The vinyl record was supposed to be dead by now, long since swept away by the powerful winds of new technology. If it wasn't the low-quality but highly portable cassette, then surely the CD or mp3 should have finished off the bulky, scratch-prone relics of an earlier era.
The vinyl record appears to have found a welcoming audience lately, however, at least in the Brooklyn hipster havens of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. No less than six new music shops have opened in recent years, including four that specialize in vinyl.
The offerings include Greenpoint's Eat Records, a vinyl store/café with tables packed along its walls; to the punk rock-focused Passout Record Shop, and the 3-year-old Sound Fix records, a large store that also sells CDs and is adding a performance stage in its storefront.
The monster among the shops is the Academy Record Annex, a relatively giant space on North 6th Street in Williamsburg, with a seemingly endless number of crates of new and used records stacked on its blue concrete floor and old band posters slapped on its white walls.
In the record business, space can be an asset, and the storefronts can tend toward the large in once heavily industrial Williamsburg. The Academy Record Annex storefront was previously a cheese factory; it was eyed by the company for its generous basement storage space. A shop in a warehouse that opened in January, Cool and Crazy, was also selected for its large amount of storage space, good for online sales and a record pressing operation, owner Tim Warren said.
The local success of the LP comes with a twist of irony, as audiophiles say it comes at the expense of its technological sibling.
The proliferation of downloadable digital music has set CD sales on a constant downward slope, as people wanting a portable version of a song might as well just download a quick selection and feed it into their small, high-capacity iPods.
For those music aficionados that crave a high-quality, physical form of music, the vinyl record is ever appealing.
"Most of the public that would buy a CD is capable enough to download it for free or cheap," a manager at Academy, Michael Catalano, said. "The other percentage of those people are true music lovers or collectors," who are looking to vinyl in greater and greater numbers.
Mr. Catalano estimated that between 15% and 20% of the record sales at the Williamsburg store come from disc jockeys seeking hidden gems such as old songs, loops, or sequences that can be mixed into their collections.
A music producer and DJ from Park Slope, David Ahl, said DJs can spend hours scanning through stacks of used records, "crate digging" for something unique.
"You can tell the people who know what they're doing because they're like flip, flip, flip" through the records, Mr. Ahl said.
Nationally, CD sales dropped about 25% between 2000 and 2005, according to statistics from the Recording Industry Association of America, with vinyl record sales falling more than 50% during the same period. With the success of the online marketplace for digital music, record and CD stores throughout the country for years have been shutting their doors, including the notable collapse of music store giant Tower Records last fall.
While the surge in record stores has followed the artistic and musical population growth in Williamsburg for now, the longterm outlook for music retailers is hardly a rosy one, the co-owner of Earwax Records, Fabio Roberti, said.
"It's just a march of doom at this point — it's basically just headed toward this digital format that in my opinion and other people's opinion is just a joke," Mr. Roberti said. "You listen to an mp3 and then you listen to a well-recorded LP on a good sound system and there's a world of difference."