In the face of a rising digital era, many industries are being forced to choose between adaption or extinction. I spoke to John Chrambanis who owns The Record Collector, a mom and pop record store located at 358 Farnsworth Avenue in Bordentown, New Jersey, about what it’s like to run a small new and used vinyl and CD business against the Goliath that is the 21st century music industry.
John Chambranis, owner of The Record Collector
What were you doing before The Record Collector?
We had a store in Morrisville and in Trenton so we’ve been doing this for almost 30 years.
Everything’s becoming increasingly digital. How are you dealing with that?
It’s a struggle but it’s more of a bigger picture than just digital. This industry is changing a lot. LPs, for example, are selling quite well even though people can buy stuff online because people that are fans of a band don’t mind having something to actually hold. There’s a real niche market for vinyl.
Many modern artists or bands have gotten more electronic like Katy Perry or MGMT. Does that sound transfer well into that type of vinyl sound?
That’s personal taste. I think that the younger people who are buying albums now, what I hear over and over again, is that they’ll take them home and actually have something like an album party. That’s kind of the way it was years ago.Of course there is the convenience of just downloading and sometimes it’s just an expense thing.
But to listen to an album from beginning to end a way the artist wanted it, that’s a whole different thing. Lots of time music ends up being background noise. If you do end up buying an album, going home and listening to it from beginning to end – who really has time to do that? But the small amount that do enjoy it.
Do you get new LPs from new bands?
Yeah. Green Day’s new album is coming out. Mumford & Sons is doing very well. Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, when they came out on LP, did good. This is the time of year that all of the new stuff starts coming out. The Cult came out, Florence + The Machine, The Shins, Pearl Jam, Metallica.
I think my first experience with a new artist on vinyl was Joanna Newsom’s album The Milk-Eyed Mender and it sounded amazing, much better than the digital copy I had and I don’t think a lot of people realize that there is a huge difference in sound.
Yeah, it depends on the system. If you have a really good system the album’s gonna sound better, it’s just the nature of it.
But what we’re doing, as far as moving into the future, we’re doing live bands here. And that brings us to a whole other level because as the future is always uncertain people still have the desire to go out and socialize and one way to do that is to go to a place that has live music. We’re moving in the direction where we’ll probably do music in a little cafe type of thing.
All of the racks in the store are on moveable wheels so they can be pushed aside for live music events.
The floor of the Record Collector
I stayed and spoke with Chrambanis a little more, mostly about music, like his love for jazz and all of the well-known people who’ve stopped by the store like Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Henry Rollins from Black Flag. I myself bought the new Florence + The Machine album on LP, went home, and immediately listened to it on my record player. It is true, there’s nothing like holding a solid record, admiring the album artwork that most bands or artists add in specifically for the LP and hearing the crisp sound that can only be produced by vinyl.