mass' all over again

The LP turned out to have longer play than anyone imagined
By Mike Youds
August 12, 2016 1:57 P.M.
Richard Tronson, first customer at last year's opening of Barnacle Records, high-fives co-owner Jessie McGrath.

Vinyl records once again represent the fastest growing segment of music sales, a surprising turn of affairs considering Emile Berliner spun the first flat disc on a gramaphone in 1888.

No one could be more pleased with the resurgent trend than that once vanishing breed, the record store owner.

Getting set to celebrate a first anniversary Saturday at Barnacle Records on 3rd Avenue, Ronan McGrath is looking at a successful first year in business with a sense that the record renaissance is more than blip in the digital revolution.

They’ve been busy stocking up for the big day, Aug. 13, bringing in new inventory and extending their product line — they sell more than just vinyl.

“Yes, the physical side of vinyl has been growing more, year over year, since 2007,” he said. “Every year, we’re seeing more and more vinyl sales across the U.S. and Canada.”

The long-term trend appears to have picked up momentum.

For the first six months of 2016 alone, Vinyl LP sales were up 39 per cent in Canada over last year, Nielsen Canada reported Aug. 10.

McGrath doesn’t see it as an exclusive trend.

“I know, personally for me, there is room for both,” he said, citing different experiences. Space on a hard drive may be more convenient and versatile, but it doesn’t have the physical presence of records. McGrath compares records with books in that sense.

“There’s a real attachment to the physical.”

As with any growing market, demand has often outstripped supply in the Canadian record market. Pressing and production capability fell off when the digital revolution came along in the 1990s. That means customers can sometimes wait up to six months for shipment.

Now, entrepreneurs are responding with new plants in Calgary and Montreal, McGrath noted. There had to be sufficient demand to drive that investment.

“I think we’re reaching that critical mass.”

As for the long term prospects of Barnacle Records, McGrath was more cautious. They’re new, so all of their data is foundational, he said.

“We found it a profitable year,” he added. “There were no dry spells.”

Saturday, they’re planning live music, door prizes and deals, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., at 290 3rd.

Friday night, Ronan and his wife Jessie host one of the cultural events they see as an important aspect of the business.

Chromesthesia/Melophoria, 6-9 p.m., is organized by Kamloops Art Gallery. They bring out “PAT,” the portable art trailer, while Barnacle Records provides turntables and mixers so that amateur and pro DJs can experiment with the crosscurrents of expression, combing colour and sound.

The free event is open to all ages and continues Aug. 26, Sept. 9, Oct. 14 and Dec. 2.

“We’re happy to provide a space for people interested in musical culture,” he said.

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