It isn’t often, if ever, that Apple Inc. fails. Our iPhones have become a physical extension of one’s self, while small white head phones symbolize the achievement of a pseudo-superior social status.
Yet Apple’s iTunes Store has, in fact, been failing. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, music sales in the iTunes store have fallen 13 percent internationally, since January 2014.
It may be easy to say hey, people just don’t care about buying music anymore. We are uncultured, slovenly degenerates who have simply become uninterested in the artistry of musical composition.
There’s only one thing. Vinyl record sales have increased 52 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the Neilsen Institution.
So, maybe we aren’t a particularly uncultured society after all.
With vinyl records making up 6 percent of total physical music sales, one can’t help but wonder why this seemingly antiquated form of music has made such a strong resurgence in commercial music sales.
Dan Sostrom, vinyl connoisseur and owner of Tone Vendor, a record store located in historical downtown St. Augustine, seems to have found the answer to all of these questions.
“I always preferred vinyl. I started getting into it because there were so many things that are better. Before, the only way that you could hear a certain band is if you bought their 7″ because there just wasn’t a CD out there to buy. With vinyl, you have more interaction with playing the music, you have to pay attention to it more…CDs just seem a lot more disposable,” Sostrom said. “A lot of people are just realizing how much better vinyl is. Digital is just so impersonal, it’s always just background noise and that just takes away from the music.”
Sostrom has found a way to make a living through the commercial sales of vinyl, but it hasn’t always been that way. Sostrom first started up Tone Vendor in the mid-90s, while living in Gainesville, Fla. and working toward obtaining his degree in civil engineering. Though Sostrom proved to be a talented engineer, his passion lived in the selling and sharing of vinyl and other music outlets.
“It’s funny because every semester, that’s really all that I wanted to do was to work at the store. I would think, maybe I should change my major to business, but then I’d think, it’s too late to change now. Every semester I would think about changing majors and thought, no, it’s too late,” Sostrom said.
Eventually, Sostrom was able to make his self-proclaimed “pipe-dream” of owning a full brick-and-mortar vinyl store a reality. After graduating and relocating to Sacramento, Ca. to start part-time at a new civili engineering position, Sostrom found the space of his dreams for his vinyl store to grow. The shop was next door to the engineering company at which Sostrom worked, while striving to generate some sort of dependable income from Tone Vendor.
In 2005, Sostrom returned to his home in Gainesville, where a seemingly unfortunate series of events ensued. Almost unbelievably, Sostrom and his wife were faced to deal with the fact that their home in Gainesville had been destroyed by a sinkhole.
It was then that the duo decided to fulfill a second, long-lasting “pipe-dream.” That dream was to move to the beach.
It was here that two of Sostrom’s lifelong dreams were eventually blended into one full reality.
It was at this point that St. Augustine, became home, and the second Tone Vendor location was born in 2013. The shop, located on King Street in the downtown area of the city, is now comprised almost completely of vinyl for sale. Sostrom has quickly found the benefits of having a brick-and-mortar business as opposed to running his online store.
“I really love having a store that allows you to interact with people and it’s a gathering place. It’s about being a part of the community where you can have shows and First Friday Art Walk and things like that. Without a shop, you don’t get to be a part of the community as much,” Sostrom said.
Tone Vendor and Sostrom himself have had an undeniable impact on the town’s local music scene, as well as the rising popularity of vinyl as a whole. Since the store’s opening, Sostrom has organized a Record Fair at the St. Augustine Amphitheater to share his passion for vinyl with the community. The free event will be held on March 22, beginning at noon.
“The thing about the Record Fair is that you don’t have to be a super vinyl nerd to enjoy it. These events happen all the time, all over the country. I’ve been to tons, but it’s always in a conference room in a hotel. I would bring my family to events like that but the kids wold end up getting bored to death and they’d have to go walk around town with my wife. The Record Fair is outside so you can enjoy the fresh air. There’s food and drinks and all sorts of kid’s activities too. Everyone can just come out and enjoy the afternoon. If you don’t have a record player you can still have something to enjoy,” Sostrom said.
Sostrom, father to his two daughters Ayler and Lilly, has crafted the event to appeal to the whole family.
“You can definitely expect a lot of vinyl, but really you can expect everything. There’s music-related posters that have been made unique for just one show, plenty of CDs, tapes, equipment, memorabilia, toys, collectables, and old magazines. We’re going to have live music and a DJ in-between bands, a bounce house for kids and arts and crafts. We’re going to have a scavenger hunt for kids too,” Sostrom said.
It’s undeniable that vinyl sales have soared the past year while digital music has seen a loss in its appeal and popularity. It can be speculated that listeners crave the personal connection with vinyl, the interactivity of playing a record, or the beautiful artwork that is typically paired with vinyl records. These are just a few of the reasons why the resurgence in vinyl has occurred.
Or just maybe, it’s people like Dan Sostrom that have encouraged the public to interact with and cherish music more. Sostrom has brought a new way of enjoying our favorite bands to the St. Augustine community, and this exposure of vinyl is bound to spread. Sostrom remains hopeful for the future of vinyl and the St. Augustine Amphitheater Record Festival as a whole.
“This is the first time we’re going to have food trucks. We’re going to have at least four and we’re working on getting some more. We did want to get a beer sponsor but I haven’t heard much news on that. I just want to make it bigger and better and it has been growing consistently. I want to make it a big party, not just for record nerds like me,” Sostrom said.
With approximately 850 people in attendance for Sostrom’s last record festival, the future of the festival and vinyl appears to remain strong.