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Friday, April 17, 2009

Vinyl: Not Just For Your Parents Anymore

It is time for my favorite day of the year. It’s like Christmas in April. It’s a music lover’s Cinco De Mayo. It’s Record Store Day.

On Saturday, record stores throughout the nation will be celebrating with limited-edition vinyl and CD releases, as well as in-store concerts and parties. Local favorite Guestroom Records on Main Street is no exception. In addition to the limited-edition releases, Guestroom will have sales, promotions and giveaways all day.

The real party, however, starts at 6 p.m. and goes until 9. The store will be providing free pizza and drinks, and – as if more incentive were needed – El Paso Hot Button, Other Lives and Evangelicals will all be performing.

Guestroom also will be hosting a party at its Oklahoma City location from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., where you catch the Uglysuit, Ali Harter and Mayola.

It’s the perfect warm-up for Norman Music Festival April 25.

Record Store Day began in 2007, partially as a celebration of everyone’s favorite community staple, and also partly to help bolster sales in the age of digital downloads and Wal-Mart.

I spoke to Travis Searle from Guestroom about this trend and he noted that the record store actually has not seen a slump. Sales in the Norman store were down just 1 percent; they went up 60 percent at the OKC location.

Searle credits their success to being a part of the community.

I couldn’t agree more.

Record stores are not about generating revenue; they are about exposing you to something new. Record stores don’t sell you music you hear, they get you music to listen to. Guestroom Records sells you music you will enjoy, not just music for the sake of buying something.

“We all like listening to music and we like talking to the customers about music,” Searle said.

Guestroom has become a staple of the Norman community, whether through sponsoring local events or just throwing parties. If you haven’t stopped by Guestroom yet, I can’t implore you more to go. I promise you will never want to leave.

If its community ties are not enough to pull you in, their selection will. Guestroom has a huge catalog, from Arcade Fire to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; and they are one of the only places in Oklahoma where you can find recent popular releases from Crystal Stilts, Pains of Being Pure at Heart and many others.

Guestroom’s strategy of “selling what they want to sell” has paid off, and if you want it, it probably has it. The expansive collection at the store is quite impressive, feaaturing rows and rows stacked with CDs and vinyl.

Some people may be surprised by the titles available on vinyl today. Of course, you can find albums by Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, but modern artists like Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver also are releasing their albums on vinyl as well as CD. Even more surprising, vinyl sales have spiked in the past two years.

Travis notes that vinyl listeners find it to be just a more rewarding experience, from the weight of vinyl, to the big artwork and inserts, to the unique, vibrant sound. The vinyl available at Guestroom will be bolstered by the Record Store Day limited edition releases available this Saturday from such artists as Beck, Flaming Lips, Flight of the Conchords, Sonic Youth and many others.

Guestroom Records is a visual masterpiece as well. The west and north walls are completely plastered with vibrant, colorful concert posters and album promotions. Steve Keene paintings of iconic album covers are displayed on the other brick wall, and are on sale for a mere $25. The storefront windows are covered by all of the upcoming shows Norman, OKC and Tulsa have to offer. All of this plus the artwork on the album covers; Guestroom is just a beautiful place.

I think Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips said it best when he claimed that record stores are “where you can talk to people who are like you, an actual place where you can stand and simply be surrounded by your heroes.” So try and stop by Guestroom sometime on Saturday, whether for the limited edition releases, to enjoy some free live music and food, or just to meet some people as awesome as you are.

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