Karl Groeger Jr. says it’s time to look at Record Store Day in a different way.
The CEO and president of Looney Tunes in West Babylon says people need to stop talking about the day — created to introduce younger fans to record store culture with special releases on vinyl — as a business comeback or a throwback to the old days of crate-digging.
“Vinyl is already back,” he says. “And we have never been busier.”
Groeger says this year’s Record Store Day, which is Saturday, April 16, will be the biggest sales day for the 45-year-old store. (This year’s Record Store Day, the eighth, is celebrated in 1,400 stores nationally.) And he’s sure of it because the day has broken sales records for the past four years.
Groeger is not alone in seeing this kind of surge. According to Nielsen, nearly 12 million vinyl LPs were sold in 2015, up nearly 30 percent over 2014 sales. Industry analysts say vinyl sales haven’t been this high since 1989, with independent record stores responsible for more than 45 percent of the sales. And according to MusicWatch, 47 percent of vinyl customers are under 25.
“There has been a fundamental change,” Groeger says. “If you go back 10 years, everyone was listening to music antisocially, through earbuds and an iPod. They were using only one of their physical senses and at inferior sound quality to boot. Now, they realize that listening to music can be a social experience. With a vinyl record, they can listen to music together. They can touch the album and look at the 12-inch-by-12-inch artwork and liner notes and enjoy a superior sound quality.”
Record Store Day, Groeger says, is now more of a celebration. “We will have people lining up outside the store at 11 p.m. the day before,” he says. “I’ll bring them breakfast — some coffee and bagels — before the store opens. It’s a great time. We’ll have more than 2,000 people come through.”
To continue with the party atmosphere, Looney Tunes will have food trucks in the parking lot selling meals throughout the day and BrickHouse Brewery selling beer, with proceeds going to New York Bully Crew, a Patchogue-based animal rescue organization.
Groeger says Looney Tunes won’t have any bands playing this year, as they have in the past, because the store gets too crowded. Instead, comedian Jim Breuer will perform at 1 p.m. and take questions from shoppers.
Another big change for Groeger this year is that he will be selling vinyl albums on his own label, Brookvale Records, including Soul Asylum’s 1992 album “Grave Dancers Union” on red and green vinyl and the soundtrack to the 1996 Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez collaboration “From Dusk Till Dawn.”
Lars Ulrich of Metallica (this year’s Record Store Day ambassadors), says the success of vinyl shows hope for the music industry.
“My 17-year-old asked for a record player for his birthday two years ago, and I have been steadily doing my best due diligence as a parent, feeding him the classics since then,” Ulrich said in a statement. “Maybe it all will work out after all.”