Music stores from across East Coast gather to sell classic albums
Hundreds of people gathered at the Columbia Museum of Art Sunday, but not to look at any paintings or sculpture.
They were there to take advantage of a once-a-year opportunity to find that Kiss, Elvis Presley or John Coltrane record they have been dying to buy.
Thirty record stores from across the East Coast came together for one day of Columbia’s 6th Annual Greater Record Fair, an event that proved not everyone is ready to throw away their turntables. Record store representatives gathered, and each exhibited a collection of nearly 800 records, cassettes and albums for attendants to flip through and find something they like.
With the tables set together in a U-shaped formation, boxes upon boxes were stacked, filled with classic records as store representatives sat behind each table to assist eager customers. The variety offered was more than overwhelming, ranging from classic rock to heavy metal to contemporary jazz.
Chris Bickel, an employee at Papa Jazz Records, described the event as more like a party, with cool music playing in the background and attendees sharing their common interests in classic music.
“Most record conventions are really sterile and feature lots of nerding-out about stuff,” Bickel said. “Here, it’s more of a loose atmosphere, and it’s really cool that they hold it in a museum where people check out records and then go look at some art when they’re done.”
Matt Bradley, the event organizer, said he started the event while he was working at Papa Jazz Records, Five Point’s record store, when he realized that Columbia simply needed to host a record fair. He started the first Greater Record Fair at the Hunter-Gatherer, and it immediately became a success.
“The Hunter-Gatherer is a great place, but we outgrew it rather quickly,” Bradley said. “The Columbia Museum of Art offered their services, and that’s how we got to this point.”
Despite today’s increasingly advanced technology involving music sharing and downloading, participants and shop owners were not surprised by the large turnout of record buyers.
“The ease of downloading off the Internet is all well and good, but ultimately, people sill want the tactile experience,” said Eric Woodard, owner of Scratch & Spin Records in West Columbia. “They still want to come to a record store and shop for records and listen to vinyl. It’s a completely different experience.”
Bickel agreed, saying that the market for vinyl records today is better than ever and that CD sales have gone down.
“I think a lot of high schools kids are starting to discover vinyl and that its sound has much more of a warmth to it,” he said. “We’re seeing these 16- or 17-year-old kids coming in and buying old Led Zeppelin and Beatles records. They’re finding their parents’ old collections gathering in dust and discovering that experience downloaded music can’t offer.”
The fair was not without its share of hospitality. The Greater Columbia Society for the Preservation of Soul provided soft jams for all record enthusiasts. The Whig provided a cash bar that offered a selection of beverages from wine to canned beers. The Whig also hosted a pre-fair party Saturday night, playing music from selections attendants could expect to find at the actual event.