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Long Island's record stores see boost from vinyl's resurgence

Customers sort through records at Looney Tunes in

Customers sort through records at Looney Tunes in West Babylon. Credit: James Carbone

The sound of vinyl is putting out good vibrations — and the owners of Long Island’s independent record stores are taking them all in, one disc at a time.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), LP and EP record sales in the United States have been steadily increasing over the past decade, spiking in 2017. It's a national industry trend that's reflected in Long Island's record stores.

Record Stop, a family-owned business that Bruce Berg opened in Ronkonkoma more than 40 years ago, initially flourished from the popularity of vinyl, says Jeff Berg, Bruce's son, who opened the family's second store in Patchogue with a grand opening Aug. 5.

“It’s helped the record stores revive,” Jeff Berg says about the latest vinyl trend. “If vinyl wasn’t around, I probably wouldn’t have opened the [new] store."

Joseph Ostermeier, who owns Infinity Records in Massapequa Park, says while most of the record stores of his childhood are long gone, his store and many others on Long Island are functioning at full force — in response to the resurgence of vinyl records.

Infinity is chock full of vinyl, CDs and music equipment, some identical to the ones Ostermeier purchased as a teen in the early 1970s, when he enjoyed scouring Manhattan's record stores at a time when vinyl was on the rise. In 1973 alone, sales of LPs, EPs and vinyl singles added up to $508 million in the U.S., according to RIAA.

Fast forward to 2006, though, and vinyl sales had hit an all-time low, with vinyl LPs, EPs and singles making up only 2.4 million units of 1,590.1 million total units in music-related revenue sold that year, thanks to CDs dominating the market.

But today, it's safe to say vinyl is back -- and the owners of Long Island’s independent record stores said it's here to stay.

Jeff Berg says while vinyl might be a trend, the popularity of it in his new Patchogue location proves it isn't going anywhere.  

Including Record Stop's just-opened second location, there are about 15 independent record stores on Long Island.

Dan Wanken, owner of Vinyl Paradise in Sayville, credits in part the vinyl-lovers of the ’70s and ’80s, many now parents and grandparents, for vinyl's resurgence.

“Music is one of the last oral histories we have left,” Wanken says. “The kid in the attic who finds the dusty Neil Young record and listening to it, they can talk to their parents. There’s a connection there, and it’s a memory, and it creates a bond they can both share.”

But is the nostalgia factor enough to keep this trend alive longterm?

“We fear that end, sure, but we don’t think it’s going to end,” Jeff Berg says. “The Nielsen ratings [which measures music trends as well as audience information for TV] said vinyl popularity was decreasing, but Discogs [an online database that specializes in music sales] is saying the opposite."

Regardless of the current data, Marc Sendik, owner of High Fidelity in Amityville, says he only needs a small number of vinyl-lovers to keep his business functioning.

“There’s always gonna be somebody [who loves vinyl]," Sendik says. "For the billions of people who don’t care about it, there’s a few that do care. And that’s all I need."

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