Katie Clackum Interviewed Analog Revolution Co-Owner Ryan Stoyer about the significance of Vinyl and Record Stores in a modern context.
She recently completed a short film called The Vinyl Revival which is now streaming here.
It features excerpts from interviews with Ryan Stoyer and Andrew Roach of Analog Revolution in addition to a host of other interesting and important figures from the metro atlanta area.
The full interview follows:
1. What do you feel is the significance of using vinyl as a means of listening to music? What makes it different from others?
R: In a word? Hifi. Actually, that’s two words: high fidelity. To me, vinyl is not a novelty. I don’t listen to records because they are “cool” or because I think it’s some exclusive or elitist act. I’m passionate about music. Records provide me with a more engaging and fulfilling way to experience the music I enjoy. To simplify a lot of technical information, I’ll put it this way. Vinyl recordings are often times a more accurate representation of the sounds they contain. Digital files, such as mp3s, often lack the breadth and depth of sound that listening to a hifi system provides. Listening to records is like listening in HD. It’s like viewing a higher resolution image file. There’s just more there. I can hear things that don’t exist in other formats. If you’re a music lover, then that’s what it’s all about. Not to mention, I don’t have to worry about losing my music collection if my computer crashes. Records demand my attention. Their importability requires that I set aside time and effort to listen to them. I can’t press play on a three hour playlist and forget about it. I have to stop what I’m doing and flip my records every 15-20 minutes, ensuring I’m drawn back to what the artist on the record is doing.
2. Why do you think vinyl is making such a strong comeback, especially with younger generations? What do consumers love about it?
R: To be completely honest, the “vinyl comeback” is a bit of a misnomer. Vinyl never left. Now, that’s not to say there hasn’t been a steady increase in record sales and production over the last five or six years—there certainly has been—but analog audio has remained strong among a core of loyal followers since its inception with the phonograph in the 19th century. That being said, I think the real question is why was there a decrease in interest in analog audio during the 1990’s and early 2000’s? My answer is a fascination with the recent invention of digital audio and the effective marketing campaigns which accompanied it. With the invention of any revolutionary technology, there is a lot money to be made. The music industry recognized this with the invention of CDs and ran with it. They saw an opportunity to re-sell entire music collections to the customers who had already purchased them on record. The increased portability (and duplicability) was also a strong force in the digital music trend. It gave some autonomy to consumers, much in the way cassettes had previously. For those of us who were born in the mid 80’s to mid 90’s, analog audio seems like such an anomaly, but in reality it’s the norm—and for good reason. I’m glad individuals are choosing to augment the way they experience music as a form of art which deserves attention and thought.
3. Did you participate in Record Store Day last year? As a shop owner, what are your thoughts on Record Store Day?
R: No. I didn’t. Nor did I participate in 2013 or 2012. I did some browsing in 2011, but didn’t buy anything. In 2010, however, I was very involved in record store day. In fact, that was the first time I met my business partner, Andrew. Record Store Day was started by the guy behind Criminal Records down in Little Five Points. It’s a neat way to spread appreciation for a recovering format, but at the same time a lot of it seems rather gimmicky. Limited edition releases—like those often made by artists specifically for RSD—often get picked up at a fair price in stores and resold online. Artists and stores both get hurt by this sort of behavior, not to mention the scores of listeners (usually young people like me) who don’t have the cash to throw around for special releases. A lot of aspects of Record Store Day end up being excluding rather than inclusive, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that. If I could make RSD how I wanted it, I would celebrate it with discounts for customers and use it as an opportunity to introduce analog audio to new audiences.
4. Tell me a little bit about Analog Revolution.
R: Part of that “introduce analog audio to new audiences” concept I just mentioned includes breaking down the barriers of entry to the format. The biggest barrier to listening to records is not owning the proper equipment to play them. Hifi audio can be expensive… very expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. A lot of entry-level gear has entered the market lately. Crosley is probably the company who has sold the most record players in the last five years, maybe more. The problem with Crosley record players is that although they’re reasonably priced ($75-$200), they just about all lack the quality of audio replication which distinguishes analog audio as a worthwhile investment. Many of their models are “all-in-one” components, containing a turn table, amplifier, and speaker/s in a single unit. I view this sort of experience as a novelty and rather damaging to the idea of records as a whole. It’s hard to make an argument for listening to vinyl when it sounds like it’s somehow being played through a coffee can. We, Analog Revolution, offer some alternatives. We wanted to put together an entry-level system that sounded as close to a high-dollar one as possible. We quickly ran into some problems finding quality equipment at a price affordable to highschool and college students. So we did what any self-respecting DIY-er would do. We started building our own. We’ve designed two different pairs of speakers to match two different price points: we sell one pair for $60 and the other for $125. To put them in perspective, the pair of speakers on the market which performs most similarly to our $125 pair retails for $400. We also build audio amplifiers for $30, and retro-engineer affordable record players to make them more tolerable to a trained ear. We can put together a full system for $175. This is the cheapest anyone in the country can do this, and that was our goal: To make hifi audio as affordable as possible.
5. Is there any other information you feel like I need to know?
R: We also have a magazine. We write about new (and old!) music, local music, politics, and we have various articles about internet culture, how sound works, why audio matters, the cultural importance of record stores, and a few other intelligent, entertaining topics. That, and we need to systematically dismantle the establishment. But the magazine comes first.
This is a picture of the beachboys. There is no context needed.