Pick out the album, take the record out of its plastic sleeve, lift up the lid, set it down on the turntable, place the needle on the vinyl — and wait for the spinning plastic to create an experience far different from listening to music from a smartphone.
Record stores have weaved in and out of general popularity since the 1960s. When music began to be universally distributed through digital files in the 1990s, physical vinyl copies began to fall out of demand.
Despite this, popular record stores in Chapel Hill are still in business and people keep coming back.
Stephen Judge, label president of Schoolkids Records, said the record business has fluctuated over time.
“The surge of records in the early 70s to downturn in the early 80s, only to see the compact disc surge in the early 90s, to some of our best years in our 44-year history,” Judge said. “To again a massive downturn and again the resurgence of vinyl over the last 10 years.”
Mark Jones, owner of Generations Records, said he has felt similar trends.
“When students are not here, sales are down because traffic is down,” Jones said. “And it’s not necessarily the students, but their parents and the people that come visit them.”
Despite the fluctuations of sales, record stores are still opening in and around the Chapel Hill area.
“We are one of a handful that have survived,” Judge said. “But there are several hundred new stores in the country in the last 10 years, even here locally. Eight years ago we were one of the only stores in the entire Triangle, now there are about 15 different shops selling records.”