Andrew Schaer isn't comfortable with how young people are going about compiling their music libraries.
He doesn't appreciate the growing population of young adults who are satisfied with listening to music on their laptops or cheap headphones. In his opinion, music deserves better treatment than that.
In his store, right next to his cash register, Schaer has a small sign. There's a picture of an iPod, and the striking, bold font underneath reads, "This IS NOT a music collection." To the right of the iPod, there is a picture of a few bookcases crammed from top to bottom with vinyl records.
The striking, bold font next to that picture reads, "This IS a music collection."
Schaer is the owner and operator of Hear Again Music and Movies, 201 SE First St. He, like an increasing number of music fans, is passionate about the resurgence of vinyl records in popular culture.
"More and more people are getting turned on to vinyl," Schaer said. "The younger generation is buying vinyl now even though they've been listening to MP3s for 10 or 15 years now, for as long as they can remember."
Although the majority of music listeners still favor CDs and digital music files for the sake of convenience, the trend in increased sales of vinyl records is an obvious one.
A lone bright spot in a crippling music industry, vinyl sales have nearly quadrupled in the last five years while album sales in general have plummeted.
In 2006, vinyl record sales totaled 858,000, according to Billboard.com. In 2010, the last full year of data, vinyl sales came out to 2.8 million - an increase of 326 percent over those four years.
The numbers from 2011 are set to shatter the 2010 counts, as the figure for the first six months of this year weighed in at a bulky 1.9 million - a 41 percent growth from the same time last year.
The rise in sales of vinyl is a stark contrast to the rest of the business. In 2000, the music industry had one of its most lucrative years with album sales totaling 943 million units. In 2010, a decade later, sales totaled less than half that figure with a balmy 326.2 million albums sold.
At the core of the movement is a simple question: Why vinyl? Why is a noticeable portion of the music-listening population opting for bookshelves full of wax instead of a pocket-sized mp3 player filled with thousands of songs?
"I think it's the sound," Schaer said. "Quite frankly, I think people are tired of having everything in ones and zeros on a hard drive somewhere ... Kids will go over to a friend's house and they'll hear an album they're familiar with, but they'll hear it on vinyl and it's really an eye-opening experience. Next thing you know, they've gone out, bought a turntable and they're in here looking for records."
Schaer's shop has been, on a large scale, the only business in Gainesville that has responded to the increased demand for new vinyl. While there are shops in town that have selections of used records, Hear Again is the place for the younger crowd to go to check out both older, used vinyl along with the newest releases.
Schaer, who moved the shop to its current location in 2009, has worked at Hear Again since 1995. He took over the store in 2006, right when the vinyl resurgence started building steam. Moving the shop to a more heavily trafficked downtown area was good for business, and he made vinyl the main focus point.
Over the past few months, Hear Again's selection of new vinyl has blossomed. While new vinyl was once relegated to a few shelves, now most of the store is adorned with white shelves holding brand new LPs. The medium is certainly more expensive to purchase - definitely more than the $0 most of the college-aged crowd is used to spending on illegal downloads - but Schaer thinks the product is well worth the dollar.
"People are tired of not having any tangible medium," he said. "They want something they can pick up, hold, touch, feel, breathe on, whatever. The cover art attracts a lot of people as well, but the difference in what you hear, that's an immediate thing that people notice."
Experts have dubbed the more physical aspect of vinyl as the reason for its rise in popularity. Hear Again is a proud participant in Record Store Day, an annual holiday that celebrates independent record stores. Every year, record labels and artists release exclusive, limited items to independent record stores across the country. Those items are made available exclusively to physical record stores in an effort to drive more business toward local, do-it-yourself shops.
Michael Kurtz, co-founder of Record Store Day, is as much of an expert on vinyl records as one can be. Owning about 1,000 pieces of vinyl in his own personal collection, Kurtz said that vinyl's comeback started right around the first Record Store Day - and it wasn't a coincidence.
"If you look at the arc [of vinyl sales], it starts right around that first Record Store Day," Kurtz said. "There was a lot of negative press about indie record stores at that time, but when Record Store Day started everyone came right back and loved them again."
In today's digital music landscape, most young music lovers have never had the experience of going into a concrete music store and flipping through records, wrestling with which ones they can afford to buy.
"Listening to vinyl is an experience by itself," Kurtz said. "It's almost like watching a movie. You get the bigger artwork, you get to place it on the turntable; it's an entirely different experience from listening to music digitally."
Between the better audio experience and the physicality of the medium, vinyl will surely continue its rise back to relevancy. Although the 1.9 million pieces of wax sold so far this year make up less than 1 percent of the total pie of music sales, the music industry will welcome any source of revenue during these trying times.
With more and more people clamoring for vinyl, the industry will continue to support its resurgence and ride the wave of popularity as long as it lasts. Likewise, independent record stores like Hear Again are happy to be able to provide a service that was nearly extinct.
"The city has done a great job of supporting [Hear Again]," Schaer said. "And we really appreciate it. This is what the people want and I want to be the one who provides it. I think Gainesville deserves a record store to be reckoned with."
One thing Schaer, Kurtz and every vinyl collector in Gainesville all have in common is a passion for the medium. It's a dedication - some might even call it a lifestyle. That dedication is found blossoming in collectors, young and old, in Gainesville and throughout the nation - from the very first record they pick up to every extra bookcase they purchase to fit more vinyl.
Matthew Pryor, vocalist for adored emo/punk innovators The Get Up Kids, explained the resurgence of vinyl in his own way. In an interview with The Vinyl District, a widely followed national blog that posts news about local record stores across the country, Pryor weaved his own picture of the movement.
"I find that there are certain points in our humanity where, as a society, we took something that was perfect in every way and ruined it in the name of convenience. We make things easier or smaller but in some sense lose the essence," Pryor said.
"I think [vinyl is] the slow food movement of the music industry. They are bigger, more difficult to maintain, take longer and cost more to produce but they just taste (or in this case sound) so much better. Our grandparents had it right in a lot of ways and this is no exception."
While Pryor might be able to express it more eloquently than others, one thing is for certain - vinyl's got its groove back.