Delaware store still spinning records in the digital age [video]
You might call Steve Zimmerman a little crazy for opening a record store in this age of digital downloads.
Steve would respond, "It's no more crazy than working in a cube."
Jupiter Records in Wilmington opened last August. It's the kind of place I (and probably your parents) grew up in. Back in those days, record stores were everywhere; both national chains and tons of mom and pop shops.
I worked in a record store as a teenager in high school, but by then records were only for DJ's, as you only got a few singles on them. LP's were on the wane. CD's and, to a lesser extent, cassette tapes ruled the roost in those days. If you don't know what an LP is, don't tell me, I feel old enough, thank you.
What's in a record store?
Well, records of course! Lots of them. Steve has about 15,000 of them in the store's collection, and hopes to grow that number to about 20,000.
According to Steve, you can still get the music of today in addition to the classics.
"Every kind of music that comes out today comes out on vinyl again for the first time in 20-something years, so if any single band that you hear on the radio puts out a new single, it's going to come out on an LP again," he said.
And the market for records isn't relegated to just collectors or professional Ebay-ers looking for a find that they can make money off of. Steve said, "There's always been a collector-end of it, you know, people who want rare records, old records, but now people want new records again, so there is a demand for it".
The clientele of Jupiter Records runs the gamut.
"We get a lot of 20, 30, 40-year-olds, collectors...we get a lot of older...40, 50, 60, and up. We get parents bringing in their 10-year-olds buying them a turntable and a pile of records," he said. "We get kids after school that come in here. Sometimes, they just come in to hang out, flip through records, and maybe buy something. They come for the atmosphere, or conversation. It's just a whole social experience coming to a record store."
The social experience
If you've never walked through the endless aisles of a record store and flipped through its bins, hunting for that great find, you are really missing out. People actually go to record stores to socialize. It's like Facebook, but in person. You tell someone what you like, not just post about it. The music store is a place for people who love music, and love to discuss it.
Something is lost when it comes to digital downloads, Steve maintains.
"You lose the social experiment that kind of happens when you go to a record store," he said. "You don't know who you're going to meet, who you're going to find, what music is going to be playing, what somebody right next to you is going to be talking about musically. The social aspect of it is dying, but we're trying to keep it alive."
"With downloads, you pop your earbuds in and sit in a room and don't talk to anybody," he continued. "With records, you're sitting on the couch or something with three or four other guys, you're flipping records, talking and hanging out, so vinyl is a much more social experience than downloads could ever hope to be".
Why a record over a CD or digital?
Audiophiles will tell you there is no comparison between records and basically everything else. Steve describes the sounds as warm.
"You hear the word warmth," he explained. "The sound is just uncanny... the fullness is unbelievable, like, CD's and MP3's will chop off high and low ends of music, but it's all there on the analog recordings; the bass, the high-ends...it's unbelievable".
And it's not just the sound itself, it comes back to the experience. Actually being able to hold a physical product in your hands, actually owning something.
"That's absolutely true," he said. "Like, today with iTunes and all of the stealing on the Internet, you're getting a digital file that doesn't exist. When you buy an album, you can open it up, you got liner notes, cover art, inserts...we found a copy of Kiss's "Love Gun" and it still had the cardboard cut out of the gun inside, and you don't get those types of things with downloads."
I liken it to buying books. I hate digital books. I want to go to the bookstore and look, find, buy a physical book and take it home to put in my collection.
Steve concurred, saying, "You want to hold it, smell it, touch it, and sometimes, even taste it."
Business at Jupiter Records doesn't just revolve around selling records, but buying them as well, and apparently it's a major part of a record store's business plan.
"Yeah, our main business, besides selling, is buying," Steve said. "To us, that's the main thing because that's what keeps record stores, us in particular, afloat. People constantly are bringing in trades [after] clearing out attics, clearing out basements, garages, storage units, and bringing us boxes and boxes of records. That's what we're about. That's the main thing that we need to keep going, and we do. We got five to ten people doing that per day usually."
It also is a great way to get a look at someone's history and musical tastes.
"When someone brings in a box to trade in, going through the box and seeing what's in there, because you can tell a lot about people when you flip through their records, because you can see what kind of records they had. Sometimes you can see the obvious, like their father's records, or their wife's records, or their kid's records mixed in. Sometimes, people draw on album covers, and they draw funny things, especially in the sixties, you know, hearts around all of the Monkeys and the Beatles, with McCartney as their last name, so it's fun to look through people's record collections when they come in."
As bookstores are slowly disappearing, it seems like record stores are fighting to come back, so maybe there is hope for the bookstore as well. Steve and his crew will keep doing their best to keep the past alive and keep it new.
"I love music, people, and I just enjoy flipping through records," he said.
Stop on by Jupiter Records if you are in the area. The staff is great, and I think you will find the store a really eclectic mix of old and new, and you may discover a sound that is out of this world. Some of the new records hitting their shelves are: Syd Barrett, William S. Burroughs, Betty Davis, They Might Be Giants, Old Dirty Bastard, James Blackshaw, Daft Punk, Cradle Of Filth, Echo and The Bunnymen, Ministry, Joe McPhee, Goatwhore, Judas Priest, Lamb Of God, Stiff Little Fingers and more!